Hypocrisy - May 16, 2000
Perhaps it is human nature, something we cannot escape. I know I have been a hypocrite on occasion, so perhaps I shouldn't be ranting about other hypocrites... But at least I know enough to acknowledge that right off.
This evening's rant is inspired and dedicated to Lars Ulrich, drummer for Metallica, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, radio "psychologist", two hypocrites who have recently been in the news. First off the Pansy, then I'll get to the Nazi later.
Lars has been the spokesman for Metallica during their attack on Napster. Now, I acknowledge an artist's right to want to protect their music, and to want to profit from their hard work. If artists aren't paid for their music, then they are forced to find other means of employment. This is the very basis of our society, and I wont deny that. Yet, I am a fan of Napster, which allows people to download music without paying the artist. Why do I support this? Is it not hypocritical of me? I don't believe so.
First off, lets start with what we know. Music is freely distributed as a means of advertising to radio stations. The recording industry knows that people must hear the music if the music is going to sell. Essentially advertising is all that radio stations do. They advertise bands through the tracks they play, they advertise their sponsors through commercials.
Now, if we are going to freely distribute a product, why would people want to pay for it? Because it comes with a nice package that says in large friendly letters "Don't Panic!", of course. Packaging, and loyalty. Now this may not be a big selling point, at least not one that the recording industry feels comfortable relying on. They know that they walk on dangerous ground, and so they attack anything they perceive as threatening.
This is essentially an open source/closed source argument. Why would someone pay for something that they can get for free? Well, to start, people are already getting the music for free. All it takes is a call to a friendly radio station with a request, and the person can hear any song they want. MP3's are more user friendly, though. The person doesn't need to pick up the phone or dial in the radio station, just point and click. But the MP3 will not be the end of the recording industry. In fact, it may be a boon to the business, if the big-wigs will stay calm and ride it out.
I first discovered mp3s about two years ago. One of the first mp3s I downloaded was by an artist I'd never heard of before, but at the suggestion of a friend I got it and I loved it. Two years later, I now own three CDs by that artist, and one tape. If the music was so easy to get for free, why did I buy the CDs? Loyalty, and friendly packaging. I respect the artist, and I believe that she is worth contributing to if she is going to produce quality material like this.
More than a decade after the widespread distribution of the CD, why are record companies still distributing tapes? Everyone knows that CDs are higher quality and longer lasting. But yet, people still shell out cash for tapes. Why don't they just buy the CD and then record their own tape off of it? Well, sure some do. But others still like the friendly packaging. Some people find that the tape is sometimes more convenient than the CD. They each have their place. The same is true of the mp3.
So why have I singled our Lars in this mp3 debate? Because of what Lars said in his initial press release:
"It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is." (Ulrich, April 15, 2000)
When any band signs with a record label, they are in effect affirming their desire for their art to be traded as a commodity. Now in the case of Metallica, they are their own record label, so they might try to use that as a way out, but that wasn't always the case. All my Metallica CDs (I have several, I was once a loyal Metallica fan) have the Elektra label on them, not Metallica's Creeping Death label. Lars isn't upset that his art is being "traded like a commodity", he's worried that he isn't going to be getting his share of the $15 million (at least) that Metallica makes each year on their albums.
Now, I can't expect Lars to recognize the way that technology moves. I can't expect him to understand that he is worrying over nothing. I can't even expect him to have decent taste and manners. But as a basic element of human behavior, I do expect him to act in a manner keeping with his own beliefs. I expect him to be consistent. But he isn't... and it really pisses me off.
Continuing my rant about hypocrisy, I turn to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a doctor of physiology who makes her living giving psychiatric advice on a two-hour radio show every weekday. She's also the author of a few books about how stupid people are. A year or so ago, she made the news for having some nude photos turn up on the internet. These days she's making news for her closed-minded views on homosexuality. Dr. Laura is of the opinion that homosexuals are deviant pedophiles who are out to take over the world; that they are biological errors, and the only way they can be helped is through psychiatric treatment for their disorders.
Now, Dr. Laura's claim that Matthew Shepard died because he was hoping to "get a little" (Schlessinger, April 16, 1999) is beyond all bounds of good taste, but her claims that homosexuals are a "biological error" are pure hypocrisy.
Dr. Laura is very vocal about her religious faith. She has even authored a book on the place of the 10 commandments in our daily lives. Yet, apparently, Dr. Laura doesn't have enough faith in God to acknowledge the possibility that God might have had something in mind when homosexuality was tossed into the mix.
Considered from the physiological perspective, homosexuality also cannot be considered an error. Homosexuality does serve a purpose in conditions of high population density. The Chinese Government imposes birth control laws, Mother Nature introduces a group that chooses not to reproduce. I'll let you decide which you prefer.
The last bit introduces questions about homosexual couples adopting children, their rights and ability to be parents, that sort of thing. I have my opinions on the matter, of course, but that is for a different time. For now, I'll just bring my rant on the Nazi and the Pansy to a close...
The artist I mention is Ani DiFranco. The mp3 I downloaded was "32 Flavors".
The $15 million dollar figure comes from Metallica's press release of April 15, 2000, in which it states that Metallica sells close to 1 million copies of its albums each year. The average price for a single CD is about $16 where I live. Metallica has released two double CD sets, which retail for much more, I'm sure. Additionally, Metallica is raking in cash for videos, t-shirts, concerts, and advertising. Not bad, eh?