Jun 19, 2012

Emily White: the voice of my generation. Or at least a generation

Just been reading everyone’s Emily White reactions and decided to put my neck on the line: 

I doubt Tom Ewing meant it as a #shotsfired kind of broadside but this rang in my mind

I think if/when paying for music starts feeling like giving to charity - and sells itself on those terms - then the game’s pretty much up.

after reading about 'the pride' Laura Snapes takes in the buying of music. Which, if I’m being a little faceitious, reads like the capitalist/consumerist equivalent of 'I take care of my kids’; something that, in the face of a lot that’s wrong in how we consume music, ends up making a virture of expected behaviour. Thieves/pirates are supposed to feel shame for not supporting artists; buying things you want, paying for labour, generating profits is what capitalism is - you’re doing it all the time! We take pride in owning things, and maybe some more pride in owning expensive things, but, from my perspective, if you’re feeling pride over handing over money for a good or service, then your attitude towards it is probably more charitable than transactional. I rarely buy music - of late, unemployed, and living with my parents, I rarely buy anything: 75% of ‘my disposable income’ goes on going into town maybe once or twice a week - but when I’m in a bookstore or a record store, I take pleasure from being there, from perusing the aisles, and I’m always kinda excited when I take my purchase to the checkout but that’s because the thing that I want will soon be mine. The handing over of money is a means to an end, not an act of philanthropy. 

Of course, a big part of fashion is its exclusivity; thousands of pounds for one garment. If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it. It should be the same principle with music… 

This. This makes me groan, makes me feel a little angry, which I recognise is irrational, naive even. I’ve never rationalised my piracy by thinking culture should be ‘free’, and the compromise between that and Snapes’ point - pirate lots of stuff; buy the stuff you really love - seems similarly philanthropic, dishonest somehow. But this attitude just stinks to me. It reads as such a middle-class thing to say: I spend my disposable income on music - that’s my distinction - you spend it on fashion/film/whatever - that’s yours - you can’t be everything. Respect my cultural capital! But it isn’t about distinction, about making choices for a lot - most - people. ‘If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it’ is slamming the door shut in my face.

I’m aware as I type this that I’m falling into another flawed defence of piracy: yeah I’ve pirated £30,000 worth of music, but I never had £30,000 so there’s no loss! and its twin ‘I’ve actually spent more because of piracy!’  Both are partly true, especially for poor wretches like me: I’ve been to festivals, live shows, own t-shirts, have the odd bit of totemic vinyl that I wouldn’t otherwise had if I’d hadn’t given myself the *ahem* cultural grant I’ve enjoyed. And I definitely haven’t ever been in possession of even a quarter of the money that it would take to build my music collection. Because of that, I feel little in the way of guilt. It’s not a right to listen to music, but when I head over to what.cd this evening, I’ll have less than £5 in my bank account. If I’m slightly more honest, I’ll admit that the money I have thrown the music industries way could’ve been a much larger amount if my pirating wasn’t allowing me to spend money on media less easily digitizable. Like most recent graduates, the most I’ve ever had in my bank account is my student loan/grant, and I would economise that amount of money on the assumption that music isn’t something you have pay for. The lumps of it that didn’t go towards keeping my mum’s head above water in regards to debts, and travelling to and from London, has been mostly invested in books in lieu of music. That’s a more difficult tendency to justify, but it’s a moral dilemma I rarely have to deal with.

And one more thing: the sideshow of a bunch of early 20-somethings failing to believable that other early 20-somethings didn’t have a whole library of CDs before the iPod came out in 2005 reads like an amusing bit of proto-hipster posturing. As with most things concerning teenagers, it’s an acute issue, but I’m a little bit older than Emily White;was 15 when the iPod came out, 17-18 when I got one - how many racks of CDs was I supposed to have? I was quite happy with my ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’ single, Craig David’s solo debut, and sitting in front of the TV watching MTV, MTV Base, and MTV 2( the early 00s spotify). They’re calling the kids heading into university right now the Digital Natives, right?  


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