Theo: Killing the Music Industry since 1989

I’ve been debating for a couple of days now about whether or not I should write about the death of Michael Jackson and how much his loss has affected me. As his loss hasn’t affected me in the slightest and anything I wrote about him would include the observation that insisting we only remember him for the music, not the less than savoury aspects of his personal life, is a little like insisting we only remember Hitler for his efforts to tackle childhood obesity, I’ve decided that it is best all around that I don’t.

Anyway. Like many people born in the 80’s, my youth was a happy blur of sitting on the floor of my bedroom, listening to tapes. It wasn’t just Tracy from Coronation Street at it, we all were. We didn’t all go on to murder people quite horribly with a small piece of decorative art but I, for one, would never totally rule out such an option especially in provocative circumstances.
As I believe I have probably mentioned on countless occasions, as youths, Strider and I didn’t get pocket money. We were offered the grand total of 50p for cleaning He Who Knows Everything’s car, which was a trifle unfair as it was a huge white Vauxhall Carlton Estate and I was too short to reach the roof and so subsequently never got paid. We were also given to option to line our pockets with a whole 20p each for cleaning Mammy’s brass Art Nouveau fire surround. I suspect this is one of the reasons I no longer drink. After of years of inhaling Brasso in a confined space, no legal substances can ever come close to those happy sensations.

In those far off days, it was not possible to thieve music from The Man via the medium of interweb as it is today. Instead, we found ways around it by recording from friends or, particularly if you were me and didn’t have any, from the radio. The result was a tape with the second half of every Phil Collins song ever recorded and a learned oblivion to impacting furniture at speed.

These days, of course, it is so much easier to create collections of the music you want. For a start there is Spotify which is essentially a giant jukebox. It is free a handful of countries (although adverts will be played periodically) or an ad free subscription can be taken out anywhere in the world for the price of ten euro (or your local equivalent) a month. I tried it for a month and it is very good for mainstream music, I just felt I didn’t listen to it enough to warrant spending the money on it.
There is also interweb radio. I recently found a useful site ( which links to all the European radio stations streaming onto the net including Vatican radio “One-O-Five” Live and Radio Liechtenstein. I’ve never listened to Radio Liechtenstein before. I can’t promise I ever will again but it is certainly proving an arresting diversion and demonstrating that I managed to sit in German classes for two years yet learned nothing of the language. I hope you are proud of yourself, Frau Straub-Lee (although to be fair, we did spend much of our allocated German learning time throwing paper at each other. We didn’t want to learn German. We used to chant “Two world wars, one world cup” at the exchange students).

Something else I have usefully found out is that if you use Real Player to stream the radio station, you can record a portion of the stream. It is my childhood returned with a computer and this time I don’t have to fling myself across any rooms or have Doctor Fox on the Pepsi Network Chart talking over the last 30 seconds of everything. As some kind of magic bonus, presumably a reward for not learning German, when I hear a song I like I can rewind the stream to begin recording from the start of the song rather than having only songs that start from the end of the first chorus. It’s brilliant.

Of course, even back in my day it was argued that sharing music illegally and home taping would be the death of the industry and I can sympathise. If I have a copy of a song I have recorded from the radio, I can play it as many times as I like without paying the artist. They are correct to be narked at me. If somebody distributed copies of any of, what I laughing refer to as, my Art to their friends, I would naturally be rather peeved at being denied the opportunity to overcharge people for something.
However. Like many others, I offer free licences on some of my work in the hope that, should they ever wish to pay somebody for something, I will be the person they turn to. While there are many who abuse this system, the people in it recognise that this is one of the best ways to gain the exposure we need. It doesn’t pay the gas bill but if that’s what you want, McDonalds are probably hiring.

It’s not a good system. If you are not able to juggle your time between the day work and what you love, it is a sad fact that you will probably have to drop the creative unpaid parts of your life. The people who don’t drop it are the people who are willing to omit television, the pub and sleep in pursuit of their craft. If that sounds too much to give up, you are probably better off out of it.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have heard “Oh, I’d love to paint/write/glue noses back onto Lepers in Africa, but I just never seem to have the time”. I’m not sure why people say this because all it tells me is they are probably the kind of person who wants to be a painter/writer/gluer of noses back onto Lepers in Africa but who doesn’t want to put the effort in to learn how to do it. It is time heavy and you will fail a lot but if you persevere for a couple of decades you might produce something not everybody agrees should be burned. Oh, and while I’m on this, don’t tell people they are talented, it negates their hard work.

Anyway. Home taping and free distribution is not going to kill any industry and this bleating insistence that it does can only continue to be proved wrong. Give a little love, industry. We are not all file sharing crims. If we don’t have to spend out money on CDs, maybe we will spend it on a promotional T-shirt instead.


durdlin said...

I still listen to my favourite mix-tape from the radio. It features one song I expertly spliced together from two separate recordings. One was back-accounced and the other forward? (Regularly annouced? What is the correct term?)

Anyway, my version had *no* DJ talking over it. Just a big crunch where the two joined.

Theo said...

I have to confess, I'm still listening to Radio Liechtenstein. I find the adverts a lot less invasive in German.

sarah said...

please compile `theo`s mixed tape from childhood`

thank you

Theo said...

I have a list in one of the barns somewhere leftover from an effort to create something comprehensive I would want to listen to. I believe Cher, Spandau Ballet and Meatloaf featured heavily.

Gotta love those fist clenching key changes.