Music Access Moral Continuum (Please rank yours!)

edited April 2020 in Fight Club

(How) Should we judge people who access music from different sources than we do?

How long concerts, a major source of income for less famous artists, will be too dangerous remains to be seen, but if the financial incentive for musicians to make music is as strong as economists think, we could be in for a long and worsening dry spell.  A hungry musical genius might not create the next masterpiece if the link to putting food on the table is severed.  No better time to consider the payout-tied morality of different ways to access music.  I hope you’ll share your opinions using the following framework or your own.

“Music” refers to an “indie” artist w/ all songs under a million views on YouTube (arbitrary cut-off point).  I’m not talking about the “winners” in the “winner-take-all market” that is the music industry (and so many others).

Many understandably employ a moral dichotomy of “paying artists” (good) Vs. “not paying artists” (bad).  Or possibly a trichotomy w/ eMusic even worse than average pirates b/c subscribers are paying the company to steal from artists and record labels.  There’s utility in this simplicity, but like most binary views it leaves out gray areas and the more complicated, inclusive reality of music access as a whole.  I’ll leave out the likelihood, in my view, that eMu is still paying some artists/labels or they’d all abandon ship and/or file a class action lawsuit b/c I’ve harped on it a lot elsewhere.

Here’s a series of other, systematic ways of contextualizing the morality of remaining subscribed to eMusic in these difficult, uncertain times.  I obviously prefer the more complex one.

DICHOTOMOUS:  Paying artists (Bandcamp, streaming services, etc.)  Vs. Not paying artists (Pirate sites, file sharers, much of eMusic, etc.)

“TRICHOTOMOUS”:  Paying artists  Vs. Not paying artists  Vs. Charging a subscription fee to steal from artists


To avoid going wildly out of control, I’ll limit myself to the 26 letters of the alphabet in my opinionated moral ranking, w/ A being “most moral/best” and Z being “least moral/worst.”  Rather than drawing a line between moral and immoral, I’ll punt and call letters K-Q “morally ambiguous” even to my all-judging self.  I hope others will rearrange the alphabet (selectively…I’m not asking for hours of anyone’s time) with their own rankings.  i.e. I guess/approximate opponents of eMusic as C, B, M, W (b/c it hurts eMu), T, P, V, X, Z, J (all helping eMu at the bottom of the scale) but solicit any actual opponent's input.  Anyone else who’d like to weigh in, especially anyone who’s a musician or themselves in the industry, please do!  Judge now lest ye not be judged thyself.

I’ve probably missed several obvious options and don’t know how to add more letters to the alphabet.  A1, Z1, etc.?  Maybe use my letters as reference points and insert what I’ve missed between them?

Note that D, J, L, & W directly involve eMusic.  I gather most who do so disparage any financial support or interaction w/ eMu at all uniformly for simplicity’s sake, but given several ways to get music from the site, they’re worth parsing individually. 


A. Get access for “free” b/c your job (or volunteer position) is to promote the artist (Clearly it’s the music industry’s loss if anyone commenting here is not actively working in it.)

B. Attending an artist’s concerts religiously, buying physical media from their merch table, direct GoFundme campaigns (As u/Soulcoal and others duly point out, this is THE major source of income for less popular artists who’ll never be able to support themselves any other way)

C. Use of Bandcamp to maximally subscribe to one’s favorite artist’s output (including full-priced purchases of full discographies).

D. Use of eMu tokens to purchase MP3s from eMusic (Blockchain.  I still haven’t heard of any accounts of anyone actually doing this, but it should at least address accusations of non-payment of artists b/c it’s transparent)

E. Buy a new vinyl record or new CD at one of the dwindling brick & mortar stores that still sell them. 

F. Listen to an independent radio station (i.e. community/college-based)

G. Listen to an old-fashioned commercial radio station (I’d say it’s morally ambiguous to listen to Top40 radio, though, but that my inner curmudgeon typing.  I’m not even sure indie artists, new jazz, etc. even get played on any commercial radio stations.)

H. Borrow or otherwise listen to someone else’s copy (i.e. friend or family member’s) of an album they bought new, then buy more of it oneself.  Burning a copy of it to CD-R rather than buying it would be worse, but does anyone still do that?

I. Buy a used CD or used record online or at a used music store (Recent years show how dependent this means is upon people buying albums new in the first place.  I welcome someone else to speculate how much buying a used CD helps the artist.)

J. Annual or monthly eMusic subscription (in hopes that it sustains eMu and will one day result in it being a viable business, doing its part to compensate artists, assuming it is still paying some artists/labels or they’d ALL leave the site)


K. Innocently purchase a promotional copy of an album (i.e. as often happens in used CD stores that purchased stock from a radio station…only the disc itself or the interior of the liner notes, invisible at time of purchase, may be stamped with “for promotional use only”)

L. Purchase of discounted eMusic booster packs (a concession to Soulcoal’s distaste for them)

M. Paid subscription to the highest compensation-per-stream, non-gigantic service (currently Napster, or correct me if I’m wrong)

N. Paid subscription to a middling compensation-per-stream service (i.e. Tidal, Spotify, etc.).  As I rant in a blog post, even if compensation improved, streaming services contribute to single-fication of music consumption and the death of the album, which I see as a moral injury.

O. Paid subscription to one of the huge corporations’ streaming services (Giving more money to Amazon, Google, and Apple, even if they pay more per stream than some, is morally ambiguous at best given things like their carbon footprints, enabling of crass consumerism, using market share to squeeze artists/labels, crowd out small businesses, and the possibility that unless anti-trust enforcement increases a lot they’ll someday own everything that people can purchase).  

P. 7% of people (the same as the % who buy physical media or download from iTunes or elsewhere) surveyed in the link say they “don’t really listen to music,” which I think is evil and wrong, but I won’t force them to change their evil ways.  Am I saying people should buy music even if they don’t listen to music?  Kinda.  To abstain or take the option of exit seems to be denied many Asian citizens (and probably elsewhere, too), where music is blasted in public over loudspeakers.  I’m glad Skinny Puppy got paid for their songs being used at Guantánamo, but I’m sure detainees and other captive audiences aren’t much concerned about artist compensation.

Q. Free streaming service accounts supported by ads (i.e. Spotify.  Even if you’re not bothered by your music being interrupted and financially supported by ads, I think it’s morally questionable, especially in the long term.)  Kids I’ve talked to (some of whom equate music w/ Spotify or YouTube…scary!) who can’t afford a paid subscription need to talk to their parents about a family plan or listen to the radio, I say!


R. Repeatedly doing free, 1-month trials of streaming sites and canceling before payment.

S. Streaming music on YouTube or other sites while using AdBlock on your browser (on the assumption that artists aren’t getting paid if ads aren’t being played) as one’s sole source of music.  

T. Streaming music on YouTube from accounts not connected to artists themselves or their record labels (YouTube polices this but is pretty lax, especially for more obscure artists, songs, etc.) 

U. Download all of a friend or family member’s albums that you like w/out buying any of it oneself (assuming they were originally purchased properly).

V. Knowingly buy counterfeit physical media.  (In developing countries, one can still buy counterfeit CDs of surprising quality and selection, and around the turn of the 21st century, this seemed to be the primary means of people there getting to own music.  Maybe it still put food on street vendor families’ tables? And as w/ pirated DVDs, there are upsides to spreading culture to poor people.  This phenomenon mainly affected the most famous, I assume, who were losing the most revenue.  I do know a ton of stores were shut down in China.)

W. Repeatedly signing up for eMusic’s 1-month new subscriber bonus under different email addresses (I read someone’s account of doing this and it struck me as entirely too clever, maybe a way to ensure that eMu’s non-payment of artists worsens, possibly an active contribution to sinking the site once and for all?)

X. Use of (Russian or other) pirate downloading sites

Y. Stealing records or CDs from a college radio station (this one is personally irksome, having managed one and been a DJ)

Z. Stealing one’s way into a concert, making a bootleg recording (to be sold for personal profit), robbing the merch table, hacking into a label’s website to steal its music.  Then maybe stealing a backstage pass and sucker-punching the lead singer or bandleader, slashing the band’s van tires afterwards.  


Note that this is still a trichotomy.  Placement in any of the three moral categories is just my opinion, and specific rankings are something you’re very welcome to argue for and change my mind.  I hope the letters can be used as shorthand when doing so (i.e. One could argue X is worse than Z b/c it’s so easy and can be done on such a large scale.)

Perhaps some less moral options and certainly many morally ambiguous ones, IMO, can be offset by promoting the artist.  You may tell me I’m deluding myself, but even if eMu is as horrible as some say for artists still on the site, I do believe that posting about them here, on FB, my website, etc. does a small but morally absolving bit of good to spread the word about what we all agree is mostly unknown music at this point.

My main contention remains that standard, dominant means of music access (via YouTube as on most of Reddit or other streaming services whether paid or free) categorized as “good” in a dichotomy b/c they do pay artists pay so little (literal pennies per month) as to be morally worse than an eMu subscription.  Or at very least, getting on a high horse with a megaphone about how terrible eMu is compared to streaming is vastly overstated.  

A streaming service subscriber who hopes artist compensation will get better somehow is, IMO, morally no better than an eMusic subscriber who is ignorant of its spotty record on compensation or who also hopes that it can become a viable business again and do right by artists.  

In sum, yes, I’m still an apologist, maybe naive in optimism that eMu can still be a positive influence in a deeply unfair industry, whether or not it currently is.


  • I’m not sure how to judge music an artist chooses to give away for free or that is impossible to purchase for money (barter-only?, alternative currency?).  I guess it’s nice for popular artists to acknowledge they don’t need the money, but might it devalue ownership of music and effectively continue to crowd out less popular and obscure music?  As more music becomes free to access, the strategy of obscure artists to give away their music to promote it becomes less viable and may undercut people’s willingness to pay anything for music at all.  

  • Just a note to you and my future self that I want to engage with this and have no bandwidth right now :-)
  • @Germanprof
    I look forward to your always thoughtful remarks.
  • edited April 2020
    OK, I'll grab a few minutes to make a start. So much in here worth discussing more. And I am not posting to disagree - absolutely, a division into "pays the artist" versus "doesn't pay the artist" does not even begin to provide an adequate basis for moral decisions. I pretty much agree with your trichotomy, at least in broad terms. I am posting just to think aloud, bouncing off of your great stimulus. (And, alas, I am not actually answering your question, just making life more complicated).
    A: The category you describe here is, I think, a bit bigger than folk with jobs. A few examples from my experience. I used to write a half dozen reviews a year on Music is Good. As a result several artists started sending me their stuff for free. One artist mailed me a package of all of his CD releases to date from overseas because he wanted me to have them all. Another sent me an album unsolicited, I wrote back and said I would not have time to review it, he said that's fine, he just wanted me to hear it. These would fall under your "volunteer position" clause, but they shade into another scenario. A musician friend gave me a CD and explained that his income is from teaching, accompanist work, and concerts, and the CDs are a promotional item. Again, he wanted me to hear it. So I think once one gets at all engaged with actual artists, whether or not one is providing promotional labor (paid or otherwise) there exists quite a range of circumstances in which one might get their music for free that it would be hard to class as immoral in any way. (This would presumable also cover netlabels, official bootlegs, explicitly free bandcamp albums, artist website downloads). So a couple of confounding factors in expanding this category are (a) the artist may not intend payment (b) this might not be the artist's income, and (c) the desire might be mainly for particular listeners. (This is also how a lot of my professional writing works). (This is of course not an excuse for not paying where these conditions do not clearly hold, just a suggestion that A is bigger and more complex.)
    C: The "maximally" criterion seems unnecessary; is it somehow less moral if I only like one of an artist's albums but pay full price for it on bandcamp? Conversely, I am not sure it is more moral (or more clearly moral) to buy the whole discography. I am also not sure that it is necessarily more moral to pay full price for the discography if the artist or in some cases the label themselves discounted it (since this is in effect them setting the price, not them being undercut). Some artists are emailing me saying they plabn to discount their discography for Bandcamp's pay the artists day tomorrow - they clearly believe this will get them more support. I could wait until the day after and pay full price of course, and that might be more noble; I am not sure it is more moral.
    T: I think I might push this into ambiguous unless some qualifiers were added. Consider the following scenarios: I am not sure whether I want to buy an obscure album and some individual's youtube post is the place I can find a decent preview; an album is long out of print and someone has posted it youtube; I am surfing random things on youtube, listen in on something I had never heard of and then pursue it further on another site. Any of these might not be ideal, but I am not sure they are unambiguously wrong (though the third one comes perilously close to basing ethics on outcomes).
    U: You cheated a little on this one by saying "all of" - is it moral if I only take three quarters? This interests me, so let's try a kind of continuum. (i) My wife and I, thankfully, live together and share a stereo. Should we each buy a copy of an album, since she is a "family member"? (Should I buy copies of albums she owned before we were married?)  (ii) My youngest daughter and I, who not only buy music and go to shows but, to the horror of my son, still buy those archaic objects known as CDs, share a GDrive folder in which once a month we each upload an album that is outside the other's orbit but that we think they might be able to engage with, as a continuing way of getting to know one another. Mostly the listening is pretty much over after the month. Should we be buying two copies? (iii) I have a close friend in the next town who is as much of a music fanatic as I am. We both buy way more music than average. We tend to buy slightly different things, but we both have a sense that we ought to listen to things that are not our favorites. If we lived next door to one another and a couple of decades ago we would have incessantly loaned LPs for a month at a time back and forth. Now we share a dropbox folder and pass recent purchases back and forth and then discuss them over lunch. I don't think this reduces the volume of either of our purchases, though in some cases it might mean only one of us buys an album that there was a chance both of us might have bought. How long do the files need to stay/how many listens do they need to get before this stops being an analogue of loaning? And so on, until we get to all the way to indiscriminate file sharing. More context: Despite the radical individualism of North American society, companies such as Netflix and Amazon explicitly recognize the legitimacy of family sharing on a single account for movies and ebooks. I don't know exactly where the boundaries lie, but I am uncomfortable with the idea of framing ethics only around individual ownership and consumption.
    Finally, some more admittedly arcane but real twilight zone cases that I am not sure how to think about myself.
    (i) You follow an artist, are invested in their music and have bought many, if not most of their recordings. There is one obscure release on a record label that went bankrupt (for example) that cannot be purchased at any source that several hours of searching can reveal. There is, however, one obscure individual's blog with an uploaded copy. You download it. I think I have maybe three or four of these in my collection. I don't think that's necessarily moral. I am not sure it's hugely immoral either. But it depends a bit on whether you favor harm done, chance of supporting the artist, copyright rules, or some other ethical boundary.
    (ii) A longstanding artist who has many releases, got cheated by a past major record deal, and is associated with some anecdotal tales of financial hardship posts on social media listing four of their albums that they own outright and asking everyone if they could stream them for a few days to generate some income. You go ahead with an ad-supported spotify account (because you otherwise spurn spotify), thus doverting some corporate revenue to the artist. (This is in relation to Q). This happened a week or two ago. 
    (iii) This one happened today. You stream an album on bandcamp that is made of one long track. It's OK, but you are not that thrilled with it. You decide you don't actually like it enough to buy it. You then notice it is mispriced on one of the music sites, so that the single track can be purchased for a dollar. You decide to throw a dollar at it in token payment for the stream and the one more time you might listen to it (which would not otherwise have happened). Kind of like a tip jar. I did this earlier. This is relation to thinking about your "full price" qualifiers above. Many consumer transactions of various kinds are premised on the notion that folk who would not buy something at all at full price might hand over less money given the chance. This happens in all kinds of ways in music too. It cuts against the pure model of "supporting the artist" but it might not be against their interests.
    (iv) This month my publisher put one of my books on Kindle on sale for $1.99. Since these are discounted, as laid out in the contract, I won't get my cut. That's a little sad, but I don't care, am pleased the book will circulate more, I posted the deal to social media and to my students who will need that book for a course later this summer, I do not earn my living from royalties (pause for mirth), and I signed a contract giving the publisher the right to do this. Even if it's a little sad from a support-the-author point of view, should the purchaser feel bad? I don't think so.
    I think what I am getting at with these cases, is that so often with particular transactions there are particular circumstances that make things trickier. One part of me is already wondering whether to support certain artists tomorrow who I am fairly sure don't need my extra dollar or buy today and support bandcamp, who are making it possible for us to support the artists. And I think the moral qualm I have about emusic at this point is not whether they are still [paying some artists but whether I want to be associated with them amid the ambiguity - I got the the point where it did not make me feel good. Overall, though, I tend to agree: the better path is to lay down the need for access to the whole world's catalogue and pay our way for a smaller set of music.
    Apologies for the long and largely beside the point post. Thanks for getting me thinking at the end of too many zoom meetings.
  • All I have to say on this matter is that
    recordings are audio business cards.
  • @Germanprof

    A needs to be expanded (but all good, agreed).  As in my first comment after the OP, I’m not ready/able to wrap my head around and judge artists giving their art away for free, whether promotional (w/ the expectation that you promote what you receive) or “just want you to have it” w/out strings attached.  I do think if it became a common practice, it’d contribute to people being less willing to pay anything for music.

    Equating morality w/ size of payout is, as my colleauges in critical theory were wont to point out, problematic indeed.  Whereas plenty have said business and money corrupt people, in this case (and probably most consumerism) being at least somewhat wealthy might be a requirement to be highly moral.  Maybe mixing the concept with money at all is just a bad idea, since “doing the right thing” shouldn’t be impossible for people w/out money.  

    C. nobility Vs. morality is an interesting distinction.  I wonder if someone could commit a noble but immoral act.

    T: qualifier:  and make no attempt at purchase as a result of sampling.  If streaming services main purpose is to allow those intending to buy/own legitimately they’re fine.  I guess paying pennies to the artist via streaming a few times is ever so slightly better than what’s described here (again assuming no purchase is made).  The main change is that short of a record store allowing the average person to preview an album, try-before-you-buy wasn’t usually possible until the 21st century.  I try to be more consequentialist in judgment and haven’t thoroughly considered the peril involved.

    U. very envious of your family music sharing (if it’s not just hypothetical)  Similar to a book club for sharing & discussing thoughts; ideally everyone in the club buys the book new, in hardcover, but I’d be surprised if half do in used paperbacks. Household issues are a real tender spot for me; I’ve shared with my brothers and parents multiple times and would have to consider the likelihood that they didn’t even listen to most of what I shared.  Ask the lawyers to read the fine copyright print before killing them all, I guess.

    Special “Twilight Zone” cases…w/ a huge collection there are bound to be many exceptions that go beyond the alphabet and standard operating procedures.  I think the letters and harsh judgment apply better to regular folks who are content to get all their music from one or two sources.  As fanatics, by necessity we have multiple, well-developed, and redundant methods to get our fixes.

    Especially in cases where finding something you really like that’s out of print or otherwise nearly impossible to track down (all the more likely not to be legitimately “for sale” anywhere), I think it’d be quite wrong to consider the quest and acquisition solely in terms of artist compensation.  Putting forth great effort and getting some happiness from an achievement has to have some positive moral components to it.  It’s not like you’re putting all that effort into robbing a bank, and I can imagine scenarios where finding that one obscure album could be just as difficult.

    (iii) Looking at my 99 cent eMusic purchases, the majority fall into the tip category where I’m happy to give a token to listen to something but almost certainly wouldn’t have paid full price/several dollars even in cases where the quality is high.  It’d be an interesting study (but terribly esoteric) to compare the effects (i.e. appreciation, likelihood to promote or download in the first place, total downloads) between offering an album for free versus $1 to entice people.

    (iv) insider perspective much appreciated.  Lucky you!  I need to find a (preferably academic) job again soon, and the timing seems to be getting rough.

    On your closing comment on supporting the platform, this is really something I feel people totally discount for eMusic, which at least used to be an exemplary company in the industry.  Most seem intent on punishing them, kicking them while they’re down (admittedly fair in the sense it’s made mistakes), but clearly Bandcamp isn’t going to be around forever either and needs support.  I don’t know who’s hurting the most nowadays and hesitate to base all my purchases on that.  Music without impulse (buying) can all turn into a drone.

    Related to your addendum to Q and examples of listening to the radio, I’ve quite failed to consider whether there’s any moral questions involved in giving an individual free choice to listen to whatever s/he wants whenever s/he wants versus subjecting him/her to a DJ’s choices.  Streaming, for all its sins, needs to be considered for the near-infinite access it provides listeners as a point of morality for (near) universal access, not just a matter of convenience.  I still think artist compensation is vastly more important, but others might not.

     idiotprogrammer also makes a lot of interesting points in his comments on Reddit:  

    Quite enjoyable to engage in depth and continue looking down on people I disagree with.  Thanks!

  • rostasi said:
    All I have to say on this matter is that
    recordings are audio business cards

    Recordings are audio business cards?  Has it always been so, or is this an adjustment for the new era?
  • omnifoo said:
    Related to your addendum to Q and examples of listening to the radio, I’ve quite failed to consider whether there’s any moral questions involved in giving an individual free choice to listen to whatever s/he wants whenever s/he wants versus subjecting him/her to a DJ’s choices.  Streaming, for all its sins, needs to be considered for the near-infinite access it provides listeners as a point of morality for (near) universal access, not just a matter of convenience. 
    Right, and it's not obvious to me that free universal access falls on the side of a moral good. What is it's more like the apotheosis of consumerism, arising out of and deepening the same instinct to want everything at once without commitment that exacerbates, say, our environmental challenges. Do we do better when limited? That's how most folk approach the ethics of, say, sex, raising children, or gardening. What if music is like that, and works best ethically if we all get a garden rather than license to land a helicopter wherever we like?

    This is the story that last comment alludes to and perhaps a metaphor for the downside of fostering the feeling that everyone has the right to infinite access.
  • Regarding universal access, for myself, I say there are reasons that children don't own and operate candy stores.  Most people, I gather, just stream what they liked in high school and don't explore much, though that impression is anecdotal.  I'm mainly disappointed at how small most people's gardens are, but I'm sure there'd be a backlash against mandated tours of other gardens in one's neighborhood.  Once we all got used to basically unlimited choices, maybe there would be a happy medium between my extreme and theirs.
  • omnifoo said:

     The main change is that short of a record store allowing the average person to preview an album, try-before-you-buy wasn’t usually possible until the 21st century.  

    This isn't true. Most brick and mortar shops will still allow you to do this; esp those with fingers in the dj trade. If you go back to the 60s, and I think earlier (my mum - a teenager in WWII mentioned it) larger shops such as HMV in the UK had banks of listening posts a bit like old telephone kiosks in airports with the plastic bubble at head height. It was accepted that teenagers would listen to several records before buying one or none - it was a loss leader.

    A really interesting set of posts though. It has certainly got me thinking; especially since I dumped Emusic and Spotify labelling them as thieves in my own mind. At the same time I still d/l the odd album from YouTube with the idea of possibly buying a legit d/l or cd copy. In truth that sometimes means spending a lot on an artists catalogue but at other times not a penny (this week I freaked out that a cd of a latter-day Duke Ellington album was £7.70 but the d/l was £14.75!). Also jazz performers from the 50s-70s get nothing from my legitimate cd purchase. OTOH I balance this by attending small improv. gigs and buying so much merch artists become friends ( "It's been a financial pleasure!" - Kinky Friedman). Also making donations to venues. So swings and round-a-bouts.
    Sorry if this is just a blurt but I spent this a.m. on the phone to the fraud dept of my bank due to the meltdown at Bandcamp yesterday meaning my card got stopped. Try and do the good thing ;-)
  • djh said:.  

    Sorry if this is just a blurt but I spent this a.m. on the phone to the fraud dept of my bank due to the meltdown at Bandcamp yesterday meaning my card got stopped. Try and do the good thing ;-)
    I am not sure it was just the sale day. A week ago I tried to get one of those Temporary Residence Deal of the day albums, and instead of grabbing it free thought I’d chip in. Tried to pay with PayPal  (linked to me card) and got a message saying the transaction was blocked because my government had blocked transactions to that country. A brief Google said that message sometimes comes up for transactions in Russia. So apparently PayPal thought bandcamp was in Russia, which must be some kind of site certificate issue. Now my PayPal account has locked me out because of “suspicious activity” on my card, which I would think must be related (unless someone is trying to hack me).
  • Though I remember previewing CDs to be rare in the 90s (usually only a select few available at "listening stations"), I stand corrected on the practice.  My sympathies on Bandcamp slowing to a crawl.  Warm, fuzzy feelings for so many musicians getting their due.
  • djh said:.  

    Sorry if this is just a blurt but I spent this a.m. on the phone to the fraud dept of my bank due to the meltdown at Bandcamp yesterday meaning my card got stopped. Try and do the good thing ;-)
    I am not sure it was just the sale day. A week ago I tried to get one of those Temporary Residence Deal of the day albums, and instead of grabbing it free thought I’d chip in. Tried to pay with PayPal  (linked to me card) and got a message saying the transaction was blocked because my government had blocked transactions to that country. A brief Google said that message sometimes comes up for transactions in Russia. So apparently PayPal thought bandcamp was in Russia, which must be some kind of site certificate issue. Now my PayPal account has locked me out because of “suspicious activity” on my card, which I would think must be related (unless someone is trying to hack me).
    Around 18 months back I had a real problem with Bandcamp in that according to my bank one of the labels or artists had an account that was listed as an African-American beauty products business. I never did work out if someone had nobbled my card or if funky label "X" had a sideline. New card promptly issued by bank. This time my card was just unblocked as I used it yesterday to buy half priced 24-bit recordings from e-classical (promotion on Naxos so doubly cheap) Hang on I feel another moral crisis coming on.
  • edited May 2020
    "I wonder if someone could commit a noble but immoral act"

    Hm, that strikes me as pretty easy, since both are distinct value judgments. Seems trivial to think about acts many would consider noble that violate utility, for example. In fact, *most charity donations* probably qualify as just that, no? The effective altruism movement focuses on the latter, and identifies such targets as malaria, parasitic worm infections, vitamin A deficiencies - but most charity donations go elsewhere. One could argue that deliberately directing resources towards lower value targets at the expense of higher value targets qualifies as "immoral".

  • Thanks for picking us up philosphically.  As in the original musical context with your example, if you say that if one doesn't donate to the "highest value" charity target, it's in the "probably immoral" category, isn't that also like saying that noble intentions don't matter if they don't produce a maximally moral act?  In other words, all music access that isn't, let's say, by A, B, or C would give lower value to musicians.  I'm sure plenty of folks would agree w/ that, and they're probably the ones advocating for people to get their music ONLY from Bandcamp or ONLY their preferred source, but I'd hesitate to say something sub-optimal is immoral.  Some things are obviously bad and wrong, but I don't think something not as good as it could be falls in that category.  Maybe I misunderstand; it's been a long time since I thought in terms of strict utilitarian morality in college philosophy class. 
  • Another way to interpret:  there's no nobility in giving part of my COVID-19 stimulus check to musicians who are hurting.  The whole thing should go to charity if I don't need it to eat.
  •  Well, I'll try my best to follow your outline but I do get easily distracted. I'm in my 68th year here on earth and I suppose I've spent 55 of those building my music library. I'm sure well over 90% of my purchases have been discounted from full price. I've spent countless hours looking through discount bins at all kinds of retail outlets, flea markets, gas stations, Goodwill stores and sooo many used record/tapes/CD stores. I had 3 older siblings that helped hone my musical ears plus there were my Dad's 78s. Unlike my siblings who became almost exclusively Classical/Pop(oldest), Jazz/Blues(oldest brother) & Country Western(older brother) listeners, I loved a lot of everything.
     In the early years I always set aside some of my paper route money for albums and I always tried to get as much as I could for as little as possible. I guess I'm probably a musicians worst customer. Other than here, I've only known one other person to share music with who really enjoyed the exploration. We shared each others library and I still have boxes of cassettes that I made during those those years and my Public Library years. When years were lean the Library played a big part in my musical hunt. When the internet came along it pretty much stopped my purchases of albums/tapes/CDs.
     I first started using something called Limewire to find individual songs to play on the computer. I joined Emusic in 2003 just before they stopped their unlimited download plan and have also spent time on Amie Street trying to get in on those great bargains they once had.(never really did very well there) I also downloaded from a couple of Russian sites until even I knew it wasn't right. I tried to justify it as replacing my vinyl but that wasn't always the case. We were still on dial-up back then so there wasn't a lot of downloading going on anyway. I still use UbuWeb and to supplement my musical budget and even though only a tiny portion of that budget goes to the musician I don't feel immoral. I've done my best to promote/preserve them whenever I can(even though most folks just say "Never heard of them"). I feel a real connection to my library and can't bring myself to getting rid of any of them - good & bad alike. I've often found what's good to me is bad for others and vice versa. (I did go through my iTunes and purged a lot of Free samplers and single daily downloads that I amassed at Emusic over the years when I got this new computer in 2017.

    Now to get to the point.

    A. I'm not sure why this would be the most moral. I suppose it's a nice perk. 

    B. When I was young I went to lots of concerts, now, I'm not fussy about crowds.

    C.&D. The only thing I've subscribed to is Emusic Lite @ $6.49/mo.

    E. Twice in the last 20 years or so - gifts for nieces.

    F.&G. I don't listen to commercial radio. I do listen to our Provincial public radio CKUA and our National public broadcaster CBC.

    H. No, I don't, anymore. However, I still do make mixed CD's for my sons, nephews and nieces on occasions. 

    I. I still can't resist the urge to flip through racks of albums or CDs, once or twice a month. I rarely buy much as I'm always surprised how expensive they are.

    J. See C&D


    K. I have many in my library. All purchased not so innocently as I always checked the album/CD for scratches and abuse.

    L. I still buy an occasional eMusic booster pack. I don't find this morally wrong at all.

    M,N,O,Q. As I've mentioned before, I don't understand streaming but then I'm a dinosaur. I don't have or want a cell iphone and would never ask Siri to turnoff the lights when it already has a perfectly good switch. I've never tweeted a text or used a hashtag like #soundslikemygrandpa. Does listening to samples at Bandcamp/Soundcloud qualify as streaming music. If so, I've done lots of that. But, I can't bring myself to listen something completely if I can't download it and have it in my library. I've already cleaned out almost all the singles that I have no intention of ever completing or would repurchase if I did.

    P. I find it impossible not to listen to music. As soon as I step out the door I hear a multitude of sounds that provide a soundtrack for my life. Hearing nature blend in with your typical city sounds is most pleasing to my ears. Like sitting around a fire early in the morning and hearing a semi's Jake brakes roar up through the river valley as it makes it's descent into the valley. Makes me think of Tom Waits' Big Joe And Phantom 309.


    R,S,V,W,Y,Z. Never did that  

    T. Once again, if playing the odd song or an album I already have is streaming, then I'm guilty. Ps- I did read your Streaming Mad article (most enjoyable BTW) but I still don't get it.

    U. Well, I haven't done this in decades but I'd be guilty of starting out that way. In my defence I did buy other albums by those I copied. I've also now repurchased most of the albums I had on my broken hard drive, realizing I'll probably never get around to seeing if it can be fixed. 

    X. Guilty, but I did stop.


    Well, that could be me. I still try to pay as little as possible using Emusic's discounted prices as a guideline. If I have to make a decision to pay full price or download a less expensive option, I will always try to pay less. I'm an addict who needs the fix of something new. I love the excitement/disappointment of hearing something I haven't heard before. I'm always surprised when I see some folks on have played something over 1000 times. I think that is most immoral.

  • "if you say that if one doesn't donate to the "highest value" charity target, it's in the "probably immoral" category"
    Heh, I certainly didn't claim "probably"! :) I just said it could be argued reasonably in a given context. It was purely in response to wondering how to arrive at both. But also, I'm not inclined to give noble intentions much credit myself. I'm often distressed how many people seem to think good intentions "suffice" in general! The "just do something" instinct.

  • kargatron said:
    But also, I'm not inclined to give noble intentions much credit myself. I'm often distressed how many people seem to think good intentions "suffice" in general! The "just do something" instinct.

    One of the areas I sniff around in that really puts the limits of good intentions in the spotlight is intercultural communication. It is entirely possible (and happens regularly) that a behavior or intention that was intended positively carries meanings in another cultural system that cause it to be received as a harm. (That literature also suggests that North Americans tend to be more wedded than some other cultures to the notion that good intentions should get me through.)
    Of course there are more dramatic examples. The history of both medicine and our interaction with the environment is littered with examples of acts that were intended for good and were actually quite disastrous in their effects.
  • edited May 2020
    @confused ; Thanks for sharing in such detail!  It shouldn’t be surprising in the least that people w/ unique, diverse musical tastes also operate on their own codes of morality.

    For a lot of what you said it sounds like you're often following the principle of getting the most music (product/utility) at the lowest price.  Being candid about our music consumption habits takes bravery w/ moral police on patrol.  In my case, it was fun lecturing Chinese students in my classes who'd go on to study Marxism in grad school that markets are amoral rather than immoral, though buying and selling children, music, and other stuff people have strong moral views about purely on supply and demand might still be an immoral practice with regrettable outcomes.  You clearly do still try to follow the letter of the law and probably contribute more than you realize to the music industry by promoting what you like here.  
    A. is directly addressing that promotional aspect of our social music consumption...It takes a vast, volunteer army just to pierce the consciousness of otherwise mainstream listeners to the very limited extent we have, and it would shock me if any of us are posting here for the money.  I am right w/ you in needing a fix of new music, and just telling the world about what's been overlooked must have something like a multiplier effect if it's a reliable source w/ some reach.

    Regarding taste, I think most of us here would agree w/ you that what we like is askew of the general population; Top40 radio started annoying and boring me in 3rd grade and makes me very uncomfortable.  I have to be self-consciouss not to foist what I prefer on poor fools unsuspecting, uninitiated, who've heard little else.  

    I think our restistance to streaming will increasingly make us outliers, barring a mass realization of the "winner take all" market's immoral outcomes.  Resisting on a tech. basis probably isn't uncommon for your generation; my own peers nearing 40 probably see me as a dinosaur for continuing to prefer physical media.  I have boxes and boxes of cassette recordings of my favorite radio show in the 1990s and wouldn't part with them for the world.  My 20-y.o. cousins have parents who own records and CDs but didn't have their value drilled into them and own none at all, listen only to single tracks on Spotify despite being into classic rock.   

    I've never used and so don't understand why playing things a lot there is worse than general streaming; don't they operate similar to streaming and pay artists similarly?
  • Just to get wordy, I’ve always considered intentions to be benign or malign, maybe noble being approximately the same as the former, but denoting more the high-minded or selfless thoughts of the actor than an overall desire to do good or ill.  A noble actor does the moral/right thing despite its costs and regardless of consequences (in the case of an individual’s music purchases, likely negligible).  It’s just very hard for me to imagine a noble act that has already been committed being immoral.  Perfectly common for noble intentions to be misguided, deluded, or fully illusory, like an imperialist genuinely subscribing to a “white man’s burden” mindset and other once noble causes now antiquated at best and more likely fully ignoble.  If someone totally unaware of eMusic’s problems in recent years thinks s/he is subscribing nobly to compensate artists, it might be similar, but only if supporting eMusic itself is an evil act (I’d strongly disagree).

  • Well, as you haven't used I'll try to explain why I use it. I'm not sure why other folks use it or know anything about compensation to artists etc. I just like to share what I'm listening to with the world. It has something to do with scrobbling music. Kinda like how iTunes tracks my music privately, tracks it publicly. I understand it collects a lot of personal data about my listening habits like when I listen, what I'm listening to and also provides some info about the artist that maybe couldn't be found elsewhere. It's like having my own private radio station and one way for me to validate my library.
     I don't think has streaming, I only use it to keep track of what I'm playing. I say I'm surprised that someone could listen to anything 1000 times or more because there is just so much interesting music/noise/etc to be heard I find it hard to believe. I think the reason I quit listening to commercial radio was having to listen to the same songs all the time. It also drove me nuts when public radio programs ruined favourite songs by replaying the same thing all the time. Richard Thompson's 1952 Vincent Black Lightning comes to mind. 
    This is my profile.

    As far as intentions go, I've only ever thought of them as good or bad.  Mine always start as good but sometimes don't work out. On the other hand, I couldn't imagine starting off with a bad intention. Where else would you want it to go. I started collecting music with the best intentions of saving something to mark my time on this earth and it's working out fine for me now. I certainly didn't decide to see how much I could take advantage of musicians. I'm forever grateful to them for providing the soundtrack to my life.
  • I originally started using more as a game to see how it can be subverted and then after the first 2 million scrobbles, I experienced pretty much all that I was interested in learning about it and have just resorted to using it as a curiosity reminder. I listen to so much stuff and so I’d become curious about my music spread, but even that interest is beginning to wane. I’m getting that way these days about my Mixcloud account too - almost nobody listening to the mixes and the, to be honest, irritating habit that some have of “favorit[ing]” a mix without even listening to it. I’m not your typical “social”ite, I suppose.
  • I wish I'd used to share mixes while it existed and am still interested in finding a better way than YouTube.  Might look into by your (past) appreciation of it.  I'll continue to give out burned CD-Rs as long as car stereos still have players, though.  Sad indeed that most people seem to be not only of the kind who listen to their favorite song hundreds or thousands of times but rarely try new music after high school or college.

  • edited May 2020
    omnifoo said:

    I wish I'd used to share mixes while it existed and am still interested in finding a better way than YouTube.  Might look into by your (past) appreciation of it.  I'll continue to give out burned CD-Rs as long as car stereos still have players, though.  Sad indeed that most people seem to be not only of the kind who listen to their favorite song hundreds or thousands of times but rarely try new music after high school or college.

    I wonder if some of your tapes are worth digitising and putting on Especially if they have additional things like news, ad breaks, and such still intact. More as a history project than a music distribution one though.
    I'm also a pretty steady user, fwiw. Mostly as a curiosity for what I've been listening to, but also sometimes to see what it's recommending me.
  • The radio show was on a community radio station w/out ads (just fundraising requests), and I tried to stop the tape whenever the DJ came on so as to preserve precious, precious seconds of tape.  Ended up chopping up a lot of song intros and outros, unfortunately.  I'm not familiar w/
  • At the risk of getting wildly off-topic, go check out It's goal is basically to be an archive of everything digital (or digitalisable) that it can. You'll find  films and audio and old computer games you can run in your browser and books - also, scans of old magazines, school yearbooks, website backups (so you can look back in time), and a pile more.

    And anyone can upload more stuff.
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