Musician: Any Aspiring Musician Should Download As Much Music As He Can

from the well,-that's-one-view... dept

I recently listened to an interview with a famed old school reggae musician, who’s been in the business for 42 years. The interviewer asked him what kind of music he liked to listen to himself, and the guy said: “All kinds.” He explained, by saying that any serious musician should listen to as much music as possible, just to learn from it and build your own skills. So even if he doesn’t play country music or symphonies, he tries to listen to them just to gain a better appreciation of them so that he can take some of that and bring it back to his own music. This is a key point in the creative process, which is often missed by those who insist that musical creation is some sort of individual effort that doesn’t involve outside influence.

It’s also a point highlighted by musician David Hahn, writing a response to a mother concerned about her son file sharing. She sent in a note to The Working Musician, a blog by and for working musicians, saying that her son file shares, and she wants him to stop, saying that he would feel differently if it was his music being shared. Hahn replies, however, by telling her that he feels exactly the opposite: and that her son should download as much music as possible (found via EFF):

My perspective on file-sharing is probably different that you would expect. I think that your son should download every track he can find. I mean it. Download every song out there and sift through them one by one. And not just the genres he likes — but everything — Creole bandeon playing, French rap, hymns, metal, classical, South African jazz, samba — whatever he can find…. If you’re son is really going to be a musician — I mean make a real, professional try at it — he’s going to need to know every one of those genres.

He goes on to give a number of other reasons to support this position, and it makes for quite a read. Obviously, plenty of musicians disagree with this, and we’re not posting this to suggest it’s a representative view of musicians. But it’s yet another well-argued explanation for why locking up music isn’t necessarily in musicians’ best interests, despite what some might tell you.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Musician: Any Aspiring Musician Should Download As Much Music As He Can”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
27 Comments
refe (profile) says:

Art vs. Business

His perspective is certainly valid from an artistic standpoint. It also highlights the tension between music as art and music as business. The goals of the two different approaches are often downright contradictory. One says music should be spread and enjoyed by all, the other says music should be spread by licensed distributors and enjoyed only by those who have paid for the privilege.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Art vs. Business

The goals of the two different approaches are often downright contradictory. One says music should be spread and enjoyed by all, the other says music should be spread by licensed distributors and enjoyed only by those who have paid for the privilege.

i think that if a musician takes the artistic approach, he will make artful music. if he takes the business approach, he will make commodity music that doesn’t mean anything.

refe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Art vs. Business

i think that if a musician takes the artistic approach, he will make artful music. if he takes the business approach, he will make commodity music that doesn’t mean anything.

And making quality music is the best business decision an artist can make – he or she may never see the kind of money that someone like Lady GaGa has likely made in the past year, but their music (and their career) will likely last much longer.

Greg (profile) says:

Re: Professional musician

Does it matter if I download music I wasn’t going to buy anyway? Personally, I’ve paid for music I could have gotten for free, because I really like it and want to support the artist. And so long as some people are willing to pay, then it shouldn’t matter how many other people download something for free, since the additional distribution doesn’t “cost” the artist anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Professional musician

You’re right. Which is why the industry should only focus in on top 10 hits, and then do everything in it’s power to license and create cover versions of the cremme de la cremme.

Let me introduce you to what’s seems more and more to be the industry’s desired outcome. It’s a musical atrocity called “Kids Bop.” Real amazing. Be sure to check out their rendition of “Let it Rock”.

http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz-LXlf72g0

It’s sad to see various labels in the industry take hits that artists sold all their rights away, and repackage it for a different demographic. But it’s very telling of the current situation.

The cover band idea is an amazing concept, full of creativity, like Creative Accounting. As long as it keeps the label and record execs in their homes, I’m all for it.

Alan Gerow (profile) says:

Re: Professional musician

Right, a musician gets paid to produce music. A musician does not get paid from someone listening to music.

If I listen to a song being played in public, I don’t feel obliged to shell out $1 to the artist. By the point the music has reached my ears, the music has already been produced, and the musician should have already been paid, because the production is done.

I will pay a band to produce live music through a cover charge, ticket price, or venue paying the band. Pre-recorded music is either (1) produced for free and used as advertising for the band, or (2) commissioned and paid for before the music is released.

Before, I paid for the magnetic tape or plastic disc that housed the music. Not the music on the media. For further evidence, if I scratched my CD, I didn’t get a new CD for free, and I lost access to the music. The money was never for the music on the disc, but for the disc itself.

I have never paid for music in my life. I have spent thousands of dollars on magnetic tape and plastic discs to temporarily gain access to music.

Paul says:

A contractor does not get paid every time someone lives in a house he built. I did not send money to Chevrolet when I bought my used Cavalier. I don’t cut a check when I read a nice fiction series at the library. I don’t arrange for licensing when I enjoy a thought-provoking painting or poster walking down the wall in the morning. Microsoft doesn’t get a royalty when I resell my desktop computer (with OS) to someone who doesn’t even know what an “OS” is. Julia Child’s estate doesn’t get a deposit notice whenever I cook a particularly good potato soup or trim down a turkey.

And yet…

herodotus (profile) says:

How about this:

Obscure musician X never gets on the radio, and no one gives a shit about him, what with the Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguillera and whatnot being so ubiquitous and cool and all.

Then, one day, little shit P buys his c.d. used for a buck and thinks that it is the coolest thing ever. He shares it via p2p, burns cds for everyone he knows, and generally goes on an infringing spree.

Now, Obscure musician X makes no money off of any of this. But suddenly people all over the world are talking about him. When he plays shows, some people who see his name in the paper might even know who he is.

Now I have to ask, why would any musician be against this kind of infringing? Would he really be better off if it had never taken place?

Just asking….

MC says:

You are not a musician...

“it’s yet another well-argued explanation for why locking up music isn’t necessarily in musicians’ best interests, despite what some might tell you.”

It is clear that with this phrase you are not a musician. I am a musician, coming from an under-developed country, and, with all the respect that you deserve, I couldn’t be more in disagreement with the above comment. You dont have to download music to be able to hear all kinds of music!! You can here to the radio…

mc says:

Re: Re: You are not a musician...

Ok, I see your point. In my country you have different kind of stations, so you have variety. Nevertheless, I lived in DC for 1 year, and I honestly could find some “alternative” music stations, “country” music stations, etc. Of course, the majority is “top 40 crap” as you say, but at least in DC i could find some music in a “lost” station… Not sure in the rest of the cities…

Big Al says:

Re: You are not a musician...

Listen to all kinds of music on the radio? If only that were possible! Unfortunately the radio stations I can receive only play the dross that the RIAA advertises as being ‘popular’. If I want to listen to jazz or blues or creole of Basque then my only options are to spend a fortune on CDs, find someone who has already done so, or scour the ‘illegal’ sites who put up out-of-press, but still copyrighted, music. And, yes, I am an occasional paid musician (but I at least know I’m not good enough for prime-time yet).

Viva says:

Old Skool

In the beginning, musicians liked to play music. They played it because they loved it. They wanted to share it…. to be recognized for their creation.

But, it was hard to record and distribute music. The recording/music industry sprang up and offered that service… and all it cost, was your soul – or at least most of your rights. But the musicians had no choice. If they wanted to record and distribute their music beyond the next bar/stadium/dance event, they had to go with the recording industry.

Now, it costs nearly nothing to record and distribute your music. The smallest band on the smallest budget can record their music and distribute it on the web to a worldwide audience.

But the recording/music industry doesn’t want to face this reality. They still think they are the only way – even in the face of overwelming evidence. They are a dying patient whose huge tumor sticks out of their misshapen body, claiming all is well.

The music industry is dead! Long live the music!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Old Skool

“Now, it costs nearly nothing to record and distribute your music. The smallest band on the smallest budget can record their music and distribute it on the web to a worldwide audience.”

Yeah, but it still costs a fortune to get your music in front of enough people who are likely to want it and actually buy it.

Even if you fall for the CwF stuff, you still need to get the music into the hands of actual potential fans, not random “morons in a hurry”.

If you don’t think I am right, consider how many websites on the internet, and how many you have visited out of the total. That is what musicians are facing, one drop in a sea of music.

Jupiter (profile) says:

knowledge is power

Isn’t this exactly why public libraries carry CDs? So that everyone, rich or poor, has access to knowledge that can improve their life or in the case of a musician, further their career.

While the RIAA would like the internet to be nothing more than a global marketplace, this musician sees the internet for what it is – the collective library of knowledge for the whole world.

People today probably have more musical diversity thanks to the internet than they ever had from the RIAA controlled marketplace. People have realized there’s more to music than what gets played on the (RIAA-controlled) radio. If the major labels are losing money, it’s because alternatives are suddenly available.

Busted Keys (user link) says:

Downloading As Much Music For Songwriting?

i’d just written a 7-step guide about listening to as much music as possible. in those tips i discuss the way music should be listened to (or downloaded) to help foster a new work or remix in the creative process.

i’m not going to tackle economics of this article above as it suggests, but as a songwriter or even a performer i hope my advice would be of benefit to musicians.

http://bustedkeys.com/7-steps-to-songwriting-freedom-part-1-of-2

Jrosen (profile) says:

Excellent`

@Alan Gerow “I have never paid for music in my life. I have spent thousands of dollars on magnetic tape and plastic discs to temporarily gain access to music.”

Exquisitely said!

re: you are not a musician.

I rarely listen to the radio anymore. I haven’t for years now. 99% of the music I listen to, will NEVER be on the radio stations in the USA, unless it might be a small college-run type. I listen to mostly foreign music. And no, these days ‘Latin’ music really doesn’t count anymore for that. (Here in Texas there’s almost as many Latin music stations as English it seems). I have French rap, lots of Chinese and Japanese pop/hip-pop/rock/etc. I have reggae music from India. By and large all of what I listen to is simply more interesting than the vast bulk of American music, despite that I cannot understand most of the lyrics.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...