Musician: “P2P Important for Learning Different Genres”

Says that artists who don’t take advantage of technology to hear and learn as much music as possible are at a “severe disadvantage” to those that do, and that “resisting file-sharing hasn’t helped anything.”

Musicianwages is a website dedicated to helping those who want to make a living as a musician. The site is about the musician business, not the music business, and so it has a interesting point to make in the whole P2P debate.

A mother with a teenage son aspiring to be a musician himself recently asked David J.Hahn, co-founder of the site and freelance pianist in New York City, if file-sharing of his work bothers him or is he “just glad to have it being enjoyed.”

“He tells me the record sales make money for the record label, not the artist,” she writes. “He says that the artists make all their money from touring and live concerts. He thinks the pirated music promotes the concerts and therefore helps the artist make more money.”

Smart kid, and Hahn admits to be surprisingly pro-P2P.

Hahn first makes the distinction between piracy and file-sharing, the former meaning one makes a profit from illegal copies and with the latter does not.

He says that if her son is going to make a “real, professional try” at being a musician he’ll need to be familiar with many genres including those he doesn’t like. It’s obviously cost prohibitive to buy them all so he recommends her son “download every song out there and sift through them one by one.”

“Jazz musicians are expected to know a whole reservoir of standard tunes and their famous recordings,” Hahn writes. “How are we going to play “Maiden Voyage” if we haven’t heard the original Herbie Hancock recording? Do I know the version of “Down By the Riverside” that Bennie Green played on his live album? Do I know the difference between Ed Thigpen’s style and Elvin Jones’?”

Now Hahn isn’t saying that P2P is moral or immoral, only that if Valerie’s son wants to succeed as a musician he needs to make sure he’s doing all he can to learn the art of music.

“If a musician doesn’t take advantage of the avenues for acquiring this knowledge that technology has given us — then they are at a severe disadvantage to the rest of us,” he continues. “Because I do know the difference between Thigpen and Elvin, I know French rap (blech), I know hymns, bandeon playing and metal bands. I also know the cast recordings of famous and obscure Broadway shows backwards and forwards.”

He also believes that digital distribution has opened the doors of music to the world in a way never before seen, and I agree.

At the music industry’s physical distribution peak in 1999 record stores and the radio were the sole sources of music. Label execs and DJs were the gatekeepers of content to the detriment of music fans.

It also lends further credence to the countless studies that have concluded P2P actually increases legal music consumption, the latest being by the BI Norwegian School of Management, Europe’s second largest business school, which found that file-sharers actually buy 10 times as much music as they download for free.

Hahn closes by pointing out that musicians have been around long before the music industry and that no matter what will always be here.

“The musician industry has been around as long as humans have, but recorded music is, relatively, a very new invention,” he says. “Mozart never sold a record. Beethoven never released an album. Yet they made careers as musicians.”

Interesting observation to be sure, and that’s precisely Hahn’s point, that artists are professional musicians and may have to go back to doing as they did before the advent of recorded music.

“What if we’re just coming out of a prolonged, 100-year tech bubble for the music industry? What if the easy money of the record-selling days is gone, and we’re back to selling live performance and commissioned compositions just like things were before the bubble?”

Trent Reznor, NIN frontman, has suggested that we’re in between business models and that the future lies in a distribution system that gives artists greater control and percentage of revenues.

Hahn isn’t sure where it’s all headed, but he does know that musicians will always be around, and that “resisting file-sharing hasn’t helped anything.”

Indeed it has not.

Stay tuned.

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