November 17, 2010

Sgt Pepper’s Illegal Downloading Gang

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On Monday, in the most ominous manner, Apple changed their front page to read, “Tomorrow is yet another day. That you’ll never forget”.  Talk about super hype.  In the hours that followed, every Apple follower on the planet tried to figure out what the mothership was about to announce.  In fact, in the 24 hours before the announcement, there was a front page story in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal,and every technology blog you can think of.  Apple is a hype machine.  On Tuesday, the news landed: The Beatles are on iTunes.  Now for most of our generation, this is pretty meaningless.  Beatles fan or not, you probably downloaded the Fab four’s entire collection illegally when you were 15.  We are the pirate generation.  We ruined the music industry.  So why is this moment one “we’ll never forget?”

The Beatles coming to iTunes is effectively a symbolic move indicating that we, a generation of iPod users, have won.  An army of white earbuds, over 260,000,000 strong, forced the hand of one of the most valuable music estates in history to bite the bullet.

“I am particularly glad to no longer be asked when The Beatles are coming to iTunes,” said Ringo Starr.

We all knew the CD (and in many ways, the DVD) has been dead for some time.  But for the entirety of that time, a few Rock gods have avoided MP3 like the plague.  Their reasons were fluffy at best, “The format strips out all the sound quality,” “It allows people to buy individual songs, our music was made in albums” and the always favorite, “Everyone loves looking at our amazing album art and booklets, it’s what makes an album an album.”  Why did some of the most prolific artists of their generation not want to get on the music empire of this generation? Why did they not want to embrace digital?  Because we’re all a bunch of no good, rum swigging, toothless pirates.  In 2009, 95 percent of all music was downloaded illegally. Solid work mateys.  In fact, at last check, there was more than 35 Terabytes of questionable legality on Cornell’s DC++.  Seriously, how much porn do you people watch?

As a generation, we have never put a price on music.  In fact, music has to be free, so do movies, TV Shows and even video games.  Media, to us at least, is a birthright.  Civilization sees us as thieves, I’m pretty sure we’ll be remembered as visionaries.  Fundamentally, why should music be free?  Because we like to explore ,and given the chance to listen to 50 new songs on YouTube, we often find new artists we like and are more likely to support them when they come to town.  In fact, for bands that haven’t had a “Yoko moment,” digital media sharing has almost definitely been a godsend.  If you’ve got a one hit wonder, all you need is to post a viral video on YouTube, for free, and the world can admire you till you put out your second “hit” track.  If you’re an established group, leaking your songs online for free, your fans gobble up your content and help it go viral.  Bands are absolutely getting fewer purchases of their albums than before digital, but they’re also selling out venues across the country at a higher rate, often a much larger source of revenue to artists as compared to album sales.  This is a generation who likes choice, who likes to explore, and in fact, is more loyal than any generation before it.

Sharing is the defining contribution of our generation.  We invented Napster, a way to share your music across the web. We invented Facebook, a way to share our lives, in nitty gritty detail, across the web.  We invented YouTube, Twitter, FourSquare and countless others.  This generation is all about sharing and caring.  We’re honestly just trying to follow the rules our Kindergarten teachers laid down.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get a timeout.

They’re listening to us, finally.  Well not really listening; they have a gun at their head.  But how often do revolutions succeed without violence? Just listen to Revolution No. 9; it’s like violence on the ears.

The Beatles are on iTunes, long live Generation Y.

Original Author: Rahul Kishore