So, I did an on-air interview yesterday for a radio show. This is very similar to the kind of thing that Ryan Bolger did earlier this year, with the exception that he was speaking to a listening audience of, let’s say, billions of people, whereas I was speaking to a listening audience of, let’s say, 6 (I’m not counting the board engineer, since he was playing Nintendo DS during most of the interview). Yes, friends, I was a guest on the Mighty KAPU.
The topic was on how peer-to-peer networking, illegal file sharing, is changing the music industry. If you know me, you know that this is like playing t-ball for me. This is my end zone. This is my home run gimme softball lob. This is my bumper-bowling, no miss, perfect 300, slam-dunk, 3-minute powerplay, this is my … well, those are all of the sports metaphors I know, but I think you get my point. I’ve lectured on this topic, written extensively on it, led group discussions for both students and peers, and spent maybe 6 years developing a highly nuanced, deeply complex, and subtle perspective on these trends:
Under our current economic system, we balance supply and demand, creation and compensation, through the exchange of commodity units of property, which means that in order to compensate artists, we have to treat their output like property (with some limitations and exceptions), which may not be the perfect system, but as long as the system is in place, sets up normative ethical behaviors in the interest of protecting the property rights of the content creator, which makes illegal distribution not an ethical dilemma, but an ethical wrong, and while we may recognize that the system has inherent flaws, the only ethically proper choices are either to participate in the system (by using the content and paying for the unit of property) or to refuse to participate in the system (by not using the content, and not paying for the content), but to say that the flaws of the system allow you to selectively participate in it (by using the content and not paying for it) is a farcical argument at best, coupled with the fact that there is a burgeoning movement of artists and listeners who are electing to engage each other outside of the property system of content creation, and instead distributing content for free and being sustained by the engendered community brought about by their creative efforts, all of which is a separate question from whether or not the proliferation of illegal file sharing is the root cause of the economic downturn in the music industry, or whether additional factors like increased DVD sales, grassroots media, and gaming systems are competing for the same consumer attention, or the tapering of redundant media upgrade sales (sales of previously purchased music to fans moving from tape to CD), might be the primary causes, a view recently given support by a national study undertaken by the Canadian Recording Industry Association.
So, when the light flipped to red, and the host said, “So, tell me Michael, what do you think about file sharing?”
Everything I’ve ever thought on the subject. It was a violent heaving of opinion and data into the microphone, a blast of complex and subtle and nuanced distinctions; it was 6 years of thought all spilled out in one unbroken stream-of-consciousness diatribe.
When it was all over, the hosts just both kind of stared at me. One flipped numbly through his notebook. The other host tried to rescue me by asking me some very simple, not open-ended questions that I could answer with one or two sentences. Instead, I proceeded to launch into part 2 of my thesis on Property and Creation. Mercifully, the segment was only 4 minutes long, so they cut me off after a while and went to commercial.
I suck at radio.