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article 2

Something more than a year ago I read a message in ant-zen’s mailing-list which was asking for advice against mp3 piracy. The story was more or less that the guy who sent the mail found some mp3 version of his music somewhere in the net and he was now asking advice on how to remove it or take actions against the one who uploaded it. I ofcourse replied that he should be happy that somebody took the time and effort to mp3 convert his music and give it away for free through the net in order that other people could get it and in the next few days I was shocked to receive a series of mails by various people from the list (either musicians or label owners) directly attacking me or the idea of free music. I don’t have the space nor the intention to reproduce the whole “conversation” but the shocking resume was the following: all the people who answered (i.e. people actively involved in the scene of experimental music or noise techno) felt threatened by the idea that somebody could get their music without paying them. Two other points sprang as well: the demand of the “artist” to live from her art and the right of any creator to copyright his creation. Normally I would dismiss the whole sad story if I didn’t encounter exactly the same attitude with various representants of the experimental scene her in my hometown, athens.
So here’s some words in an issue which should be already cleared.
A. To whom does the music/art I make belong?
I agree up to a point with the argument that nothing is made from scratch, most of the art of our time is based on influence or incorporation of ideas and themes that have been introduced before. But for me that is not sufficient reason that my creation (be it a fierd-recording based piece of music or a painting of nature scene) belongs to the whole of humanity. Even in the case of photograph or field-recording or even pliagiarism still my individual aesthetics, my individual aspect and my personal interpretation is involved and I have the right to consider it mine in the same way that I consider mine, my body or my dreams for instance. So I can very well, keep this piece of creation locked in my drawer, or give it only to my friends or to a circle of people I want to communicate with and have any right to feel insulted when I realise that somebody has copied and spreaded it around.
All this is very well up to the point that my music or art is circulated around the global market in the form of product (be it a cd in a mainstream label or diy tape or a painting in a gallery). Then I chose the creation no longer to be mine in the sense I described before: it is a product. People might be brainwashed to buy it, it might be used in advertisemnts to compell people to buy more useless, planet-destroying shit, it might help political powers to suppress more freedom and torture more inhabitants of this planet. In any case it’s another product which even in the case of diy and underground production and distribution (like this compilation cd for instance) is considered as available to anybody who can obtain it. She has the right to use any way for this goal: to pay for it, to steal it, to copy it (and distribute it for free) to just take a look/give a listen to it, borrow it etc The labels or people who take profit out of other peoples’ creations are trying for the last 10.000 years to persuade us either by word or sword (sword more usually) that the only way to get it is to PAY for it and preferably to pay much more than its cost in order that the people who sell it get more profit and that the whole mechanism of submisssion will be supported. Having in mind that it is the same mechanism which has been destroying the planet and suppressing free life in general, the more healthy way to get our hands in this product is to steal it.
In the case of a product which is not supported by a company and it is (like this compilation) something that has a price only to cover its cost I would say that somebody can pay for it, but still she has any right to steal it or copy it: I will certainly continue doing this maybe with cheaper production and in less copies — no real big harm. My goal is spreading the music out and usually copying and stealing are very good ways to do this. If I chose to sell it only hand-in hand and by mail and the price was not much higher than its cost I would say that stealing would piss me off a bit, but copying it, would please me very much.
Of course the artist can claim no relation with the company’s misdoings. He only wants to spread her music, she can not d.i.y. and he feels she has to choose a lebel. Then the story is between me as a consumer and the label as a seller and whatever I do to obtain his product can only interest me and the company. If she still claims I should, as a consumer, buy his product and not steal it or copy it then she in other words supports the company’s misdoings and so I not only have the right to steal his product but also destroy the living shit out of his stupid, harmful, pathetic shelf. The filthy wee fuck!
B. Don’t I have the right to be paid for my art?
First of all there is a qualitative difference between playing music and let’s say building coffins. Whereas I have any right to demand my paying from my boss or the client for my new wooden coffin, it is not the same with my music. Because you see, music, like painting or writing is something you choose to do because you feel you want to express yourself, you want to communicate with other people, to relieve ideas and tensions, to exorcise demons, to shape reality. That’s obliously not the case with coffins or with any other product we are compelled to produce in order to get the money to survive.
The creation of music and writing etc is — along with love — the only legal ways that are left to our pathetic species to take a taste of transcedence, to experience visons of another, more free existence. Ok, probably you would use other words but you get the feeling don’t you? So for eris’ sake let’s at least keep this outside this bloody afair of selling and buyning which is rendering the whole planet in an endless zoo.
Of course there is always the ageless dilemna: is it better to work my ass off in a stupid, pathetic job and then not even having the time to play music than to play my music for some money, maybe not a contract to fucking warner bros but yeah at least something that would pay my rent,meal, drugs? Well, I don’t believe in purism, nor in black and white/puritanistic approach to life. Life is often contradictory, penetratable etc Involving money with your creation ain’t a mortal sin, even if we believed in the idea of sin. But, usually trying to be paid for your creation/art will lead to squalid compromises (ask the painters in galleries how do they feel when they have to sell their creations in rich old bitches — yeah, ok “great” is an answer as well although a rather cynical one-) negotiations and mutual help with evil multinational organisations, even extremely boring lunches with art critics! And what the common experience shows is that after a while yeah, maybe you don’t have to work anymore but that is only because some amount of the dreadful feeling of working has been transferred to your music/art and you don’t get the same great kick doing what you used to do.
I guess you could be amazingly good at what you do, or very lucky and manage to get a modest living out of more or less diy selling in reasonable prices your art. As long as you don’t do your art in order to survive, that’s ok. But that’s extremely rare.
Of course there is always the case to use the art market as a way to get money selling some ideas you don’t care too much. For instance, I usually express myself through writing weird ideas and strories and playing music. I wouldn’t sell these to any label, gallery, publishing company etc but if I had the chance to let’s say write cooking recipes for a big magazine or paint silly stuff I give a shit about for a gallery and get good money out of it then why not?
But it all ends up in this more or less fact: don’t try to live out of what you consider your means of creation. Of course there are a few people who can in fact do it and be happy with it, do their art and get paid for it, in the same way that people get laid with other people for money. It’s ok, as long as they don’t claim that being paid to do art (and to get laid) is a global right. We would end up with something like “homefucking is killing prostitution”.
The discussion about copyrights and the “right” of the artist to be paid for her art has also some more political implications. We live in an era when companies are patenting everything, from ideas (as if any idea can be 100% original) to the human gene code. Stuff that belongs by right to ANY inhabitant of this planet (except of course cops, judges, art critics, insurance agents etc) is arbitrary assigned to a person or company by use of power or trickery and then this stuff disappears from our common world, it is a product we have to buy and even if we steal it, usually we can’t return it to our world which will remain for ever wounded. The stupid, pathetic insistence of the artists to impose the ownership and the right of finacial exploitation of ideas, justifies and helps up to a point the plans of the companies and the states of our world to transform our living world to a dead market.