Sympathy for the Music Industry

A couple of my friends have got into a bit of a spat on the internet. Megan McArdle, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, wrote “The Freeloaders”, arguing that file sharing, as practiced by today’s 20-something young adults, is destroying the music industry.

Marc Weidenbaum, who writes the wonderful disquiet blog, first first answered in prose. Marc argues, mostly correctly I think, that Megan’s argument conflates the major-label recording industry with the music industry as a whole. Despite the illegality (and let’s not be coy about it, there is plenty of theft involved), the more general ethos of free culture has spawned plenty of great art that flourishes outside of the stranglehold of that same recording industry.

He then realized a better rejoinder would be in the great tradition of answer records: he invited some musicians to comment, musically, on the article (and its accompanying illustration): the result is Despite The Downturn, freely available (free as in beer and as in freedom), mostly electronica, an amazing turnaround of just a couple of days from thought to expression. So at least something good has come out of this disagreement.