Illegal Downloads

With a tip of the hat to Indie HQ, a wonderful site which you should be reading regularly, I’m about to go on another verbal rampage here, something I haven’t done for quite a while.

The question posted over there, more or less, is if downloading (readily available for purchase) music is acceptable. It’s a bit more complicated, but head over there to check out the original post yourself.

Let me go off on a slight tangent here with one single example:

Gosh, where do I start? Maybe with this: I don’t want to download music, not only because even the best lossless formats aren’t the real thing, with home-printed covers and the eternal hunt for liner notes and whatnot, but also because I don’t believe in keeping a collection of digital files. Still, the labels have – in the past – forced me to do so.

Yes, I am that honest.

Let’s look at an example: I came late to the party when the “Complete Dinah Washington on Mercury” was released. As of today, when I searched for Volume 1, which I was able to buy for around Euro 30 a year or two ago, listed the same 3-CD reissue (one in a series of many) for Euro 199 … for 3 damn CDs from a private marketplace dealer!

Hell, that’s enough money for an entire month of food.

If you start looking for the rest of the series, which comes out to be six more sets, it isn’t difficult to figure out that for that amount of money, you could spend the entire summer traveling around the world in 30 days, have your car pimped, add 100 square meters to your house or go out and eat for half a year straight. The stuff is insanely expensive to buy on the free market. I’m not talking overpriced; I’m talking outrageously priced by private dealers who know that Dinah Washington might well be the equivalent of uncut heroin. Gold. Diamonds. Platinum. A gold-plated bathroom. Moving into a hotel for the rest of your miserable collector’s life.

And then you stumble across a site that offers the music for free, all of it, at 320 kbps; no questions asked. And I HATE 320kbps MP3s. Hate them.

What would you do?
Right, I thought so.

With all the copy-protection making my life miserable, with all the “you purchased this disc and are a potential low-life pirate” kinds of warnings on DVDs I paid a shitload of money for and the endless stream of “you, our valued customer, are the lowest life form because you just might be stealing our music” warnings in the press, still labels force me to steal music … just to have it.

And it pisses me off.


Because I love music and because I want to pay for it. I’ve read endless stories of musicians getting ripped off right and left, jazz musicians dying in the poorhouse because they sold their souls to some labels for peanuts, I read endless diatribes against European rip-off labels circumventing American copyright laws to publish material in the public domain according to European Union laws, I’ve read biographies of musicians forced to eat red beans and rice for half of their lives and I’ve talked to musicians, many of them world-renowned, who told me that they are simply not making enough money to support their artistic endeavors in the long run.

Still, the labels don’t give a flying … you know what.

They limit the availability of what they have, they sit on important and historic material because it is deemed economical suicide to be released, and altogether we have an evil circle in which I can’t get what I want, the labels don’t get what they want, the musicians don’t get what they want and everyone is pissed off at each other for violating their rights.


Verve has recently (actually some years ago) started releasing extremely rare sessions for download, avoiding a CD release altogether, and in my schizophrenic world, I can understand their attempt to a) make music available and b) to not invest substantially while doing so, but they’re basically just dumping a huge load on the heads of those willing to invest into a decent reissue which will stand the test of time, technically. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have thousands of CDs and I’ve never had one fail. I want CDs, LPs, something which might last longer than music I have to cram into a fail-safe RAID system just to keep it alive. I want the haptic aspect: I need to read, touch, smell, whatever … I want it in my possession in a touchable format.

Am I asking too much? Is the free market economy really the sole motivating factor for the music industry? What about artistic achievement and cultural responsibility? What about trust? What about building and keeping a consumer base?

Do all your numbers really tell you that everyone wants to rip you off?

What about the thousands of collectors, music aficionados that are willing to walk a thousand miles to pick up a decent-sounding, editorially-sound reissue?

You don’t care about us?

You’re not making enough money off us?

Have you ever really tried?

Is asking for an affordable release of historically important music too much? I’ve been all over Internet forums where this was discussed ad nauseam, where some people adhere to strict market principles of supply and demand, but I will stick to my own take on things … which is perhaps best expressed by the following example:

I am a huge admirer of Rembrandt’s pencil/charcoal sketches. They’re brilliant and an example of true art, ability, talent, and (near) perfection. How about we relegate those drawings to the basement of some auction house? How about we throw a piece of cloth over them, only making them available to the lucky few who are able to afford a hundred, nay, a thousand dollars to view them?

How about we make mankind’s heritage available to a chosen few who have enough cash to partake in the artistic achievement of a few?


You can tell me all you want, but we have a damn right to hear the music that shaped our centuries. Yes, a damn right. Try taking that away from us, you asshats (I always wanted to use that term, and here it fits like a glove).

So, all you labels out there: Stop your damn whining about downloads and make the stuff available that we, your paying customers, want. If you are unable or unwilling to do so, take a flying leap and live with the consequences.

If you can force an upright citizen, someone who abhors breaking the law, into breaking it because you can’t get your act together, you deserve to disappear into oblivion, die the death of the unrighteous and burn in hell for all I care.

Give me something I can pay for. And show some damn responsibility when it comes to the material entrusted to you. I’m sick and tired of this free market thing: It would work if you moved your heads out of your rear ends.

And that’s my take on things.
Sue me, you idiots.
Sue one of the best customers you bloody well ever had.

Am I mad?
So there.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

  1. well put. very well put.


  2. Like me, you too are in the minority of consumers.  (Verve’s limited pressing CD’s are a bright spot!)

    It is a sad day for music; considering all the good stuff hiding in vaults and we are plagued with so much garbage that rabidly recycles valid ideas from the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties.


  3. Martin,

    if the year 2007 was any indication, things are continuing to go to hell in a hand basket. There have been some highlights, but far and few between.


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