Music is NOT Devalued by the Internet

by Winston "Stone" Ford

So there is something that has been bugging me for the past few weeks and I decided that I needed to rant.

See, since physical music sales are declining, and acts like Radiohead are giving their music away for free on the Internet, people have been talking about how music is somehow devalued since kids these days don’t have to pick up a CD or a record like they did back in the day. Jay Smooth (whom I really admire, so no beef) brought this up in an Ill Doctrine video a couple days ago, and again, Saul Williams brought this up in New Yorker magazine, when he said, “I’m truly saddened because I think music has been devalued, so that it’s just a file on your computer, and it’s usually free.”

Sorry people. The value of music has not diminished just because you downloaded an MP3.

Case in Point: I’ve been listening to Radiohead’s In Rainbows a lot lately. Honestly, its probably going to be my top album of the year at this point. I’ve had the same reaction listening to this CD as I did when I listened to OK Computer on CD or Midnight Maurauders on vinyl. My jaw dropped to the floor, and I was just like damn….

And to think, In Rainbows was an MP3, and at a crappy bitrate at that.

So, no, music isn’t devalued if you don’t have it in your hand. Music is devalued because the record companies, have been steady producing disposable ringtone ready crap over the airwaves to the point that the album is an afterthought. Think of Shop Boyz, “Party Like A Rockstar,” or “This Is Why I’m Hot.” The album is an afterthought so much to the point that most people don’t even know who the artist is.

So my point is….if YOU, the artist, don’t place value to your music, the consumer won’t either. If you make great music, people will recognize the value of it…whether they paid for it or not.

Music won’t die because of the internet. It will flourish. Right now, I”m listening to a DJ Mix of underground tropical dance music from Ghana, thanks to the internet. (Also, props to DJ Eurok for putting me onto this.) The internet will continue to knock down doors for music of all kinds to find its audience.

So please, STFU about music getting devalued by the Internet. Please?

  • Tarik

    I completely agree.

  • Clyde Smith

    I don’t recall Jay Smooth saying anything about music being devalued in that video.

    He described that the experience of getting a record has changed and then he focused on how that changed the game for the music industry and its focus on album sales.

    I agree with your main point, though, for real.

  • Stone

    Sorry Clyde..I’ll try to rewrite that to clarify. Jay Smooth never really said that music was devalued, but he seemed to be a proponent of physical copies of albums. I’m all for buying a physical CD (I can’t stand iTunes, btw) but I don’t think that my feelings for the artist or their music would change if I had a CD in my hand.

  • Sandi Soul

    Music purchased or shared thru the internet isn’t devalued but I do believe music should be acessible in my case I prefer to go the record stores (mega-chained and indie) to purchase. Its the feeling of going to my fave record shop (Fat Beats, Sound Fix in Williamburg) seeing the list credits of my fave producers. Download doesn’t provide the artwork or information. I guess its the nerd in me.

    Just a thought.

  • Michael in Los Angeles

    Hey Stone,

    I don’t think that music retains its value – its personal worth – when encoded as a computer file and digitally stored somewhere.

    Today, I can go over to my father’s house and dig out 12″ singles of Dr. Dre rapping in the World Famous Wreckin’ Cru, or Prince’s “Another Lonely Christmas” pressed up as a lavender, translucent 45 single. I can dig through my dad’s Blue Note collection and read the liner notes, and show my son the albums where Andy Warhol did the cover artwork. I can go over to my grandmother’s house and dig through her 78s that came in photo album style packaging – with sheet music included!

    I know it sounds nostalgic, but you just can’t do the same thing with a MP3 file. When that computer goes bad, the Ipod gives up the ghost, or homeland security snags your music-filled flash drive while trying to get though LAX, there goes your music and memories.

    I agree that the internet has allowed easier instant access to music from around the world. But I think it’s just made it easier for the teenagers of the world to listen to 50Cent and Beyonce instead of a kid in Compton getting turned on to Ali Farka Touré.

    The kids of the first decade of the 21st century are going to have a hard time as adults trying to show their kids what was so special about T.I. and Kanye twenty years from now. Think about your mom, dad, or uncle getting misty eyed at the memories triggered when Curtis Mayfield or Marlena Shaw gets played at a family gathering. Will that happen in 2037?

    Yeah – i know i talk too much…

  • JCon

    Good points. The *product* may be devalued but, honestly, the music has the same effect, no matter the medium in which it’s delivered.

    I can listen to Marvin’s “I Want You” album and feel just as much the pimp as my pops did in ’76 listening to it on vinyl. All the nuance and musicianship is still there…nothing is lost.

    Each wave of technology tends to ruffle the feathers of purists from the prior generation. Remeber how the ‘old folks’ felt about CD’s vs Vinyl? It’s the same battle…

    Music, regardless of the medium, is being devalued because the labels aren’t interested in quality…they’re only selling product. Artists, subsequently are making ‘product’ instead of art. They make songs with selling ringtones in mind. *That’s* devaluing music. Can you imagine what “What’s Going On” would sound like if Marvin’s whole inspiration was financial gain? (sorry for the double marvin refs…I’ve been on that real heavy this last week).

  • Stone

    JCon, you hit the nail on the head.

    Michael, I understand how you feel. We all want tangible objects to pass down to the generations after us, and that’s a definitely a trade-off when that object is an MP3.

    However…that MP3 is now able to go anywhere in the world in seconds, so even if that kid is downloading 50 Cent and Beyonce, he will have a greater opportunity to be exposed to more music than previous generations ever had.

    And I have to second JCon, the product is waaaaay devalued. It’s all about making a quick buck to keep the shareholders happy. Art and commerce rarely go together.

    And I

  • Pingback: Music is NOT Devalued by the Internet « Lily’s Weblog()

  • Kanye West MP3 Music

    Kanye West is not only working on the album, Jay-Z – Blueprint III, it is still preparing to release his 4 – the first LP. Working title Good Ass Job.

    It is expected that the album will be released in 4 – quarter of this year, although the exact date has not yet been notified. The first single track can be a Love Lockdown, whose premiere on iTunes already expected in the coming days!

    Recall that last year having conqueror Curtis’a – Graduation sold to date circulation of 2.2 million copies (only takes into account the sale in the U.S.).