Whenever I venture into the attic of my Westchester, NY home, I always
happen to stumble upon my Father's dusty record collection.
Occasionally, I take the time to scroll through the collection and note the soundtrack of my Father's youth. I know for a fact that he held on to records, such as The Clash's London Calling or The Talking Heads' Remain In Light, with a sense of urgency and passion that can only be found in the angst of one's teenage years.
However, this discovery is bittersweet. My Dad shared a personal sense of intimacy with these records; he made an effort to search for them, and played them on his record player until the vinyl wore out. Today, I simply click a couple links to access a .zip file of my favorite band's latest album.
Piracy is the modern form of record collecting (evident in the downward spiral of music sales over the past ten or so years), and to be completely honest, the art of collecting music has completely lost its sense of intimacy.
One could argue that the digital realm of music is inherently soulless, but I strongly disagree. Back in Winter 2011, comedian Louis C.K. independently filmed and released his special "Live At The Beacon Theater." Not only did Louis budget the special out of his own pocket, but his investment enabled him to distribute it by his own accord, and he did so by setting the price tag at five dollars. What I find most remarkable about this process is the method in which Louis addressed fans.
Louis C.K.'s tone is evident all over his website. Each piece was written with his voice in mind. At one point, Louis gives the visitor a chance to receive more updates, and one of the optional responses is "No, leave me alone forever, you fat idiot." This may seem like a small detail to some, but to me, it is proof. I see it as proof of Louis' effort to control every aspect of his content and how it is distributed. The way in which he brings a sense of personality into the transaction is highly commendable, and it reintroduces that sense of intimacy I found in my father's record collection.
Furthermore, when "Beacon Theater" hit the one million dollar mark, Louis C.K. posted a screenshot of his PayPal account and explained, in extreme detail, where exactly the money would be going. Louis actively brought the viewer along for every bit of the experience. For the price of five dollars, viewers were not only able to download a hilarious special, but they were also shown the direct result of the money they spent for it. Louis exemplifies a level of respect for the consumer that is lost in most big businesses today.
Musicians could most definitely take a page out of Louis C.K.'s book. This level of control makes the product about, not only the artist, but also the consumer. If artists were to distribute content with half as much honesty and heart that went into making the art itself, most listeners would pay attention, like they did with Louis.
One issue with labels is the lack of transparency; no consumer knows where their money is going. For the most part, labels turn music into another product. However, the ability to directly connect with fans (through the internet) is extremely valuable. If artists were to take control of their own content and publicly display where the listener's money goes, it would reintroduce a sense of intimacy in the process of collecting music. I know that if my favorite artist were to tell me that my money would directly affect his or her standard of living, I would be more than enthusiastic to give them my five bucks. Maybe I'm an enigma, maybe I'm hopelessly enamored with the idea of directly connecting with artists, but part of me knows I'm not alone.
Unfortunately, I believe that piracy is here to stay, but for those that wish for a more significant and personal experience in collecting music: there is hope. The internet introduces a boundless form of connection with one's favorite artist. How artists choose to use the internet to their advantage is their choice, but all I know is that Louis C.K. is paving a golden path.