The Ethics and Economics of “Free” Music

Speaking of things that are “free,” David Lowery, indie rocker and now instructor at the University of Georgia, takes the current generation of music lovers to task for downloading songs on share sites, hence bilking the artists.  Here is his rather extensive post on the subject.

Here’s a taste:

The existential questions that your generation gets to answer are these:

Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9% lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

Lowery is an interesting guy, that’s for sure. Here is a previous post where he describes his role in Groupon.  And here are some of his musings on his forthcoming (?) book, “Highly Volatile: How Your Lame Band Taught You Everything You Need to Know about Economics and Finance.”

Well, let’s hope it didn’t teach you everything.

For more formal treatment of the economics of file sharing, you might head to the link at Stan Liebowitz’s homepage (of Liebowitz and Margolis fame).

Professor Liebowitz reviews the literature, which generally shows the significant hit file sharing has delivered too the industry. For some careful details, see “File Sharing: Creative Destruction, or Just Plain Destruction?” in the Journal of Law and Economics.