The Nation interviews Billy Bragg

Punk legend Billy Bragg spoke with Christine Smallwood at The Nation shortly after he published this op-ed in the NYT about social networking sites profiting off of artists’ music without paying the artists any royalties.

In the NYT piece Bragg actually answers the question I posed in my Prince-Radiohead post about why an artist or label would have something against Web 2.0 sites providing a platform for users to watch and discuss an artist:

The claim that sites such as MySpace and Bebo are doing us a favor by promoting our work is disingenuous. Radio stations also promote our work, but they pay us a royalty that recognizes our contribution to their business. Why should that not apply to the Internet, too?

A good point from an awesome man. Here’s one of the highlights from his interview with The Nation:

Christ knows there’s more competition now than there ever was for people to love music. By constantly wagging a finger at them, telling them they’re doing something illegal–well, since the 1980s more has become illegal. Back in the old days of vinyl the British music industry used to print on the inner bag of albums a logo, a cassette with crossbones underneath it, that said, Home Taping Is Killing Music. How ridiculous is that? Capitalism is killing music, and I went so far as to print that on the cover of Workers Playtime (1988). The industry has long tried to blame the consumer for its own shortcomings. My concern is that a new generation will come along who won’t be able to do what I do, which is make a decent living doing what they love doing. If we don’t protect individuality and the possibility of individuality, all the music will originate in the corporations. We’ll get Hannah Montana forever. A band like Radiohead or Björk or Sigur Rós will never get out there. That’s ultimately what’s at stake, the music to come. It behooves us older artists to make that point and make a stand. We have a voice and a platform.

And here’s my favorite Billy Bragg song ever.


2 Responses

  1. Billy always seems to see the bigger picture. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame made a similar argument during the Napster feud. This of course while Lars Uldick was crying himself to sleep in one of his 20 bedrooms, blaming music lovers for attempting to take food out of his mouth. Radio is no friend to music either. There should be more independent music stations and Utah just lost it’s all time great. KRCL was Utahs only independent rock station. (rock is used loosely because they played many genres but it was always rock&roll to me) The D.J.’s were usually interns with a genuine love for music. KRCL was bought by a corporation and have changed the format to meet corporate standards.
    this article sums up the tragedy.

  2. The industry has long tried to blame the consumer for its own shortcomings.

    That is a crucial insight. The recording industry simply wouldn’t be in it’s current predicament had it had the sense to co-opt peer-to-peer technology in its infancy. As we’ve seen, it’s basically too late now. But instead of adjusting their business model accordingly, the industry is content to sue listeners and complain.

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