Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Practical Piracy

So I was browsing the torrents for illicit reasons the other day and what appeared on the front page of the torrent site du jour, but a link to Pearl Jam's upcoming album "Backspacer". Now, before I proceed, allow me to state that I don't download music that I haven't paid for. That's not a value judgment or anything, I just don't do it. The simple fact is that I still prefer CD's over digital downloads due to my lack of an mp3 player in my car and if usually you can get a cd the week of release for about ten bucks. Ten bucks is not an exorbitant amount of money and seeing how I'd have to do some work to get mp3's on to my PC and then on to a disc, well I'll gladly pay the money to save myself the effort. Now, that's not to say that I haven't stolen music in the past. I mean, I'm not a monk. I went full-on, batshit, Napster crazy like everyone else did back in the day and I'm not against accepting cd copies of an album if someone wants me to hear something. For the most part though, if I hear something and like it, I'll buy it. I figure that if it's not worth buying, it's not worth cluttering up my iPod with it as I have plenty of albums on there I don't listen to. No sense putting another one on there if I don't think it's worth buying and if it is worth buying, I probably should.

For the record, I do download movies however if I like the movie I then go out and buy it. Not exactly 100% honest, I know as I'm still stiffing the studio on the rental revenues but at the same time, most of the movies I download I wouldn't pay to rent. Midnight Meat Train anyone?

Ok, right, back to Pearl Jam. So when I saw the link to the album I immediately got all excited, but not because I'd be able to listen to their album over a week before it came out, but more importantly, because this meant that I'd be able to hear the songs before I started singing them in Rock Band. See, "Backspacer" is going to be released for Rock Band on the same day that the album comes out and I'm not a big fan of singing songs that I'm not familiar with. I'll do it, but I always have a better time with the songs if I know them. So I downloaded it.

I'm not sure exactly how high on the geek spectrum it puts me but I'm thinking that stealing an album for the express purpose of being able to practice singing it in a video game makes you a rather huge geek. Ditto for using the word "rather" when you're not even remotely British.

I have every intention of buying the album when it comes out, and I plan on picking it up at Target so that I can score the download code for the Rock Band tracks. Simply put, it's a fucking awesome record. At a hair under 37 minutes I wouldn't call it short, I'd call it lean. It's just a really focused effort with some interesting sounds going on and one of the most uplifting yet dismally depressing ending songs in recent memory. It's an interesting reversal from the heavy, political tone of "Pearl Jam" which makes sense given the change in political climate since that record. I dare say it's almost a fun album which is not an adjective I'd use to describe most PJ records. If I had to pick a previous album that it's closest too, I'd have to go with "Yield". I loved the fuck out of that album, but I know that many don't, so don't let my comparisons turn you off of "Backspacer" if you're thinking of getting it. It really is a nice, tight album from a band that never ceases to amaze me. By the way, Matt Cameron is just great on this record. It's amazing how much better this band got when he joined.

Will the songs be fun to sing? Yeah, I think so. I mean, Eddie's vocals have always been impossible for me to replicate as he's just all over the place, but in a good way. He can go from growling to lilting in the space between the verse and chorus and I just can't do that. I mean, he's an actual singer and I'm a dude playing souped up Karoke in his basement, so that's to be expected, but hot damn if I don't wish that for just once I could break it off like Edward. I find that for some songs I have to try and imitate the singer in order to hit the pitch right. For the life of me, I don't know why that's true, but it is and while I'm sure it's not the greatest thing to listen to, it puts points on the board and I'm enjoying myself, so that's all that matters. Maybe that's what I have to do here. Try and do an Eddie impression and see where that takes me. Probably nowhere good, but it's worth a try.

So yeah, pick up "Backspacer" next week, legitimately, of course. I don't think you'll be disappointed unless you just don't like good music, in which case, piss off. With that said, enjoy "The Fixer" cause it's fucking awesome.


Greg said...

The whole content distribution model is broken anyway. I'm all for supporting artists, be they singers, actors, or programmers. But I think authors like Scott Sigler and musicians like Radiohead have it right. Especially for unknown artists, releasing content for free is a great way to get exposure.

I get TV shows from torrents, but in my mind that's no different than Tivo-ing a show and skipping the commercials. I've got Netflix for movies (and some TV) and I use EBay for long-term game "rentals". For music, I just tend to check

Kojubat said...

I have no interest in ostracizing anyone who chooses to pirate, and I agree with the positive benefits of free content. I am also not a torrent saint, having grabbed an episode of a show here and there that my DVR screwed up, or otherwise getting content I could have gotten legally for free (like a "shocking" page of a comic book I don't read) by browsing a store. I have also on a few occasions used software I did not have a license for.

But I don't feel good about it. I rationalize away the guilt. I still have a strong feeling that content owners should be the ones who decide how they wish to provide that content. I may disagree (see: TNT/CW shows), but that doesn't give me authorization to change their business model. If providers wanted you to get their content on a torrent, they would provide an official file on seed servers. I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

I'm not sure why the digital age has released the ties of ethics, especially when we see the victim only as a corporation. If something is 'the same' as a mainstream consumption method, do you pay for that other method? I understand the torrent = DVR & commercial skip, but how many people who make that argument download a show like True Blood without subscribing to HBO?

I see the economics of the situation. Some things don't warrant a particular person's purchase or rental. But gratis consumption is okay, because it wouldn't have been paid for anyway? Does that work as a shoplifting excuse? If so, I have been seriously missing out on some high-end electronics!

I am not angry. Just a little sad for the rationalization by rational people.

(Note: I have no content I produce for which I charge. I think I may also be grumpy about this topic.)

Brandon said...

Kurt I agree with you 100%.