Tonight David Byrne and Author Chris Ruen Explain Exactly, Specifically, and Definitively Why Illegally Downloading Music Makes You A Huge Asshole

Categories: Freeloading

chrisruen.jpg
Author Chris Ruen
Tonight, in the main branch of the New York Public Library, the long-running conversation about artist copyright, piracy in the digital age, changing (and disappearing) artist revenue streams, and illegal downloading continues with two people who've added much to that discourse of late: Talking Heads vocalist and all-around interesting fella David Byrne, who recently penned How Music Works -- a wide-ranging treatise on how music is crafted, distributed, monetized, listened to, and regarded -- and Chris Ruen, the 31-year-old author of the fascinating new book Freeloading: How Our Insatiable Hunger For Free Content Starves Creativity, which, as you can tell by the title, argues that illegal downloading not only hurts the artist's bottom line, but ultimately threatens to choke off the supply of great music that, for many of us, helps make life worth living.

See Also:
- David Byrne and St. Vincent - Williamsburg Park - 9/29/2012
- David Byrne Would Like to Sell You a Bicycle
- David Byrne Is Suing Florida Governor Charlie Crist For A Million Bucks

Music and Copyright in the Digital Era: David Byrne in conversation with Chris Ruen is the title of tonight's hour-long, moderated talk (7 p.m., $15-$25); an event that brings Ruen back to the room where he spent much time writing Freeloading, his first book, over the past couple of years.

"It's pretty cool that I'm returning in this capacity," says Ruen, who explains that Byrne got ahold of a proof of his book over the summer (it was published last month), loved it, and reached out to Ruen through his publisher to team up for the event. "Of course, my immediate reaction was, like, fear," Ruen laughs, "but I agreed to do it. [Byrne] and I have been e-mailing back and forth a bit, sharing ideas and some themes we want to discuss, and I met him last week at a party and kinda broke the ice. So I'm excited, I think it'll be a lot of fun.

"Freeloading music is an unresolved topic and so many people have downloaded music for free, it's one of those issues that a lot of people have an intimate relationship with and have their own thoughts on," says Ruen, who brings up the recent, well-publicized online dust-up between Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery and NPR intern Emily White over the ethics of illegal downloading as illustrative of the fact that tonight's talk is part of an ongoing and still-relevant conversation.

Ruen dove headfirst into the fray in 2009, when he wrote a provocative essay for Tiny Mix Tapes titled "The Myth of DIY: Toward a Common Ethic on Piracy," in which he concluded: "If you find meaning and beauty from a musician's work and you want them to continue creating it -- then you are obliged to support them. If you like the idea of record stores, the people they employ, the values and spirit they promote -- then you are obliged to support them. If you're consistently doing one without the other, then on some level you, not Metallica, are the asshole."

The same point is at the heart of Freeloading, which -- like the TMT piece -- provides the backstory that Ruen himself was an unapologetic music pirate until he began working at a Brooklyn cafe, saw that some of the indie-rock musicians who came in -- members of the Hold Steady, Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, musicians he considered "success stories" -- were virtually broke due to, he believed, digital piracy killing album sales ("Even I had an apartment as nice or nicer than those of some of these 'rock stars,'" Ruen writes), understood that at some point the lack of financial support could compel many of them to stop pursuing a career in music, and had the epiphany that "behind free content's superficial illusion of more lies a long-term reality of less. Sooner or later, it is something we all have to pay for."

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NYPL Stephen A. Schwarzman Building

5th Ave. at 42nd St., New York, NY

Category: General

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11 comments
contactjn33
contactjn33

This is about people protecting fat pay checks pure and simple.  They know they don't deserve the amount of money they are losing on pirating, but they want it.  They want their holiday in the sun.  So while the servers in that coffee shop fight for minimum wage, Bryne fights for the artists who are already flying around the world and making plenty of money.  "Oh you free loaders are making us not be able to be millionaires!"  Boo Fu#$ing Hoo!  What a loser.  Why don't him and Brian Eno go make another album no one will even bother to pirate, lol. I mean it's pathetic.  This guy is some trust fund baby who decided to go the way of music, but still wants to be rich.  I don't care, and I will never care about these losers.  Art is free, and if you don't like it go get a real job.

contactjn33
contactjn33

I get it.  Bryne watched so many other musicians reap these bloated, just basically WRONG amounts of money from making music, and thinks it's wrong fro the musicians of the day to be denied the same money.  He's wrong.  This is the way music should have been from the beginning.  I mean if someone stole my written works and millions bootlegged them, I would be flattered.  Happy just to do what I love for free.  Sorry but it's his greed that is out of control.

contactjn33
contactjn33

 I disagree with this article entirely.  Artists have a long history of not making their money from album sales but from live performances.  Record companies have made their money from album sales.  What you have now is Artists no longer enjoying a dishonest "hay day" of reaching ridiculous riches.  Artists were never supposed to be these rich celebrities like "The Killers," or "Vampire Weekend" are trying to be.  It isn't about making music anymore, but rather about being on MTV Cribs.  Radiohead isn't crying and they put out their albums for free.  You have a dream life and you want the big wealth too?  Shame on you.  I think that there is a lost value when artists become celebrities and rich and powerful. Pirating is a way of taking these bloated egos down a peg.  I mean he cited "Vampire Weekend?"  Wow, now jet setting around the world and being worshiped by millions of little pseudo intellectuals is an excuse for a pity party?  Well boo hoo, I guess playing music for a living and having millions of fans will have to suffice, no big fat pay check to go along with it.  What a loser.  It wasn't pirating that stopped Bryne's music from selling, it was mediocrity.

julien14
julien14

here is what i mean if you clog the courts over downloading and not the true crime of uploading...  the internet one big file sharing.... stop harassing downloading its not a crime.... its byproduct of file uploading...

julien14
julien14

Downloading Music Makes You A Huge Asshole..... your scam makes you the Asshole on those who upload and grant free downloads with rights to do so.... that a user can be entrapped by a scam law 

julien14
julien14

every image every text you serf on the internet downloads on your computer just by a site visit...so your law of download crime is a scam...... only upload can you prove a crime is committed 

julien14
julien14

see your fighting downloading when really its the uploading without a permit is the crime.... like i run a site that pays the author a fee that grants everyone free download... base on ad revenue... \now your claiming what .... everthing is bad to download .. defamation... it puts you in the wrong by defamation of downloading

julien14
julien14

see downloading is not the crime its the uploading without a permit from the author.... and imposes fear on everyone is the crime your imposing on others without merit in law...the internet is one big file sharing system.... built by uploading 

julien14
julien14

illegal downloading lol it the uploading not downloading.... like did i get the right to upload the file...the internet is all about file sharing.... image text and files.... so you have to prove your uploading files that don't belong to you.... like the internet is one big file sharing system.... an image on a web site found on your system... and more..... your not the upload-er are you..... like how do i know you did not make a deal with upload-er..... where i download... now your scamming everyone that its illegal to download where the crime is the upload without a permit... what a scam.....

nicholaslovell
nicholaslovell

The issue I have is with conflating freeloaders with illegaldownloaders. I understand Chris's point that it would be better ifpeople chose to pay for music and his point about respecting artist'srights is powerful. However, Ibelieve that we have passed the tipping point: social norms,technological changes and the fact that many artists *do* embrace givingtheir content away for free means that Chris and David Byrne arefighting their losing battle.While they are discussingwhether it is morally defensible to download music for free, others arefinding new business models that work. I would much rather accept thenew reality and adapt to it than fight it.

willie.smothers
willie.smothers

The problem I see is that the only way to prevent the sharing of music online is to have complete surveillance of everyone's internet activities. So what's more important to you, the obsolete business models of record labels and musicians, or your civil liberties? Additionally, it seems that there is much more music today than there ever has been in our history.

I think it's time for musicians to embrace the ability to tap huge audiences, and get creative with monetization strategies.

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