Tim Worstall at Forbes takes some issue with David Lowery’s criticism of the “free music culture” in a piece from last July. Basically he is pointing out an insight by Adam Smith that “the purpose of all production is consumption: it is the consumption possibilities which are important.” In other words, as Worstall states:
In this particular argument what this means is that we don’t care in the slightest whether musicians get paid or not: what we care about is that they continue to produce so that consumers can continue to consume. And there’s no good evidence that less new music is being produced now that there is so much copying.
And in fact, there is evidence that more music is being produced than ever before.
As I’ve stated in a number of blog posts that the number of music venues has increased dramatically as has the number of folks desiring to play music in them. We’re to the point that many venues do not pay musicians, or pay very little, just because there is such a glut of them to be had for nothing or next to nothing. Worstall continues:
From a public policy standpoint the aim of royalties, of copyright, is to provide an income so that creators create. No, it is not to be fair, it is not to insist that people be able to make a living: it is purely to make sure that the incentives to create are there. And if people are happy to create without those incentives then there is no reason to have them.
And people are more than happy to create without those incentives, and as the Emily White debacle illustrates, consumers are expecting or even demanding free music. Of course, as I’ve been explaining, this is a generational demographic difference since the older demographics are far more likely to pay for music and far more likely to buy recordings rather than downloading them (even those purchased).
While digital piracy has been taking ab it of a beating, we’re seeing digital music media services like Pandora and Tunecore attempting to pay musicians even less or trying to show much more financial success of the music than would otherwise be the case. Spotify isn’t much better off. As Worstall sums it up:
Just to hammer the point home: copyright exists in order to encourage creation. If creation will continue without copyright then there is no reason to have copyright.
At which point the entire argument of how to make sure that musicians get paid from downloads goes away. As they’ll still be playing music, writing songs, without such payments then why worry?
So with venues demanding free musicians and with consumers demanding free music why bother making music anyway?