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Brian Thompson

Fantastic post Emily, kudos for standing up for the Emily White. There's far too many people jumping on the bandwagon to rally against her, while not thinking about how we can shape these listening habits, culture and technology into something that will work for everyone in the future.

I wrote a post on this same topic of new listening habits in January, which was actually in response to another similar rant from David Lowery. You can read it here:

"I Don't Want To Own Music, I Want To Listen To Music."

Brian Thompson

Clark Sorley

I've been in the business all my adult life, approaching forty years. When it comes to a set of values and a language that speaks to me intuitively - those of Emily White versus those of David Lowery - there is no contest. I’m with the intern.

Come On

Pretty sure you can't use your name in the headline of the article in 3rd person if YOU'RE THE AUTHOR!

Come On

My mistake. I see what you did now.


I'm by no means "in" the music industry, and am not even a huge consumer of music the way Emily White (the intern) is, but I did read both Emily's original blog post and David Lowery's response. If other people are jumping onto some kind of "hate Emily" bandwagon, that's really unfortunate. But it didn't seem to me that David Lowery's essay was in any way a "rant" (the word used by a commenter above). It came across as a calm, rational, nuanced critique of forces at play in today's music industry -- forces that are sometimes invisible, but that we as music consumers just as often choose not to see. I think the conversation this has generated is invaluable.

Stevie Nicks Nixon

Emily, I sure your namesake is a perfectly nice person, but David's point is that the new technologies have given music consumers a bum deal, or that less music is being consumed; his point was rather that artists are not receiving their due financial reward. It seems to me extraordinary to construct a defence of EW2 that at no point mentions what you are defending her from!!!

Stevie Nicks Nixon

* David's point is NOT that etc.



Stating that filesharing killed Mark Linkous and Vic Chestnutt is calm, rational and nuanced? Come on!

Jason Spitz

Artists didn't "receive their due financial reward" in the old days, either -- they received a mountain of debt, and lost control of their creative output in the process. I'd argue that artists today have a better chance of getting "due financial reward" because there's a closer correlation btw the work they put in and they money they get out. Music is becoming a meritocracy, where hard work, smart strategy, and quality product can actually earn money. Not million-dollar advances like the old days, but it's not a game of pure luck anymore, either.

David Lowery comes across as a bitter old man, a contrarian who only sees the negative. Meanwhile, thanks to his major label past (and his TWO successful bands), he's got a built-in audience of thousands of people who would pay good money directly to him if he made a record & released it himself. Most bands would KILL for that opportunity, and they'd figure out smart ways to take advantage of it. But David just complains, and that's lame.

Common Sense

"What I want is one massive Spotify-like catalog of music that will sync to my phone and various home entertainment devices."

Oh, you mean Spotify? Or Sony Music Unlimited? Earth to Emily: these services already exist. But you'll have to pony up some money.

What exactly is a "Spotify-like catalog"? Does Spotify not have everything Emily wants? Because the reasons she gave for never buying music did not include "title not available." Spotify and all other services have all the albums by the bands mentioned in her post: Yo La Tengo, Big Star, Velvet Underground.

Let's be honest: Emily doesn't pay for music because she doesn't have to. Period.

And let's be honest about another thing: nobody is criticizing Emily for "how she listens to music" (to quote the elder Emily White). People have been criticizing her for how she has *obtained* the music she listens to, and for her naivete about the financial consequences of her decisions.

It blows my mind that people can put such thought into the impacts of their car exhaust on the environment, or that people will go to great lengths to support local farmers and business owners, but the general public shows no similar support for musicians. Rather than seek a change, people shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, that 's just how kids today think about music."

Justin Boland

Better yet: let's just stop having this conversation over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Seriously. Please.

Lenny Rosenblum

I am a analogue music snob. I get that it is inconvenient and impractical for youth in transition from house to house or state to state. It's also confusing. We share YouTube videos for free, lousy audio format, but comparable to mp3 files. Who is getting royalties for that? So in many of our minds this becomes equally benign. Recorded music is a double edged sword. It's great listening to Coltrane records, but every fledgling sax player has to compete with his best takes on his best days. Live music with personal contact is my greatest joy, even on an off night, I love hanging with my friends.


The problem with the way EW2 uses music is that she just doesn't pay for what she listens to. It's not a problem about listening to cd, vinyls or digital on the cloud. It's really easy to think you didn't steal music because you just borrowed cd to rip them or your friend gave it to you. It's just too easy to defend her by telling she has understand that digital was the new way. I'm paying for digital, cd, vinyls and concerts. To afford all this, I have to make choices. The only thing you might seem to say is that I'm stupid to pay for music, because it's so great to be on the cloud. It's not about the way you listen to music, but the way it will be done if everybody is just stealing it. So next time, I'm just sneaking in the concert room, because paying is old fashioned ?


"Remember, kids!! You're better off if you listen to less music!!"


Nobody said that. But, doesn't any cause point to the real suffering of human beings (or animals, in some cases) to make their case? Yes it's an emotional appeal, but that's part of the reality, too.


Hear, hear!


Not to Spitz, though. He sounds jealous.


I don't get the "it's taken the industry too long to give the people what they want" line. The tech industry manufactured these supposed "wants" as much as anything.
Besides, if people "want" to violate the rights of others because they feel like it, why is that a "want" that should necessarily be rewarded and respected?

I guess we could see it as all wanting to emulate in our small way the ethos of Wall Street, or the lyrics of certain popular rappers, but it doesn't seem quite right to me.


I'm just going to steal the main dishes for my meals from the grocery store, but I'll make up for it by buying seasoning and saran wrap. The supermarket should be cool with that, and the producers will be happy because I'm tasting their goods. They should be happy with the exposure.


You consider the prerogative to accumulate music without compensating the producers to be a set of "values"?

I am confused by this. What are the implicit values you take to be involved?

Or, as Kant might ask, what are the implicit "maxims"? Can we universalize them? What would that look like?


Nobody? Read the article again. I quote:

Shortly before Christmas 2009, Vic took his life. He was my neighbor, and I was there as they put him in the ambulance. On March 6th, 2010, Mark Linkous shot himself in the heart. Anybody who knew either of these musicians will tell you that the pair suffered from addiction and depression. They will also tell you their situation was worsened by their financial situation.



I don't know if you are serious, but I agree with this in a certain sense. The implicit notion that we should have to accumulate mass quantities leads to the conclusion that we can't afford it, and thus we decide we cannot pay for any of it.
But unless you are a hardcore music geek (and if you are, you probably buy and collect recordings anyhow), how much of what you gather on your hard drives are you really appreciating?
Does the ability and demand to "have it all" take away from the ability to appreciate the music and develop a relationship with it?
Does it diminish the value we put on it in more ways than just the monetary exchange, too?


The greatness of Monk, Ornette and Mingus does place a weight on my judgment of other jazz recordings... so I can understand listening to the greats at the expense of maybe not trying out a newer player's recordings.

But, I don't really get the analogy here. I tried to piece it together, but I lost it. I'm not sure what you are suggesting.


Nobody said that it caused their suicides, directly, but yes it's part of the situation and that's a reality. Why is it unfair to consider such impacts?


Emily should be able to listen to music however she wants - the point of the article wasn't that physical media was better (and yes, artists got screwed in the vinyl days, too). The point that everybody gets their cut in the digital process except for the ones producing the content remains valid. At no time did she acquire that music (through the mix CDs, the wholesale download from a friend's hard drive, or from the brief experience with Kazaa) in a way that compensated the musicians at all. Listen however you want, but compensate the artist for the time and effort they put into creating what you downloaded.


But is it part of the situation? Their financial situation maybe, but was this caused by filesharing? Come on!

Randy Reichardt

Sorry, but there is no defense for anyone who admits that they have thousands of songs in their personal collection but have paid for only a tiny number of them. I'm astonished, but oddly enough, not surprised that there is a vociferous defense of Ms White here. Unbelievable. (And I have been a musician most of my life, but have never made a living from doing so.)


The solution is there! Streaming services make it it possible to listen and it rewards the artists. Still lots of artists start complaining before streaming has taken off.

You want to convert Emily and the likes? Offer all your music on streaming services and let's see what will happen over the next few years.

I wouldn't count on increasing sales if I were you.

Randy Reichardt

As a musical colleague of mine posted yesterday regarding Emily White, "Why don't we adopt this attitude towards food? I'd like to be 21 and be able to say I've only bought 15 meals my whole life."


You seem to have missed the point that most people are up in arms about -- it's not that people believe that you need to own physical copies or that getting music more inconveniently is somehow morally superior -- it's that compensating artists along with everyone else in the supply chain is the right thing to do. Why should the artist be the only one that doesn't get paid?

The convenience argument is completely ridiculous anyway -- she admits to spending hours and hours burning CDs from her college radio station's promotional library. Wouldn't it have been far easier to pay for those songs on iTunes?

Jason Spitz

Jealous of what, exactly? Everyone who is complaining about how "people don't buy music anymore" seems to forget that in the "old days" when people DID buy music, hardly any of that money actually made it into the hands of the artist. The major labels built an unsustainable business model, then technology came along and popped their balloon. Artists suffered before MP3s, and they're suffering the consequences of a failing model. But there is a new model emerging, one where artists keep 70 - 80% of what they earn, and I can't say whether it will make things "back to normal" but I know it's the best chance we've got at building a sustainable economy around music. So stop fucking complaining about the past, and make the future happen!


Mark Linkous was my brother-in-law. I am with David in his argument but not when it comes to how my sister and Mark were living. It wasn't "abject squalor." David never visited Mark in NC. He would have no idea. Further, Mark's mental health was not related to his income. Not in any way. He could have been a zillionaire and been just as sick.

I'm telling you with firsthand experience Michael, it was NOT part of the situation. I really don't think that Mark or Vic would have appreciated being included in David's letter. I really think he knows that too. It was unnecessary.


Forget compensating creators, since a whole generation now thinks it's a quaint idea, how did NPR allow Emily to be put in this position?

Jason Spitz

GAH! All you people trying to make the analogy between ripping digital music and stealing food or sneaking into a concert...STOP IT. The comparison is apples & oranges, it just doesn't work if you think about it for more than two seconds.

Jason Spitz

Because she's a smart, articulate, passionate person who has clearly worked her ass off in pursuit of her love of music. Through no fault of her own, she's grown up in a world where music (and almost all media) is digital. That's the world WE created. Technology leaps forward, and humanity catches up slowly, figuring out the consequences as we go. Don't blame Emily for using the tools she was given.


Thanks Emily... Just another Piracy Apologist promoting the Exploitation of Artists... I think it's obvious by the groundswell around "The Letter To Emily" that many musicians know the truth for themselves after a decade of half baked ideas, ideological fallacies and outright lies.

Nice try... How about just paying for what you consumer, or doing without... like everything else.


Lynn S.

Actually, no what she talks about does not exist yet. Spotify and the other on demand services have big gaping holes in them. This is particularly frustrating since a lot of us ARE paying $120 a year, and then have to also buy tracks not in Spotify. Until they have a more complete catalog, what Emily speaks of will not be a reality. (I was unclear from the article which Spotify she uses: free or Premium)


ha ha, that's exactly this. The worst part of this article being that Emily White, the intern, is getting a job proposition thanks to her stealing.


Jason the facts are not on your side.

The flat, clunky, physical CD isn't going anywhere, at least not in 2012. According to year-2011 breakdowns just shared by Nielsen Soundscan, more than two-thirds of all albums purchased in the US were physical CDs. Out of a total of 330.6 million albums sold during the year - across all configurations - a healthy 223.5 million were discs, or 67.6 percent.


Do you really think the Majors, each of them can boast of profits in the billion make this amount of money by only selling digital music. No they sell both and thank the hardware gods everyday when people repeat notions such as the one's you express.

Moreover as the rest of the world, save the UK, still predominately buys physical music, And here the part that I believe you don't understand -- The Majors are clearly still selling physical music and they aren't selling USMADEMUSIC overseas.

That's right they have Hailburonized the US Music Biz and now American when from being the world's supplier of music to being ontrack to being a net importer of music. So feel free to believe what you want just know it is marketing spin from hardware companies and services that make money off music without compensating the creators.

Figures for 2010 http://www.narm.com/PDF/THMNPDGroup.pdf


BTW if she was given a gun is it alright to just shoot it at what ever she feels like or are we world with laws and some semblance of a moral code?

Jason Spitz

I said all music was digital, I didn't say it WASN'T also physical. I know CDs are still a huge market, certainly bigger than digital in terms of dollars. But the trend is moving away from CDs, faster & faster, and it's not gonna reverse direction.

In terms of "compensating the creators", you weren't clear on who should be doing the compensating. At first I thought you meant fans like Emily should pay, and you were bemoaning the fact that her generation thinks it's a "quaint idea". Now you're saying companies like Apple & Spotify aren't compensating the creators -- which I DO AGREE WITH. Hardware makers, service providers, and telecommunications companies all profit from the ways technology has disrupted music, and they are not compensating the artist nearly enough. A shift towards compensation at that level would really make a difference. But down at Emily White's scale, changing fans' attitudes so they pay for more music? That isn't gonna happen. Better to convince them to pay for other stuff (which will get higher prices and bigger margins anyway).

Jason Spitz

If I give you a gun, will you shoot ME so I don't have to hear inane arguments like this one ever again?


Actually according to a report done for NARM by the NPD Group kids between the ages of 2 and 14 in the U.S. still overwhelmingly purchase physical goods. Hmmm. Go figure. And figure they did: consider that 79 percent of these kids’ entertainment purchases by value – across all media types – are physical

BTW I put up a website in 1995 to do both digital & physical and I've been waiting for 17 years for this end of CD's event and it ain't happened yet.


Did the facts I presented not jive with your feelings? Since I see you offered no source for you statements.


Fact is that millions of people use music like Emily does. In every age group. How to make them buy CDs? What's your plan?


Kids between the ages of 2 and 14 don't buy anything, their physical product minded parents do. CDs will be gone as soon as the millennials start having kids and today's 2-14 demo is the 18-32 demo.


IMHO the millennials made much of their purchasing chooses based upon a desire to be different then previous generations and this new generation is simply rebelling against the digital only mind set. At the end of the day it's what the consumer wants and based upon the profits of the Majors and the data I have posted links too they want it both Digitally and Physically and there's no reason to not give it to them.

BTW I'm the messenger not the message...here more from the research.

Consumer Groups
According to the report, music consumers can be broken into five segments: “Committed,” “Convert,” “Comfortable,” “Casual,” and “Content.” “Committed” consumers are the youngest group, with a mean age of 32 (20 percent are age 13 to 17; 42 percent are 18 to 35). They represent 10 percent of all consumers who listened to or purchased music within the prior three months. “Committed” consumers also account for 46 percent of per-capita spending on music, and they are the most engaged consumers in the report. While they use a variety of discovery sources – including radio, video, streaming, and movies – ((((((((they also value ownership,))))))))))) and they are the most open to discovering new artists. They find their current means to discover new music is good, but still wonder if they are missing something.

“Converts,” who make up 30 percent of musically active consumers and account for 34 percent of per-capita spending, are the second youngest group, with a mean age of 34 (13 percent teens; 23 percent are 18 to 25 years old). They also listen to music in a variety of ways and are more likely than the average consumer to purchase CDs or digital downloads. They are generally satisfied with their means of music discovery, but they would still consider other options.

Those in the “Comfortable” group make up 30 percent of musically active consumers and account for 15 percent of per-capita spending on music. With a mean age of 50, they are considered the mainstream segment. These individuals mostly listen to music on CD or on AM/FM radio, and they prefer to discover new music from familiar artists. They also rely primarily on television and radio to find new music, and they feel those methods are adequate for their needs; they are not interested in new ways to discover music.

“Casual” listeners, who make up 14 percent of musically active listeners and account for 3 percent of per-capita music spending, have a mean age of 43. They are also lighter listeners than average, they rarely buy music, and they have low interest in digital sources and discovery.

The “Content” group, which make up 11 percent of musically active consumers and account for 2 percent of per-capita music spending, have a mean age of 55. They are the lightest buyers and listeners, and while they periodically buy CDs, they do not find current music engaging.



1) Not receiving royalty payments until an advance is recouped may be woefully unfair math, but it's not "a mountain of debt."

2) The songwriters still had statutory protections surrounding their royalties. If people don't pay, then there's no reward there, "due" or not.

When 76,000 albums get released a year, there is no possible way for an audience to accurately measure quality and engender a pure meritocracy.

But in the meantime, there could be more emphasis put on valuing the quality that an individual listener does discover.


My plan is to give the consumer what they want when they want it; Ergo a clicks and bricks distribution solution~ Proctor Hoc we don't make them do anything.

Does anyone think that Sony, UMG WEA & EMI makes billions of dollars offering downloads only?

Jason Spitz

1) OK, "mountain" was an exaggeration. But most artists were never paid a penny beyond their initial advance, and many major-label accounting & royalties departments kept it that way through shady accounting and sheer negligence.
2) Fair enough.

When I say "meritocracy", I don't mean "the best music wins", I mean "the band who works hard (both on their music and their business) will see rewards from that work". Work harder, get better, and things will improve. That didn't used to be the case...hard work only got you so far, and then it was up to luck or chance. Things have shifted so that "success in music" is less like a casino and more like a real economic market. Success is never guaranteed, but artists have a lot more power over their fates. That's what I mean by "meritocracy".


There was a time when all people could do was sit around camp fires and play music themselves.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when only people who could afford to see and hear orchestra's could do so.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when people purchased sheet music to hear their favorite tunes at home and it was no longer needed to see live.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when the radio played all a person's favorite songs and sheet music wasn't needed.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when a person could own their favorite music to play when they felt like.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when anyone could record their own music inexpensively.  Music kept being created.

There was a time when a person could have virtually all recorded music for free.  Music kept being created.


"Does anyone think that Sony, UMG WEA & EMI makes billions of dollars offering downloads only?"

No, they make billions from basic 360 deals (downloads, CDs, merchandise, film &television song placements, general merchandise, etc).

Free album at www.facebook.com/chancius


But most artists were never paid a penny beyond their initial advance, and many major-label accounting & royalties departments kept it that way through shady accounting and sheer negligence.

Again, also probably true. But even Albini math says that a band can end up with a bit left over from the advance. Is that equivalent to cost-of-living? Maybe (probably) not. But, again, if acts are due songwriting royalties and merch royalties, the smart ones could have gotten by.

And I still think that "media at the top consolidates, everyone else fractures" means that it is still pretty likely that building an audience is like winning at the casino. The ones who do well with the new system generally already won under the old, so it's like coming up to the table with a stack of chips twice as high (three times! four!) as everyone else's.

I'd like to be wrong. I just don't think I am.


We have thought about it, and we do think it makes sense. As with any analogy, it's not exact in all respects, but what are the relevant differences that you would point to?

I would think, anyhow, that the most relevant details would point to justifying food theft more easily than music theft.


I'm sorry K technically neither of us is factually correct. He was staying with his friend Scott in knoxville when he died. But you know Mark and his wife were separated and getting a divorce? Right? Shortly before his death Mark was living in his studio. Not their old house. I'm not taling about their house. And the Abject squalor is not my description but his brother Matt's description. I talked to him regularly in his last couple months and all of our conversations were either about his depression or money woes. Agreed we mark could have been a zillionaire and not been happy. If he was a zillionaire though he would have had better access to mental health care. you got to admit that.

Jason Spitz

Your concern is legitimate, and the folks who "won" under the old system certainly have an advantage. But new entrants are building steam in their own way. Will they ever reach the levels of widespread fame or "big hit" status that older acts got? Probably not, but since the whole cultural landscape is fractured into niches, I think we need a new yardstick to measure success. Don't ask "Are new bands as successful as the old ones?" but "Can new bands create a self-sustaining business model that allows them to stay afloat independently?" It's a slower process, and bands won't reach the heights of yesteryear, but if you can make a decent living doing something you love and making other people happy in the process, I'd call that winning.

Jason Spitz

This has veered so far from your original post, Nelson, that it seems you've lost the point. At first you complained about not "compensating creators". Now you're advocating a retail distribution model? The one where labels, distributors, and stores all get paid before the artist does? Look, people still want CDs as a format, but that doesn't mean they need to buy them through the old channels. Why not advocate for more direct-to-fan sales through artist websites, or on-demand pressing of CDs? The former puts more money in the hands of the "creators" and the latter makes distribution a lot more efficient. You wanna talk about "compensating creators"? Sure -- let's solve that problem. But don't blame it on Emily White and her generation, because creators have been under-compensated for a LONG-ASS TIME.


Feels like talking your way out of an awkward situation. Apologies and an update on your article would be nicer IMHO.

pumped up Paul

Its indefensible. You HAVE to pay rent or you don't have a home. You HAVE to pay your phone bill or you don't have service. You HAVE to pay your utility bill or you don't have electricity. You HAVE to pay for your groceries or you don't have food. You HAVE to pay for you unnecessary luxurious ____(car,hd whatever,ps14 super awesome gaming unit and the pricey games that go along, cable, football tickets, beer, drugs...etc)___ or you don't get those things. Music is enjoyed by all people and disrespected (in the form of taking it for granted) by most. And to tear down those who, like Andy dufresne, finally made it through all the years of "shit so fowl" by not purchasing what you derive pleasure from makes you less than a fan but rather and ENEMY of artistry. You will NEVER see enough shows or buy enough shirts to make up for thousands upon thousands of music collections that destroy the fabric of the artistic community with piracy. Don't kid yourselves. And what about bands that are no longer around playing shows because the frontman went solo and although you helped catapult him to success you are left to collect only a percentage of royalties from ALBUM SALES while you work your 9-5 that's likely not as glamorous or well paying as our young intern's is bound to be...happens all the time. Syd Barett lived off his royalty checks post pink floyd, but then again that generation TRULY valued music...shame on us for spitting on their legacy. This is the musical equivalent of spitting on a returning Vietnam vet and both are fully indefensible! Period.


No one said that becoming a musician pays well. 95% of musicians barely or don't even make a living doing it. How many writers or painters through history went unknown and broke? Way more than did. Some of even the most well known died penniless and unknown. Music has been around as an art form for centuries and it'll continue to do so. Art in general will remain a subjective form of expression which is why it's so difficult to quantify its value. Musicians can still make money from different avenues related to their music. They might not be as rich and famous as they could have become before, but then again they're most likely not the 5%.

Gimme Culture

Old Emily: you mis-characterize David Lowery's post tremendously. His attempt to educated what seems like should be obvious was probably the kindest message on this topic I have seen. I hope the artist you represent read what you are defending.

New Emily: Youth and a lack of understanding does not excuse or in anyway prevent the consequences of something that is wrong....legally and though you don't know it, morally and harming what she claim's to love. The mere fact that she has never know a different world is not an excuse to be defended. That is like saying you did not know what it was like to have the right to vote, so it's not a big deal. This is why subjects like "history" exist. She needs to learn the history of her business is and not just claim ignorance. I hope Mr. Lowery's message enlightens her. How appropriate that he teaches this at the college level. Maybe if it could be taught earlier to just "not steal" Mr. Lowery would be able to teach other things to university students instead of basic civics. BTW...the "offer" from the Old Emily is an "INTERNSHIP" which usually means it is UNPAID...something I would expect from her position. You will not be able to PAY for thing while working for her, stuff like food and rent.

All in all, do read both posts...especially David's

Old Emily's post seems to be nothing more than a
self-serving attempt to get publicity. Which unfortunately I wasted too much time reading her poorly written post talking about herself....I will forward this to your artist to read, I would like to hear what their opinion is?



His wife (T) is my sister (you and I have met a bunch of times, actually). And yes, I know where he died and all the circumstances surrounding it. I flew to Knoxville where me and T took care of his remains. Thanks for responding here. I don't think we need to hash out all of the details, specifically the timing (which was short), about what led to his moving out of their house, then moving to k-town immediately prior to his untimely and sad demise (it's not helpful to anything, least of all his memory). I wish that Mark could have gotten his severe mental illness under control. I think everyone that knew him did.


I just thought about it and, yep, the analogy works. Theft is theft.


Sadly, she wasn't given the tool of moral standards.


I agree with you. get my email from M or T.

Jason Spitz

That's harsh, Edvard. How does morality even play into this discussion? Oh wait - IT DOESN'T. All you people ripping on Emily for being "immoral" or breaking a "moral code" or "stealing"...just STOP IT.

There's no moral argument to be made here. Emily's behavior doesn't come from a fucked-up moral compass or a deep-seated evil. She is behaving like a rational consumer in a market economy. She's grown up in a world where music is freely available, whether by burning friends' CDs, streaming on Spotify, or filesharing on Kazaa. Do you expect her (and the millions of her generational peers) to say "This is the world we live in, and it's the way things are, but it's all fundamentally wrong and we should go back to how life used to be 15 years ago"?

All you people on your high horse yelling about "morality" can fuck off. You're just wasting your time wishing you could return to the past, when you should be coming up with new ways to capitalize on the opportunities of the future (which are already here).

Erik Peterson

Whether intern Emily White is right or wrong, she should be ashamed of herself for not investing into the music economy she so badly wants to be a part of.

Jason Spitz

You want a lesson on the history of the music business, Gimme Culture? Let's look at the 80s and 90s, when labels got bought by multinational media corporations and kept raising prices on CDs because fans had no other option but to pay. Let's look at lavish expense accounts and idiotic business decisions, all that wasted money and sense of entitlement. I worked at major labels, I saw it all from the inside as it crumbled. It was a FUCKING BUBBLE, and technology came along and popped it. And instead of adjusting their business model to change with the times, the majors decided to sue the problem away. But just like every technological innovation before it, the cat was out of the bag, and you could either fight the tide of change or swim with it. Apple saw the wave and rode it to huge profits. The music industry gave away all their power & leverage and let their assets be carved into 99-cent pieces because they couldn't be bothered to solve the problem on their own. Now they're giving everything away to Spotify because they think that will solve their problem (and it might, for a year or two).

All the fucked-up things the industry has done over the last 10-15 years...they shit the bed, they made themselves the enemy, they failed to do right by their artists...all this, and yet you blame it all on a 21-year old kid for "stealing" (aka ripping CDs from her college radio station's office)? You're the one who needs a history lesson.

Jason Spitz

I guess you missed the part where she buys concert tickets and merch. Or the part where she invests her time working for a radio station to help get music into people's ears. Or the part where she asks for a streaming service that pays artists better than Spotify does. Emily has nothing to be ashamed about.

Jason Spitz

Emily ripped CDs from her college radio station's archives. How is that theft? Do you think she would have gone out and bought every single CD on her radio station's shelf if she didn't have the ability to rip them for free? Of course not. So those rips do not equate to "lost sales" or "theft". If she worked in her school's library, and she scanned books into PDFs and put those on her Kindle, would you castigate her for ruining the publishing industry?

The fact is, when you can make a perfect digital copy of something, and not degrade the original, you are not STEALING. When you shoplift food from the supermarket, you're taking an apple that someone else would have paid for. When you sneak into a venue, you're occupying floor space that someone else would have paid for. When you rip a CD, you don't deprive anyone else of the ability to buy that CD. You aren't doing anything illegal. IT'S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. It's not immoral, it's not stealing -- it's a rational response to the reality of the market economy. Blame technology for making it available, but don't blame the consumer for using the technology they've been given.


Your argument is that she wouldn't have bought any of those albums? Or maybe, just maybe, if she couldn't have sat around ripping them, she would have bought some. I went to a school with a great radio station too, and yet somehow managed to ignore the temptation to rip everything in sight.

And yes, taking services without paying for them is stealing. It doesn't matter if other people can still buy those services; it doesn't matter if it's a movie or your neighbor's Wi-Fi or a legal consultation where you take a flyer on the bill; someone offered that service at a market price and rather than saying "I won't pay for this so I will not use this service" you say "I won't pay for this so I will use it without paying."

It's not just about music. It's about the entire concept of intellectual property, and for a service-based economy, chipping away at the value of some services is chipping away at the value of them all.

Erik Peterson

I guess I'm just one of those types that doesn't believe every attempt at lessening one's culpability that I hear.

Jeff MacDougall

Marginal costs.


As a fellow college student trying to understand this ever-changing business, and where digital convenience meets moral standards, it's difficult for a young journalist to bridge what's actually happening and perhaps what "should" be happening while still keeping the masses happy. She took a risk, and as stated in Kenneth Burke's identification theory, her writing immediately resonated with some and unidentified with others. If this was back in the time where us young folk were just wee little kiddies, this open forum of commenting on the writing of someone like EW2 would never exist. We'd have to sit down and write a letter to the editor, and the eyes of the audience would only see it if published in the next issue. Pieces like EW2's get people talking, get people thinking, and keep art journalism (and music journalism) alive. Whether you agree or not, let's at least appreciate that David Lowery and both Whites made us feel emotional, which is more than I can say about a fashion blog.

Dave Weil

Ahhh Jason, you've outed yourself. With all due respect, people who work for record labels are notorious for paying very little for music themselves. Naturally, some of that is perks of the job. I mean, I would have to be really crabby to bitch about record company people getting free product of their own labels or seeing shows of their own artists for free, especially when they are working them. However, it doesn't end there. The entitlement mentality extends to using their network of fellow music business kind to trade duplicate comps of records and getting on guest lists of their friends' artists. They trade excess merch and build huge collections of the dretrius of the music business. I guess that's the nature of the beast. I've been the recipient of such largess during my radio career over the years as well.

This isn't to say that record company peeps don't spend money on some music products (of course, it's tax deductable should they choose to deduct it). But record company people are so immune to having to pay for music in its many forms that it's understandable that they don't get when "music sharing" crosses the line. And having the equivalent of 750 free albums that were obtained by mostly illegal means crosses the line. I remember the days (way back in the 70s) when most of my friends and I "shared" music by taping each others albums on cassette. Of course, even though we didn't think that we were doing anything illegal (at the time we weren't, technically) we too glossed over the moral aspect. But I can only speak for my friends' circle in saying that we were to a man and a woman very active buyers of record albums. Yes, we expanded out collections by adding a few dozen cool cassettes a year, many of which got taped over when we liked them so much that we got the physical property. And I'm not denying that there is a bit of benefit of people sharing music with others because it turns them onto new previously unheard of groups. But what good does that do if the people just keep those songs that they already have in their device because, "Why should I replace them with paid copies or physical merchandise"?

The point that you makes about the recording industry making its own bed is valid. And there's been a retrenchment that has been a long time coming. But to say, just because you can do it (even though it's illegal) insulates you from criticism is absurd. And the analogy of stealing a physical product IS indeed analogous, whether there's a single item being stolen or not. Stealing a song in the ether eliminates an item that would have been purchased, just as stealing an apple eliminates said apple from being purchased.

This is a financial AND a moral issue all wrapped up in a neat bow. If you are totally strict about it, probably 99.999% have been guilty at one time or another. Even musicians. Most of us (including Mr. Lowery) have probably made a mix tape for a friend. Many of us have probaby burned a library CD on occasion. And many of us can rightly say that "distributing" the stray album or track has had a beneficial effect by getting someone else to buy a CD. This isn't a black and white world. However, the time has come to recognize egregious behavior for what it is - it's a black market distribution system that takes money from the mouths of musicians and songwriters. It's not the ONLY problem - there's an issue of screwed up contracts, record label advances, tinkering with the below the line things like playing the "returns game". It's a problem when a single copy of a song can be given illegally to hundreds of thousands of people. The problem of proper compensation has been around before digital. But this has exacerbated the problem. It's piling on. In the 70s, Alex Chilton once mentioned to a friend of mine that he got a $15 royalty check for some Box Tops song. That was one of the reasons that he was a dishwasher for more years than he should have been (and this was AFTER Big Star). Was that the fault of downloading? Nope. It was monkeying around with royalty figures by record companies.

All of this verbiage is meant to be simply this - it's illegal to make copies of albums you don't own. You haven't paid for them. Justify it at your own risk (I don't mean the risk of arrest, I mean at the risk of showing yourself to be blind to the idea of intellectual property). If you record off the radio, that's legal, as long as it's for your own use. This is specially allowed in the copyright laws (it's considered time-shifting, which was codified in the old Betamax decision, and, after all, it's a "degraded copy" anyway). You are free to rip your own CDs to iPods, laptops, cassettes, 8 tracks, Edison cylinders, etc. You just aren't allowed to copy third party property. This is indisputable. If you argue that the law is wrong, that's a different argument.

Dave Weil

PS, that "entitlement mentality" charge can be hurled at me as well, since I was in the radio biz back in the 70s and early 80s (I got out of it for years but have done community radio for the past 7 years). I got my fair share of free stuff, from LPs, swag and to being on guest lists for more than 100 concerts (although I too paid for my fair share of shows, albums, t-shirts, etc.). So I know about that which I speak about when I speak of entitlement mentality. For a while in the late 70s, I got a copy of just about everything that came out. Of course, they weren't stolen albums because they were given to me personally, but it's easy to lose sight of a sense of supporting musicians themselves when you are getting so much free product.

Jason Spitz

Okay one last thing and I'm done.

David Lowery's statements - about the situation we as a society find ourselves in - are 100% correct. I appreciate the depth of his analysis. I disagree with his conclusion that $2000 worth of computers & smartphones is worth the same as $2000 in music purchases...that's flawed. But the questions he raises about morality and technology, self control and ESPECIALLY the money telecom/internet companies are making on the backs of artists - these are discussions we NEED to be having. And he does it well (mostly). THAT SAID...

Emily White, a 21yr old intern, wrote 500 words expressing her conflicted feelings about the music industry. David Lowery, a 50 yr old college professor, wrote a 3800 word lecture about morality, technology, economics, and art. Both have valid perspectives and the truth is somewhere in between. Let's not call Emily White (either one of them) a "piracy apologist" or a "thief" or an "immoral person" (we can call David Lowery a cranky old man because he actually said 'get off my lawn' in his post) (kidding). I want to hear what more people her age have to say. If they're ever gonna change their behavior & attitudes about paying for music, I wanna ask em what they'd be willing to pay for.

Jason Spitz

Dave, i'm tired. Here's 2 things: 1) If you think I 'outed myself' as a spoiled label brat who never pays for music, you don't know anything about me. 2) Yes, youre right, it's a hazy gray area of morality and economics. And yes you're right, egregious piracy is bad and should be stopped. So what do we do about the case of Emily White (and the generation gap she represents)? Do we sue her? If we were a label 10 years ago, we would, but that seems counterproductive. Do we yell at her and try to teach her a lesson? Maybe. Do we try to find out what she really wants, and find a way to offer it to her at a reasonable price (while compensating artists fairly)? I hope so.

Stevie Nicks Nixon

Imagine that artists are buskers, pounding out songs with an upturned cap on the pavement before them. So along comes Emily White and listens intently to 11 000 songs or so, without thinking to drop a coin into the cap. But, what can you do? Maybe nothing. And hey, she's a media person, so maybe she'll beckon some other passers-by over who won't mind dropping a coin into the cap. So far, so good.

The points at which she annoys me are twofold. Firstly, she seems to think that shecactually has put some money into the cap because she has gone to concerts and bought teeshirts. Newsflash! She obtained some bonus product from these contributions, to wit, a concert and a garment.

Secondly, although something seems to be tugging vaguely on her conscience about all this, the conclusion she ends up coming to, as the artist makes his or her way to the conclusion of his or her 11 000th song is: "You know what. This is a really annoying street to be listening to a busker on. I would happily make a generous donation towards the renovation of this street. Is that too much to ask for?"


Please read this piece by artist, Evan Bliss. It is critical to hear the up-and-coming artist's perspective rather than the former successful musician who already has had wide-spread success: http://www.evanbliss.com/2012/06/letter-to-crackers-david-lowery-in-response-to-his-letter-to-emily-white-at-nprs-all-songs-considered/


Wow, Jason, I've read several of your posts in this comment thread, and over and over you seem to be making the point that record companies ripped off artists for years. That is true. So does that justify Emily White ripping the artists off now?

Somewhere in there, you've missed the point that whether it's a dinosaur corporate entity or a university student, stealing artists' work isn't a right accorded every citizen; it's a result of technological creations like Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa, etc., combined with the dinosaur corporations' inability to envision the next step in their distribution model and create downloadable music sites. The logjam was actually broken by iTunes, which allowed honest people to finally pay for music downloads. There's your history lesson.


I wonder how many people defending Emily White have actually tried to make a living making original music? Every nickel matters. Even the paltry monthly $10 check from iTunes. Listen to see if you like something, but then buy the damn record if you do! I guess Emily only likes 15 records. I'm glad I don't have to listen to her radio station. must get boring hearing the same songs over and over and over.


I like your post Emily, and I like that you reach out to EM2 to tell her, "Yes, speak your mind!" I say the same, even though I left a great big, and super honest, response in support of what David is saying. The effects for some musicians we all know and love have not been great. We can't just say that this is good for music and those who make it. I can see just by my Facebook that you know those on the other side just as well! The industry you work in will, of course, be more confronted with things that have th potential for success in this structure, but not every great band fits into it. People actually suffer from a lost ability to support themselves. That's just a fact. Still, with all the responses between the blogs, this has sparked the best thing...an honest conversation on all parts which readers will have to glean meaning from on their own, in accordance with their own values. That's totally noteworthy!

Bruce Robb

I would have to agree Zoso - sounds a bit like the Emily White Appreciation Society. Not once does EM1 address the issue. I think part of the nerve EM2 has hit is her non-answer to the whole issue - she recognizes the problem but when she offers up that she can't offer up anything other than concert tickets and T-shirts, it's like a blank stare. Lowery gets a lot of traction pointing out all the things someone like EW2 is likely to pay for without a thought; high speed internet, cell phone bills, even lattes over the long haul are more than what she has paid for her music.

Bruce Robb

Can you stand a little closer Clark. I can't quite reach into your pocket to get what's in your wallet.


Emily's initial post has definitely sparked debate on the topic, but really it's not that complicated. She already has the ability to listen to what she wants, when she wants, how she wants it. Because of itunes and iphones and other services and devices, she has more options for listening to music than has ever existed before.

What she wants, ultimately, is not to pay for it.

Everything else in the discussion is mostly rationalization for the theft of music and obscuring the underlying issue. The biggest thing that has changed is the ease with which music can be stolen. We're no longer talking about mixtapes that can't be copied infinitely due to generation loss. If you've grown up not having to pay for the music you're stealing, of course it's going to seem like a foreign idea.

The complaints about ease of acquiring music is a particularly ridiculous one. As David Lowery points out, and anyone who's drunkenly downloaded Jesse's girl in a fit of nostalgia at 3am already knows, iTunes makes it possible to acquire almost any song you can conceive of with a couple clicks of the mouse.

At least if you're willing to pay for it.


Well said, Bruce Robb.

When EW1 writes "more music than ever in history is being consumed, which is good for artists, our industry (believe it or not, whether you’re benefiting directly or not) as well as for society," I expect it to be followed by some kind of argument as to why the assertion's true - like, for instance, WHY it's good for artists for more music than ever to be consumed when compensation for that consumption is vanishing. It is not a self-evident proposition, especially for "artists" writing songs being performed by others, who aren't getting any of that touring and merch money that's supposed to make up for the loss.

Instead, we get nothing but more "you go, girlfriend!."


The flaw in Evan's "customer is always right" defense is that Emily, and many like her, are not customers.


"COMPLETELY DIFFERENT" it may be, but you most certainly are doing something illegal, and something that's at least as immoral than simple theft: you are violating the creator's Constitutionally granted right.

When you make a perfect digital copy of something without the creator's consent, there are only two possibilities: you're either a thief or an abuser of rights. You make the call, pal.


1st off my original post was more about NPR then Emily. The point about compensating creators was a quip about a whole generation of young adults that think music is a service. Thus everything after that are replies to your mischaracterization of the business and to the Spotidj question~ How to make them buy CDs? And, as I replied to Spotidj Clicks and Bricks distribution solution is something that we offer and of course that includes fan direct sites.

To respond to you point about old channels you might want to look up what distribution means and think about it next time you purchase something in a store or online since 99 percent of the product is not done by the supplier. Here's a link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_(business) As well, "Old Channels" also include mom and pops to small chain that are active and vital parts of any community do you hate them too? Cuz this thingy called Record Store Day seem to be pretty popular.

BTW No one is holding a gun to suppliers heads to choice to work with a distributor however think about what your saying -- Artists and Bands need to be both amazing content producers and experts in distribution Seems rather self limiting and beside music distribution I can't recall another industry that is trying to rid itself of this option.

As well this overall conversation shows a not too surprising lack of understanding about the nature and composition of the music business. The "distribution" IMHO that everyone seems to hate is what the Majors offer as a "Major" is just a label tied to it's own distribution arm.

I do agree that folks should be mad that 4 companies with 10 percent of the content are making 90 percent of the revenue. However, Those of us that are working to help the 90 percent move beyond micropayment to being part of a vast market place are not the boogiemen.

PS I noticed that you are cherry picking my comment and it seem's you didn't want to respond to my point about the US moving close to becoming a net importer of music, I suppose this is lost upon you what this means, so for the sake of clarity I point it out.

We'll be importing more music then we export and that Jason should be of vital importance to anyone that cares about USMADEMUSIC and our economy; let alone how we as a nation get to influence others around the world since if USMADEMUSIC is not exporting there is no chance of influencing or sharing our culture.


I busked in NYC for years.  I even made my complete living doing so for a while.  Some people tip and most do not.  Very few would purchase CDs.  I think the same applies in general to the industry now at large.  Human nature shows  us time and time again that if people can get something for free, they will.  The biggest issue is the disconnect between fans and artist.  9 times out of 10, if a fan actually meets an artist or has some other reason to feel connected to them, then that fan WILL pay something back to that artist.  How many times in the past do you think fans were turned on to music by borrowing a record, tape, or cd... or even just heard the artist on the radio, tv, or movie and later paid to see them live and/or purchased merchandise putting money into the pocket of the artist?  Countless times!

Coming from an indie artist, EW did nothing wrong and is only following the norm now. Get over it... It's not 1944 or 1956 or 1963 or 1978 or 1987 or 1999... It's 20and bloody12


Agreed, Gimme Culture. We in publicity and marketing tend to use public moments like this to benefit our businesses, and further,
those who are insecure about their place in an industry tend to respond with knee-jerk reaction or without considering all sides.

Many here have written some well-thought out remarks on all sides, but still the most thoughtful i believe is @DavidCLowery's.

So, while I'm allowing for my own remarks and face to become public, I also want to state once again, I am not the Nelson above. I'm the CEO of Team Clermont. Shameless plug? you decide.


Artists are a bunch of spoiled brats that want to get paid over and over again for work they did once. Hey, why not extend that to everyone ? You want me to pay for the 1000's of MP3s and FLAC's on my hdd ? Contact my previous employers and tell them I want to get paid in perpetuity for the engineering work I did since I started working in 2005. I'll be happy to push a (tiny) percentage of those royalties back to you whiners. Oh wait, I already do that, it's called my Sirius XM subscription. Why don't you get the RIAA to apologize to the 12 year olds it sued back in 2004, refund their money, and come to the table with solutions and innovation instead of lawsuits ? Could there be a correlation between artists' drug use and their lack of technological innovation, perhaps ?

A Facebook User


First of all David Lowery doesn't rant. whether you agree with his position or not he is a thorough, articulate, considerate writer. His handling of this young intern was not abusive and if you read David's post you will find that Emily is not the victim, she is a symptom.

A symptom of the misguided insights that the post Napster generation has about the reality of being a musician and supporting yourself. The post is really not about this young lady, but rather the sate of our society today.

And Brian, I believe it is the artistic community that has been bullied, not Emily. Why else would musicians, filmmakers and writers have been so silent about business that succeed by exploiting someone else's work. What is always left out by the freehadists is the fact that businesses are making money off this.

So let me get this straight, your not interesting in supporting artists, but you have no problem financing corrupt file sharing businesses?

If you don't want to own music you don't have to. And if that's your story no problem.

People aren't jumping on the bandwagon to trash Emily, they're jumping on the bandwagon because David Lowery wrote a landmark piece about the state of music today. Read the nearly 500 comments, there is very little Emily bashing going on. And I don't think Emily does anything differently than millions of kids today.

That my friend is the real problem.

Dan D

Yes, Emily White. Both of you. As an artist, I spend hours and hours slaving over my music and then I give it away digitally for free. Maybe one day I'll sell vinyl or make CD's or give people something tangible to purchase.

My hard drive of illegally downloaded music recently crashed, so I feel OK that I did not pay for any of it.


Good point! Why is music possibly worth less than it used to? Because we live in a materialistic society and since MP3s can't be seen or held onto and can be easily lost, their value is less!


The problem with what EW2 wrote isn't that she has no attachment to physical mediums like CD's and vinyl. It's that she admitted to paying for no more than 15 CD's despite her 11,000 song library.

EW2 listed all the ways she accumulated all that music, but I didn't notice iTunes or Amazon MP3 downloads mentioned. She claimed to (almost) never have downloaded any songs illegally, but every time she ripped someone else's CD or passed a full iPod between friends, she was downloading illegal. The fact that Kazaa or Napster wasn't used makes it no different than any other P2P piracy.

Emily's point was lost because she was so unaware of what she was actually doing and how that was impacting the artists she claimed to love. To be fair, the fallacies in David Lowery's reply incensed me. I find faults on both sides.

The music industry should respond to market demand by making digital music easily available, as EW2 desires. That's probably the most effective way to combat piracy anyway. But EW2 should pay for the music she listens to and support the artists she adores. Subscribe to Rdio or listen to Pandora with ads. There are lots of digital option out there and hopefully more/better ones to come. Just don't fool yourself into believing you're not a pirate just because you didn't get all those songs off Pirate Bay.

Sarah McDonald

I think you and I read two different articles, if you can even call what EW2 wrote an article. While your own post is a well thought out response, I think it probably displays more thought and credit than the younger White's original post warrants. I think the topic of music consumption in the digital age is a virtual bottomless pit of discussion fodder, but the post by the younger Miss White offered no insight, no real ideas, no analysis of the issues stemming from our constant technological advances, not even a tangible train of thought running through the whole piece. It read like something I would have written on the bus on the way into high school the day it was due. This was a missed opportunity for NPR to have some insightful and much needed input from the millennial generation on what is clearly a rather controversial topic in this country. Instead, what we all ended up with was a trite piece from a teeny-bopper who comes off like a self involved, self entitled little twit who has no real understanding of the issues or implications of the quickly changing face of music in the digital age. Saying the words "I understand the gravity" doesn't mean you do. The essay, on a whole, was completely empty and lines like that just came off sounding like political talking points or insincere lip service. Overall, I found that fact that this even wound up on the NPR site an incredibly pathetic testament to what passes for critical writing in this country today.

Sarah McDonald

I could not agree more. Frankly, I think she should be removed as the GM of her college radio station for admitting to using her position there to engage in illegal activities. What she did is a blatant, explicit violation of RIAA standards, and maybe she didn't realize it because she's young and stupid, but if she's so inept to NOT realize that her behavior was nothing short of petty theft, she probably doesn't deserve the position anyway.


It shocked me to find out David C Lowery is now a music BUSINESS professor, since he pretty much ignores any business solution to these serious problems. Just like the music industry back when Napster started, when they should've started at least thinking about selling songs online. Instead they totally IGNORED digital and tried to thrust $20 CD's down their custie's throats, while also prosecuting them as criminals. THUS was the righteous outlaw mentality created. All dictatorships bring themselves down eventually.

Lowery says Spotify and other streaming services "aren't there yet," but seems to care nothing for making those work better. He'd rather attack fans. Gee, that sounds a lot like the RIAA! (And a bit like Cracker. ;D) Steve Jobs was the genius of monetization, who forced the music industry to save themselves. If THEY would have used their business degrees figured out how to charge for digital music back when it really counted? I think musicians would be living a nice life right now. And even now, musicians could group together to make the streaming world work in their favor. Spending days ranting at fans might be more fun, but not so effective.

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