Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Fri 4th Aug, 2006

Right music or wrong music?

I find myself in an ethical, legal and preferential dilemma.

I've been saying for some time that I should start looking at music from new distribution systems - Magnatune, to be precise. Magnatune's licenses permit DJ-mixing for non-commercial use, such as mixes that are given away - which is what I do with my mixes. It seems particularly appropriate to use Creative Commons licensed music when mixing at LCA[1] - something that a couple of people have asked me about in the past. So finally I got the playlists from all the Magnatune artists that I thought I'd like and started listening to them. I picked a rough guess at about $50 as what I'd pay the various artists whose work I liked and was going to use.

Technically, it's good stuff. There's a fair variety of styles, from techno-industrial to downtempo to electro breaks to drum and bass. But, though I hate to say it, none of it is of the quality of, say, Push, Man With No Name, or Astral Projection (to name some artists whose styles are pretty recognisable and, in my uninformed opinion, fairly duplicatable); or Nic Chagall, Perry O'Neil, Stalker and the remixes of 'Sand In My Shoes' by Dido, to name some tracks that I've bought on vinyl recently. The feeling of giving the tracks a value of $50 was akin to the feeling of paying for a minor filling - I could see the value and the correctness of paying but I didn't feel I'd get any pleasure out of the transaction. But not paying any money feels even more wrong.

My main disappointment came when I got an email through Discogs from a guy selling a whole bunch of stuff (1111 releases, to be precise) on eBay, some of which was on my wantlist. I would use up the $50 just in buying two of these albums at full price, if you could find them in a store; I could buy three to five second-hand CDs from the UK for the same price (depending on how I spent my money) and I'd get names I actually recognised: Transwave, early Trancemaster and Reactivate, Infinity Project, and Man With No Name, just to name a few. That's quality I can trust.

Of course, with buying those CDs I'd be back at square one: none of them have any license which allows random DJs to mix tracks off their albums for free. Oh my wordy lordy no. Foolish for even thinking about it.

So my dilemma is simple: buy the right thing that I can legally and ethically use but that doesn't turn me on, or the wrong thing that I know I'll like but am not allowed to use.


[1] - Linux Conference Australia. The fact that I still persist in using proprietary, closed-source software on a proprietary, closed-source operating system to do these mixes is the one great thorn still in my side. I'd pay money for people to program a free, open-source alternative to MixMeister...

(I'm also considering putting a "Tip Jar" beside me when I'm DJing at LCA 2007, with a sign saying "80% of this goes to the artists that created the music". I wonder what the reaction will be...)

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