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Downloading Music on the Internet
By Aaron Rosand
(more articles from this author)
2001-04-05
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Aaron Rosand, legendary virtuoso of the violin, rings in with his thoughts about downloading free music on the Web. Why this classical musician believes that only the original artist should have the rights to upload his or her works for distribution via the Internet.

I personally feel that the more music is made available online, the more fans it creates. What better way can be found to make it widely accessible and compelling than the Internet? That is why I am a supporter of downloadable music on the Web at sites such as MP3.com and Vitaminic.com, but not a supporter of Napster. In today's new economy, artist-initiated and approved free music sites like MP3.com are the most ethical online outlets for musicians who are concerned with Internet piracy and other unauthorized use of their music.

Copying technology has been available for nearly fifty years; the Internet has simply expanded it so much that it is now possible for individuals to make their pirated copies globally and immediately available. Without controls, it is easy to see the difficulties for the musician, and ultimately for the consumer as well. Yet I am hopeful that we can find a solution that will both satisfy the demand for immediate access to beautiful music while compensating the artist who has worked so hard to produce it.

This current controversy of free music via the Internet reminds me of a similar controversy that existed in the 1940s. At that time, radio stations were beginning to use recorded music and laying off their musicians. The LP was a technological advance that allowed uninterrupted performances over the air waves. In protest, James Petrillo, president of the American Federation of Musicians, tied up our country with a series of strikes that included the technical workers at radio stations as well as many other sympathetic unions outside of the entertainment industry.

A compromise was reached when the Music Performance Trust Fund was established in 1948. I don't know all the mechanics of the agreement, but I do know some of the gains and losses for fans and musicians. Many well-paid studio musicians found themselves unemployed, which was a minus. But, more music was exposed to the public at large and new audiences came to free and paid concerts by live musicians. At the time of this conflict, recordings and phonographs were a costly luxury. But continual development in the audio field has since made copying performances and recordings very accessible.

Not much has changed in terms of how musicians are paid today when compared to the late 1940s and early 1950s. We, the musicians, receive royalties on discs that are sold by the companies for whom we record. We do not receive any remuneration for discs that are pirated or duplicated. We never received compensation for tapes that copied radio broadcasts or discs duplicated after they were purchased. And now, with the advent of Napster, the threat to musicians looms larger than ever.

My own personal experience with the Internet has been very positive since I first became aware of its possibilities. While having my Web site (www.aaronrosand.com) designed in 1998, I learned then that I could offer streaming audio clips. With the support of my record label I have since cautiously ventured into the world of MP3s.

At first I offered one MP3 (Zigeunerweisen) for free download, and then a movement from a Beethoven sonata. People have downloaded my MP3s many hundreds of times, and sales of the related CDs have increased. As a result of this positive response I have release an entire CD of Brahms Hungarian Dances for sale at MP3.com. I am happy to report that a number of Internet radio stations are bringing this music to an audience that might otherwise not have found me.

The moral to this story is that I was the one who made the decision to post these MP3 files, and I firmly believe that the decision of whether to offer music for sale or for free online must be left to each artists. This is why I am a strong supporter of downloadable music on the web via such sites as MP3.com and Vitaminic.com, but not a supporter of Napster.

In conclusion, most forms of music, especially my chosen field of classical music must seek a younger audience than we have today. Large companies spend millions on free samples and advertising to lure customers to their products. A taste of free music, offered to someone who would otherwise not be exposed to it, is the most pleasant commercial I can think of.


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