Hey there, indie artist. I just read your blog post about how you wish people wouldn’t pirate your music. Then I listened to the included free track which, evoking shades of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” mused about a future world where there were no more mean, nasty pirates. And I gotta say, I kind of feel bad. Not bad as in guilty, no. Bad as in I feel like a good friend just slapped me in the face.
I get it that you need to eat. I do too. That’s kind of why I pirate your stuff instead of paying you for it. That $9 I didn’t spend on your album went toward my lunch. Yeah, I know, $9 for lunch? It’s pretty ridiculous. The price of food is out of control these days, especially when you’re the underclass living in the most expensive part of the country.
It’s not like I’m on government assistance or anything. I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because I’ve never been able to find work long enough to qualify. They don’t give you unemployment unless you work full-time, you know, and the world’s not exactly flush with full-time jobs for 4.0 GPA graduates with master’s degrees. Let alone people who didn’t make it through college. I’m lucky if I can find an odd job; forget part-time employment. But at least I’m not a parasite mooching off your tax dollars by taking welfare. I just mooch off of my family, who are postponing their well-deserved retirement to make sure I don’t die.
Now, I suppose I could sell my laptop (a gift), or my smartphone (saved up for it back when I could get minimum wage work), and replace them with less expensive devices with which to play your music. I’d then be able to afford to pay the asking price for your album. After that I’d continue to be stuck living paycheck-to-paycheck, with the added frustration of having a less capable piece of technology to distract myself from the anxiety of my existence.
See, that’s what I was actually doing by pirating your album. I love your music. It really speaks to me, it makes me smile, and it reminds me on days when I’m feeling hopeless that there’s still hope in the world. Or at least it did. Now when I listen to your (fantastic, revolutionary, groundbreaking) album, I just feel like you’re mad at me. Every soulful note, every groovy guitar lick, just has this added undercurrent of sarcasm and contempt to it. “Fine,” you’re saying to me, “I’ll play you some music, you dirty pirate.” With that one angry blog post, you ceased to be someone who could give me a fleeting moment of joy every day, and turned into yet another obnoxious voice putting me down for being a low-income “selfish parasite who doesn’t pull his own weight.”
Look, if it’s really that big a deal, I’ll send you ten bucks once I can spare some after paying for food, for gas, for my phone bill, for co-pays at the doctor, for my medication, and for any other emergency expenses that crop up from time to time. Though I’m probably just going to delete your album from my library since it just kind of bums me out to listen to it now. The point is, I don’t see how this situation has benefited either of us.
Maybe the reason you’re so frustrated with pirates is because you’re in a similar situation to mine. I’m sorry. I really don’t want to make you feel ripped off, or like I’m contributing to your problem. But there really isn’t that much I can do to help you. If I had some money to spare I would have given it to you without you even asking me for it; your music is just that good. And I like you. Well, liked you. Okay, that’s a bit harsh. I’m just disappointed, is all. And hurt. I’ll probably get over it eventually and get into your music again. You’re just so talented.
But hey, can I offer you some advice? Since clearly your business isn’t working out as well as you’d like, which is why you’re getting frustrated? If you’re trying to get more people to give you money, maybe don’t play the guilt trip angle. Especially because most of the people you’re making feel guilty are probably struggling, just like — well — everyone else on the planet right now. Just keep getting people to like you, and ask them to give what they can.
Come to think of it I could probably find, like, a dollar? Two dollars? I might be able to spare that much. Where’s your donation button? Do you have a Kickstarter I could give to? PayPal address? Bitcoin address? Can I Flattr you?
Anyway. You’re not a record label. I expect to be treated like dirt by record labels. You’re a cool person who I saw live on stage at a bar, and then we talked for a while after the show. So I thought maybe there was an understanding. I hope there still is.
This article is also available in other languages: Hungarian.