Henry Rollins: The Column! Henry's Thoughts on When It's Alright to Download Music (Yes, Even His Own)
[The one and only Henry Rollins contributes a weekly column and far-reaching reportage to the music section of the LA Weekly. Look for your weekly Henry Rollins fix right here on West Coast Sound every week and make sure to tune in to Henry's KCRW radio show every Saturday evening, or online, or as a podcast, or however else you decided to listen to the most eclectic DJ on LA's airwaves.
This installment includes Henry's surprising thoughts on downloading music. And come back for the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com
To Download or Not to Download
The memories I have of walking through the snow to the record store, just to hold that way-too-expensive import record in my hands and stare at it, only to put it back in the bin and walk home again, stay with me to this day.
Nowadays, for many, a song is just a file that can (often with little effort) be downloaded for free and stored on a cellphone. It's just a little thing that you found, not music as much as a cyber-sneeze that you are borrowing in perpetuity.
Ah, ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, as some guy with different-colored eyes once said.
If you have been paying even the slightest amount of attention, you will no doubt agree that many aspects of music have changed radically in a very short amount of time.
One could entertain many good, spirited and energetic discussions as to when these changes started to transpire. The advent of music videos and the channels that carried them certainly changed the way we consider music. Popular music quickly transformed from a medium that we listened to into one that we watched. Suddenly, many bands had to learn to dance or at least look good in front of a camera. These new requirements have left us with some of the most hilarious viewing available. Don't laugh too cruelly -- I am in some of those. [Ed.'s note: You might wanna Google "The Whole Truth" by Wartime. (Don't hurt us, Henry. It's pretty awesome, actually!)]
It is true that there are a lot more good-looking people than those who are musically gifted. The music industry jumped onto this fact and started signing people whom the camera loved, and let already overworked studio engineers handle the unglamorous chores of pitch-correcting, sampling and bringing in pro hitters to prop up these gorgeous cash calves.
Oh, the stories I could tell you about records you may very well own.
There are the famous frauds like Milli Vanilli, but there are so many bands that don't always play on their own records, who have their drum tracks recut for radio beat fascism and their vocals so overhauled into manipulated sweetness that the bleeding edge of technology has nearly exsanguinated more than a few times.
The compact disc certainly made music more portable and brought down the cost of consuming music as well. The advent of the CD also brought the frequency requirement for excellence down several notches; this, in my opinion, is the beginning of the slide down the steep and slippery slope into the trench in which many of us currently wallow.
In the last few years, a combination of amazing technology and incredible access has not only changed the way music is delivered but also the way many of us regard and value music.
I get letters from people who tell me that they have downloaded all of my records for free and asking me what I think about that. I always tell them that I would rather be heard than paid, which is true, but I wouldn't mind both.
While it holds absolutely no interest for me to go after anyone who freely downloads my material, I am quite aware that all is not right.