Jeff Golden, Getty Images Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David…
- Posted on Jun 19th 2012 2:50PM by Jason MacNeil
On Saturday (June 16), White posted a lengthy blog post entitled "I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With" where she admitted having an iTunes library of more than 11,000 songs but having "only bought 15CDs in my lifetime."
"As I've grown up, I've come to realize the gravity of what file-sharing means to the musicians I love," she wrote. "I can't support them with concert tickets and T-shirts alone. But I honestly don't think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience."
White also implied the responsibility lay with governments and large corporations, not fans, to solve the problem of artists not being compensated.
On Monday, Lowery -- who has taught college students the music industry's economics for the last two years at the University of Georgia -- replied to White. Lowery praised White for admitting what she did, but said "you are not just ripping off the record labels, but you are directly ripping off the artist and songwriters whose music you 'don't buy.'"
Using stats, Lowery stated that of the 75,000 albums released in 2010, only "2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies" with 1,000 of them selling over 10,000 units. The magic number of 10,000 is where Lowery says "independent artists begin to go into the black on professional album production, marketing and promotion."
While not directly saying illegal downloading was the cause of their deaths, Lowery pointed to the suicides of Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous and singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt to "illustrate that 'small' personal decisions have very real consequences, particularly when millions of people make the decision not to compensate artists they supposedly 'love.'"
Lowery also pointed out today's generation will spend money on expensive technologies and internet providers, but not music.
"Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!
"On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation," Lowery said. "Except for one thing. Artist rights."
Finally Lowery -- who calculated White owed approximately $2,100 to artists in order to "ethically and morally 'get right'" -- said he'd match her donation up to $500 if she decided to donate to organizations like Sweet Relief, Music Cares or the American Heart Association. The latter was because White admitted being a huge Alex Chilton and Big Star fan. Chilton died of a heart attack in 2010.
Several other musicians responded quickly after the posting and began retweeting links to Lowery's letter, some giving huge praise, but a few criticizing him in some respects.
Kathleen Edwards took to her Facebook page to give support. "David Lowery, thank you for saying what needs to be said," she wrote. "I am so grateful to you, I teared up reading this." Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard said the letter blew holes in every argument for not paying for music, while Stars singer Torquil Campbell tweeted it was "THE statement on why you should pay for the music you listen to."
Meanwhile Erin McKeown criticized Lowery in some respects, especially objecting to the "implied connection" illegal downloading or file-sharing had with the deaths of Chesnutt and Linkous. "I understand they were friends of Lowery's, and that their deaths were certainly needless and complicated, but in the context of the argument he's making, it felt too heavy-handed and shaming, which in general, admirably, he did not to do Emily," she said.
"Let me say it again, artists must generate their own solutions," McKeown wrote. "Artists music take the lead on these issues."
Regardless of what side of the issue one stands on, the letters of White and Lowery have certainly brought the issue to the forefront again.