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bootlegs

A long, drawn-out post I sent to the Sleater-Kinney fans email list:

I can't say I have a consistent position on MP3s, bootlegging, etc. I take each case as it comes. Certainly I have hundreds, actually probably thousands of songs that I've downloaded, usually one-shot items, oldies I'll never find anywhere else, or just that one song by some act whose other work doesn't interest me. I also buy CDs (and before that, tapes, and before that, vinyl ... I'm 49 years old, I've had lots of opportunities to buy them all!) ... I've got close to 1000 CDs now that I paid money for. I even have a few albums that I've burned from MP3s, the large majority of them albums I once bought on vinyl/tape. In any event, I "steal" music just like lots of people do nowadays. I don't have any real stance on this ... if the lead singer of the Silhouettes came up to me today and said "I see you've got a stolen copy of 'Get a Job" on your computer, how about giving me $5," I'd do it, but of course I'm not likely to run into the gentleman, if he's even alive.

Then there are artists like Bruce Springsteen, who have made hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of their careers. I've bought every official album Bruce ever released, some of them three times. I've also bought his videos and DVDs. And I've paid to see him in concert close to 30 times. Suffice to say, Bruce has gotten a lot of my money. I also own dozens of Bruce boots, and I am happy to spread the wealth and give Bruce boots to others. And it doesn't bother me to do this.

Ah, but then there's the Sleater-Kinneys of the world. To my mind, S-K operates in a different context than acts like Bruce. They make what appear to be conscious efforts to distance their art from the mainstream, which is not to say they are outside the commercial music world. But there are lots of things S-K could do that would increase their popularity but which might also compromise, to whatever extent, their artistic freedoms, and for the most part (not always, but generally) they err on the side of art rather than commerce. One result of this is that they aren't rolling in dough ... I remember interviewing Cadallaca (not exactly the same but close enough) for Punk Planet, and of the three band members, at the time only Corin could even make a living solely through her music. Because Sleater-Kinney do not operate in quite the same economic landscape as Bruce Springsteen (I keep using him as an example because he and S-K are my two fave musical acts), I assume they need my financial support more than other, more flush, acts.

So I have bought every S-K album, even the ones where I got pre-release review copies. I've attended 7 or 8 of their concerts, and at each show, I try to buy a shirt or a button or whatever. And while I would make a copy of an S-K boot for a friend, if they wanted one of the official releases, I'd say "go buy it, they deserve and need the money."

All of which is a long-winded way of saying it depends on the context, for me at least. I admit that I "steal" music online, but I also admit whenever I see entire S-K albums for download on Usenet, I feel bad. And even then, if One Beat showed up online, I'd download it in a second, so I could listen to it until the official release, which I'll then happily buy as my part in supporting one of the greatest musical acts in my lifetime.

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