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Tuesday, February 22, 2011 

"You can't look on that as a lost sale."

Neil Gaiman is a pretty wonderful writer, but this short video might be my favourite thing he's done. The model he talks about applies slightly more directly to books than to music, but I think it holds. Look at a band like Across Tundras and ask them whether they think offering up their albums has reduced sales.

Yes, there are kids who will download every album that comes out in a year, and yes there is a small minority who will never buy anything ever again (because they're assholes), but in general humans want to support the things they love. I am firmly, 100% in favour of artists getting paid for what they do (and as Warren Ellis says, you don't go and steal a house a builder bought), but I have never understood how passing things around before you buy them threatens that.

If I didn't get access to thousands of free books (via public library), I wouldn't have developed the interest to buy the ten books I do buy a year, and support the authors I do support. Music is exactly the same. If I didn't hear something for free on the radio, I would never buy it on an album. If you lend me an album by a band, I'll become their band and go to their shows. Even drug dealers know you gotta give some away before you get people hooked- that the music industry failed to get this with the advent of the Internet explains their current situation as much as anything.

Er... "become their fan"

Yeah, I think the library is a very good analogy here; I discovered a bunch of my favourite authors through there as well. And libraries are clearly awesome.

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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