05 August 2008

BitTorrent Blues

I could compose a big song and dance about all the good reasons I got sucked into BitTorrent, but the truth is I was curious and impatient and frustrated and spiteful. I did it because I could scratch itches with it, even though I am concerned about how it affects artists, and that troubles me.

The first torrent was a long out of print and completely unavailable album, that the artist had told me to grab where I could get it. I managed to get a client and find a thing to click on and after a while I had the album.

Because I am me, I wanted to understand the mechanics of the filesharing system better, so I read a bit and poked around in my client to see what the settings did. And then, because night will follow day, I downloaded another torrent so I could watch the pieces assemble and all.

And then I wanted one single track from an album that is not available for download, from an album that is sold at a premium above the usual prices, from an artist I don't want except for that one track anyway. I was working against a deadline and I was irritated and a clicked up a "Take That Bwahaha" torrent download.

And then I wanted to get two albums right away before I got paid again. By then it was easy to do it, technically and morally, so I just did.

Of course, because I am still me, I was stewing about this all the time and knew I was falling below the standards I set for myself for reasons that were not worth the hit points. I bought proper copies of the three albums I had downloaded through P2P because it was cheap and easy. (The greedy asshat who wanted to force me to pay double for his crappy album is still stiffed, though. Bwahaha.)

There is a lesson in there about the market and the future of music, but that's another day's rant.

What pains me now is seeding. After the first download and my tardy homework on the torrent system, I realized that it is a pay-it-forward system. You get a torrent and then you serve as a new source for it, for the benefit of the others down the line who want the download. That's the deal. Plenty of people stiff this system, too, but I knew going in what the devil's deal is.

Now my client is sitting here night and day happily sending off bits and pieces of these albums. I could just cut it off. I've probably sent off enough to balance out what I got. Having it sitting here, though, reminds me to think about filesharing, which is the center of the questions that started me writing this blog in the first place.

How do people find new music now? How do they get it? How do the artists get it out to people? Who is paying for production and distribution now? What has gotten better with the changes and what has gotten worse? Better and worse for who? How is the new system going get the artists paid? What is a fair price for music now?

I still can't answer those questions well enough to satsify me, but I think I have some ideas on "Why do we see so many EPs these days?" The slightly harder question that I am still thinking about is "What is the optimal length of an EP so that it will satsify that requirement?" Stay tuned.

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