Recently, The Great Southern Brainfart released an interview with Rob Caggiano of Anthrax that included, among other things, his displeasure with the technology in music purchasing these days, as well as the kids’ lack of respect for music.
Caggiano: “This new generation of kids just doesn’t seem to respect music. They don’t respect it as an art form like they did years ago. To these young kids, they don’t understand the concept that this is our lives. This is our career and it costs a lot of money to make a good record. When you go on the computer and hit a fucking button and download something for free you’re stealing, but the kids don’t realize that.”
While I understand where his frustration is coming from and why it is being channeled in this manner, I horribly disagree with his statement about the lack of respect that he sees, as I think it is quite the opposite. Downloading without purchasing can certainly be a slap in the face to a hardworking career musician. I firmly admit that I’m just as guilty of downloading as the next guy. However the point that I feel he is missing is that this is the new tape trading and the way that fans these days sample music.
Put yourself in the shoes of the average 15 year old up and coming metal fan. You probably don’t have a job and your parents probably aren’t going to shell out $20 each week for you to go score a new CD somewhere which is filled with music that the parents probably don’t like. I’m certainly thankful to have understanding and liberal enough parents that didn’t put a halt to my metal indulgences, but I did certainly have that money problem as a high school student. So how did I explore all of this metal that I came to love? I dubbed them off on to cassette tapes, and this led to a solid collection of mix tapes that I created with the help of my good friend John Brown (of Monastat 7 fame).
At the age of 16 or 17, my monetary resources were certainly limited. I had an awesome circle of older metalhead friends that turned me on to tons of new music during my teenage years, however, I didn’t have the money to go out and buy a new CD each time I was turned on to a new band. So I had a practice of borrowing their albums, and putting my favorite songs onto blank cassette tapes using my stereo, so I could have some tunes for my car. (This was the late 90s, and the best available technology for such an endeavor.)
Most people don’t consider that stealing, but fast forward to today’s technology. How is it that a young metal fan with limited resources would explore new bands? The internet and downloading, pure and simple. The argument over whether or not it is stealing is not what I’m trying to get into, as that’s an argument all to itself. But what will this young metalhead do with the mp3s that are downloaded? They’re going to upload them onto a player and rock out endlessly and recommend these tunes to all of their friends. Furthermore, when these bands hit the nearby cities on tour, those same kids will no doubt be there in the crowd rocking out and blowing money at the merchandise tables. I would argue that these people downloading music for free are probably the same people paying $30 for a shirt at concerts, and the band gets a chunk of that in addition to the ticket price.
But Caggiano goes further: “There are barely even any record stores left anymore … I don’t even know where to go. I mean, WalMart carries music, but they don’t carry the music I want. Best Buy. Same shit. It’s all online. These days I buy most of my shit on iTunes.”
This statement I agree with, and I’m just as frustrated at buying albums these days. But as a fan of underground metal, would I even entertain the thought of going to WalMart for an extreme metal album? Hell no. Would I go to Best Buy for an extreme metal album? Possibly, as Best Buy does what they can to cater to that audience. Where do I see the happy medium? Buying on the internet. Being the kinesthetic person I am, I love to have a tangible album in my hand. I love putting on my headphone and diving into a new album with the packaging and artwork in my hands, reading the liner notes and studying every aspect of this album.
But do I buy anything on iTunes? Fuck no. The reason why is the reason that I’m into underground metal; I don’t buy into corporate bullshit. My money is not going to line the pockets of Apple, who are only concerned with supplying the latest Lady Gaga track to 30 million people worldwide. I would much rather my money go to an independent online music dealer that would appreciate the business more, or to even buy from a label’s webshop directly since there’s a better shot of the band seeing the affects of that.
So a musician like Rob Caggiano is certainly in a position to speak of the ills of illegal downloading, but he’s also in a position to rally metalheads to hunt down and seek out different avenues of buying tangible albums from retailers who specifically cater to these fans. Sure you can get on Amazon and order the new Goatwhore album set to come out this week. But better yet, you can get on Metal Blade’s website and buy this album straight from the source for a cheaper price. Yes, I miss going to the independent record store and browsing through the stacks to find what I’m looking for, but I come to realization that this is generally going to have to be done online. I can get any album instantly from iTunes, but I won’t have the artwork and packaging. I’m an impatient person, but to gain something I truly love (like an album), I would certainly wait the week or so to get the album than to click a few buttons and get it instantly. I might complain about the wait, but I won’t complain about the quality or lack of packaging.
I certainly see the point that Caggiano is trying to make, but making a general statement that “kids don’t respect music” is dead wrong. Fans of any band respect the hard work and dedication that is exhibited in the albums and tours bands work for. The respect is shown by fans showing up to the gigs, paying for the ticket, buying a shirt, and rocking out in the crowd when said favorite band hits the stage. Furthermore, this same respect is blatantly obvious when this concert going fan goes to an instrument store to pick up an instrument with the hopes of following in the footsteps of their musical idols. If there was any lack of respect in what Caggiano has to say, it is that he is not giving music fans the credit they deserve.
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