Input\Output Podcast: David Lowery and the Future of Artists’ Rights

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In this episode of Input\Output, Geoff and Eli talk to David Lowery, the former frontman for Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, who is now an economics professor at the University of Georgia.

David Lowery

Last summer, Lowrey wrote an open letter to Emily White, an NPR intern who claimed to have had almost 12,000 songs in her personal library, but to only have paid for just over a dozen albums. This letter generated a firestorm of attention, drawing upwards of a half million visits a day to Lowrey’s artists’-rights blog The Trichordist.

As a label-owner, econ professor, a former “quant” for the financial sector, and a platinum-selling musician with indie cred and a cult following, Lowery brings a singular perspective to the business of music.

In this podcast — the first in a 3-part series where Geoff and Eli talk to experts about copyright and intellectual property in the 21st century — Lowery offers some compelling ideas about how we got where we are, and where the industry is headed next.

Download or listen to the podcast below!

Input\Output Podcast is produced by Justin Colletti for SonicScoop.

  • Aron Vietti

    Copyright is an artificial and so is ownership of your work. The natural right is that of the commons, the moment your work is released to the public it is at least partially owned by every person exposed to it. Should I need to pay a license if I hum or sing a tune that I’ve heard live, or that I’ve transcribed from memory and played back on my piano? I’m OK with artists getting paid for performances, for recordings and for sheet music settings. I’m not OK with the ability to transfer ownership of the work to a non creator, to have copyright last longer that a persons life and for the commons to be denied the use of their culture. Your right to get paid is not stronger than my right to experience, create derivative works and share my culture and life.

  • Matt L

    I understand this from both sides. Sharing is a fairly intrinsic thing to cultures. Once the commons get a hold of something they begin sharing. However, before the last 15-20 years there was a physical “thing” to share, which in turn limited the space the or culture that could share it. Now there is no physicality to share. The problem lies in that everyone can share the same “thing” and claim partial cultural ownership. Basically they get something for nothing and get something by being in proximity of the sharer on a mass scale. The artist/s don’t get anything for this sharing other than notoriety and increased visibility, which can fiscally be both good and bad. What’s at stake here is the “normal” way of doing business. People had to buy in order to share before. People could borrow, but that doesn’t happen now. People don’t need to buy anything in order to borrow. Mostly the artist suffers from this. I’ve known plenty of musicians who only were known on a local level to made a living selling their wares locally. Maybe with greater cultural exposure they would get more opportunity to perform and be paid to do so. Maybe not. It’s pretty vexing because I believe artists do deserve compensation, and I believe that their art needs to get shared.

  • Ted Niceley

    Hard to believe the concept is so hard for many to grasp.

    The song is like a bag of M&Ms. Would you go steal one and expect not to pay “a price” for the crime or such?

  • yerboy

    Right on Ted-ster!

    I’d add to that the idea that non-creators’ have no role, economic or otherwise is ridiculous. You may not have written House of GVSB but the recording certainly turned out the way it did because of your contribution, and if the band are amenable, you should share in the results. So should the company that paid for the recordings in the first place.

    I also don’t understand the idea that an idea or a song belongs to everyone from the minute it comes out of your mouth or hits the tape. That ought to be by choice not “natural right.” While there’s no reason every creative endeavor needs to be for profit, we should certainly have the option of attempting to do so without worrying about some person taking our hard work for free.

    And all things being equal, I’d just as soon as have the people who like a piece of work be the ones who pay for it.