Really thoughtful and knowledgeable letter about music and illegal downloading on the internet. Lowery is the the lead singer of “Camper Van Beethoven” and “Cracker.”

The Trichordist

Recently Emily White, an intern at NPR All Songs Considered and GM of what appears to be her college radio station, wrote a post on the NPR blog in which she acknowledged that while she had 11,000 songs in her music library, she’s only paid for 15 CDs in her life. Our intention is not to embarrass or shame her. We believe young people like Emily White who are fully engaged in the music scene are the artist’s biggest allies. We also believe–for reasons we’ll get into–that she has been been badly misinformed by the Free Culture movement. We only ask the opportunity to present a countervailing viewpoint.


My intention here is not to shame you or embarrass you. I believe you are already on the side of musicians and artists and you are just grappling with how to do the right thing. I applaud your courage in admitting…

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8 thoughts on “

  1. chrisharrow June 19, 2012 / 8:31 pm

    This is superb, Ross.
    When you love music and are on a tight budget, I understand how tempting it can be to download songs. Eventually you begin to rationalize free downloading as the “new right”. But … when you fail to consider anyone but yourself, you fail to realize that this habit of not paying for music, in the end, hurts only the artists you purport to support.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • J Ross Peters June 20, 2012 / 10:20 pm

      Thanks for this, Chris. This piece as well as (obviously) the original NPR piece has generated a great deal of buzz, and Lowery’s has received its full share of criticism. It is a fascinating topic.

  2. John Burk June 19, 2012 / 10:13 pm

    This could be part of an excellent curriculum on digital citizenship.

    • J Ross Peters June 20, 2012 / 10:24 pm

      A good thought…I might use this, as well as the piece that prompted it AND some of the criticism that has been directed at the piece I posted in my English 11 class at the very beginning of the year as a problem-based learning exercise seeking to determine what is right and what actions we would recommend for our own school community.

  3. admiral17 June 20, 2012 / 6:15 am

    Thanks for sharing. I wonder how many music lovers of the “digital generation” have ever sat in a dark, dingy, beer-soaked bar listening to a struggling musician and then put their share of the next pitcher in the hat or the Mason jar? Love the music; pay the freight!

    • J Ross Peters June 20, 2012 / 10:27 pm

      The disconnect represented in loving the music and at the same time, the aversion to supporting it fairly is disconcerting, and unfortunately, for our friends who try to play for at least part of their living, damaging.

  4. Chuck Beal June 21, 2012 / 10:06 am

    I suspect Lowery’s intent was to create discussion on this issue that would hopefully inform many others of what is happening. I think he succeeded.

    • J Ross Peters June 21, 2012 / 10:31 pm

      I think you are right, Chuck…I bet even he is shocked by the extent to which his letter went viral.

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