Justify My Love

Madonna is being innovative again.

“A string of Madonna fans have contacted dotmusic in recent days having accessed dummy copies of the album on ‘illegal’ sites and been confronted with a foul-mouthed tirade.

“According to their reports each track is blank, save for the Queen of Pop shouting: “What the f*ck do you think you’re doing!””

While Madonna has hardly been a moral paragon the last twenty years, I guess her wallet is where she draws the line. 🙂

OK, this audience is probably not a bastion of Madonna fans, but it is the tactic, not the tactician, that’s important.

What if other artists copy Madonna on copying?

What if one of these days, you hear your favorite artist saying, “What the [expletive] do you think you’re doing?” to you? Would “Please don’t do this, you’re hurting me” do any better?

Raising the Hassle Level

This is an attempt to apply Gresham’s Law to MP3ing. Can the bad drive out the good? It’s meant to discourage it by raising the hassle factor and increasing the bad to good ratio.

If you listen MP3s from an artist, and find him and her cursing at you more often than singing to you (true, you may not be able to tell the difference sometimes these days), you might not take as much, or just stop altogether.

Would it?

Will Mules Breed?

There’s one big disadvantage to this approach. Once someone listens to the decoy; it becomes less likely that decoy will be available for further propagation. Bad copies are about as sterile as mules.

However, file-stealing is hardly an eqalitarian “sharing” activity in practice. Relatively few give, most leech.

If the relative few listen first, fence later, this won’t do very much because the mule won’t breed. However, since you can download a lot faster than you can listen, this is likely to slow down the relative few at least a bit.

Madonna may be against the war in Iraq, but she’s launched her own preemptive strike, with decoys being launched before any pre-release copies are available. Perhaps people burned will be gunshy about taking “real” copies later.

Secondary Infections

Provided at least some primary fencers don’t take care, the decoys will spread themselves out. What happens next will be interesting.

The ones more dedicated to the particular artist or at least the art of stealing will no doubt find out quickly that they have something bogus. Unless they’re lazy and just don’t delete the decoy, they won’t spread it.

It will be the less dedicated and interested who are the real target for this; those who don’t listen right away and those who don’t keep up with events.

Then again, they’re the ones most likely to leech and least likely to “share.”

Does Shame Work Anymore?

While it’s pretty ironic that Madonna is trying to shame people into being good, you have to have a moral conscience on the particular subject to be shamed. I don’t know if most people doing this have that.

The impression I’ve gotten is that most people who do this deep down inside have a little voice telling them it’s wrong, but they’ve been able to drown it out. Relatively few seem to have no voice at all (and those are the ones I find scary).

Will the artist’s voice be enough to amplify the little voice inside? In some cases, yes, but in general, I rather doubt it.

The Sneaky Way To Do This

Giving the finger orally to “fans” may be deemed too antagonizing by many artists. I doubt many will do exactly what Madonna did, but they do have a sneaky alternative.

A pretty significant proportion of MP3s are lousy, anyway. They don’t work at all, or half work, or don’t work quite right, or something.

Artists may find it more discreet to just put out dysfunctional or subfunctional copies of their songs to try to crowd out the good ones. After all, there are already plenty of those around, how is someone supposed to tell the difference between incompetence and sabotage?

Low-quality recordings are another option. If people treat MP3s like a personal radio, let the songs sound that way, too.

Will artists do this? Maybe they already are.


I can’t wait to see the complaints about this practice. This will be like shoplifting something, then going back to the store to complain that the box you stole was empty. If that isn’t retardation on parade, I don’t know what is.

Getting From Permanent To Ephemeral: The Carrot

Until digitalization and the Internet, music was treated as a thing, an asset. There wasn’t any other choice in the matter, you needed a thing to transmit the music.

Now the thing isn’t so necessary anymore. Music nowadays can be more like electricity, a resource and service to use rather than an asset you keep.

The MP3ers may have a point when they say that music should be priced more like electricity than like a CD.

However, electricity isn’t free, either.

In the developed world, people pay for electricity, either directly to the utility company, or indirectly through increased rent. A relative few don’t pay, but they get cut off eventually. This provides incentive to pay, and the electrical industry is very solid and reliable as a result.

In many Third World countries, though, people often find electricity to be an entitlement, and there are many places where you’re considered silly for paying your electric bill. The electric companies in those places are restricted legally and politically from cutting people off.

Guess who ends up with lousy, sporadic electrical service?

The music industry is shifting towards treating music more like a utility. They are moving with the times.

Are you? Will you do the responsible thing, or are you no different from those Third Worlders when it comes to actually paying for this?

Getting From Permanent To Ephemeral: The Stick

The U.S. Congress has not yet been too active in getting government into the picture; they’ve had things like war and tax cuts to worry about. But don’t worry, they haven’t forgotten you.

In the meantime, expect the music industry to treat MP3ing much like American society is treating smokers these days; do whatever they can it make the activity harder and harder; this just being the latest example.

Email Ed

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