Letters 05-25-2000

How strong is an opinion if that opinion was formed prior to an experience? Instead of ripping us before seeing what we are about, Mehr should come in on a Friday night, when the vibe here is incredible and the crowd is electric. Three thousand people think we're pretty cool, and we always have room for one more. Mehr only has to call us to get on our guest list.

Next time, we may not be as eager to support live music. And every band in the area, from a garage band practicing in Gilbert to Megadeth, has one person to thank: Bob Mehr.

Brian Coffey
Thomas Madgewick
Gerard Hockenberry
David May
Charles Eisenstein
Management team of Have a Nice Day Cafe

Bob Mehr Responds: I did not prejudge your establishment. I made a pair of visits to the Have a Nice Day Cafe (both for professional reasons) prior the Music Showcase. So my judgment was not an uninformed one, nor was it based solely on my Showcase experience. Some careful reading of my piece would have revealed that my ultimate assessment of your establishment was that it had the best sound of any of the venues and thus was an ideal place for live music.

Anonymous Knave

Remaining nameless: Even though Jeff Ofstedahl may share his views, he has at least had the courage to admit to being HIV-positive and is an advocate of safer sex. He also is willing to put his name behind his words, unlike some people who feel the need to try to libel a longtime advocate of the community. The person who attacked him in your May 11 Letters page is a coward for not standing behind what he said, and so is anyone who agrees with that person.

Jeff Adler
Phoenix

Battle Royalty

MP3s A-OK: Ten thousand years ago, man first unleashed the power of song, and later, of organized music. When this occurred, the furthest thing from his mind was a royalty payment ("Pirates of the Cyberspace," Brian Smith, May 11).

The recent development and rise of popularity of the MP3 format should be a tremendous wake-up call to the recording industry. It is not that "teen geeks" are unwilling to pay for CDs and cassettes; it is that they are tired of paying upward of $14 for a CD that cost a record label no more than $1 or $2 to produce, an absurd and unheard-of markup.

Yes, Lou Reed and many other artists do deserve to get paid for their work, but a large part of my MP3 catalogue consists of out-of-print recordings, and I would not be able to find them elsewhere. In the best case, the average artist gets only about 25 cents from a $15 CD.

How fair is the Recording Industry Association of America to its artists? If Lou Reed's catalogue is out of print, how else is anyone going to be able to hear his music, and how will he see any royalty? We aren't taking food out of his kid's mouth, we are taking it out of the pockets of the bloated old music industry and building a new one.

The issue is not that artists aren't getting paid (ask the members of Metallica if their royalty checks have gotten any smaller since the start-up of Napster); it's that the industry is searching for a copy-proof medium. LPs, cassettes and CDs are not copy-proof, and the industry hates this. Record companies have long tolerated (grudgingly) the taping of tracks from the radio and copying of LPs for personal use.

Smith mentions that music in the MP3 download process becomes no more than "digital information" and "product." This truly only became the case in 1981 when MTV debuted; a band's success was determined by how many viewers hung around to watch the Pepsi commercial after the video.

Who decides who is worthy of the big MTV push: the fan buying the CD that can cost as much as three hours' pay, or the fat, out-of-touch industry bean counter, who doesn't know that Boz Scaggs is no longer popular? I say we put that decision in the consumers' hands. I and others like me are buying. We should decide how, where, when and from whom we are buying.

Smith mentioned the Beastie Boys. It's a well-known fact to Beastie and MP3 fans that the Beasties made their most recent album Hello Nastyavailable in a more raw format for free download prior to its release last year. The indie rock band Ween recently commented on the availability of its new album White Pepper on Napster by saying: "We're not sure how we feel about that, but we aren't going to go suing anybody."

The Beasties' own record label made the group take all its MP3 files down, as it was in violation of their contract. Ween recently released a double live CD called Paintin' the Town Brownon Elektra Records. The band originally wanted to release it in MP3 format only as a thank you to its hard-core fans on the Internet, who avidly listen to their 24-hour MP3 shoutcast station weenradio.com, where the material from every album, and nearly every show, can be had for free, 24-7. Music ceases to be an art form and becomes a commodity only when the focus becomes "how much money is it making?". Culture cannot be owned, no matter the price.

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