A few years ago I bought an iPod. Latest versions of the iPod have a cool feature: they will display the cover art for any album they recognize from the iTunes library. When I exported Gordon, I noticed that the iPod didn't distinguish it from the albums I'd bought. Unlike the packaging that came with my burned CD, the digital version proudly displayed a full-color cover.
I started to feel a little guilty.
To a certain extent, I'm OK with filesharing and copying. If I listen to a CD that someone has burned for me, or a song someone has e-mailed to me, I don't necessarily feel obligated to pay. Maybe I'll discover that I don't like the album or song. In that case I'll never listen to it again, and the artist is no worse off than if I'd never listened at all.
But I consider myself to be on the honor system. If I like the album or song enough for repeated plays, I need to fork out money for it.
So, Gordon. It was a good album. I liked it. It wasn't too late to buy it and make things right. I stopped into a Zia's some time later and found Barenaked Ladies CDs for sale. Yay! Except ...
I had a choice. I could buy a new CD for $17, or a used CD for much less—maybe around $9.
Under normal circumstances I would have just grabbed the cheaper one. But now I had a dilemma on my hands. The whole point of this venture was to give BNL my money. If I bought the used CD, they wouldn't see a cent of it.
That left the $17 new CD, which ... no. Gordon came out in 1992. It had stopped being new well before my friend burned it for me. $17 is a lot to pay for an eight-year-old album. I wanted to do the right thing, but I wasn't about to let the label gouge me either.
I walked out of Zia's with no CD in hand and very confused.
* * *
My recent writings about unauthorized downloading got me thinking about the Gordon situation. (No, I still haven't gotten around to buying a reasonably priced copy of their CD). Am I the only person who has faced this sort of thing? Maybe there are a lot of music lovers who would be happy to pay artists for tracks they've downloaded, but haven't gotten around to it ... and they already have the music, so there's no point in obtaining it again.
Then I thought, what if there were a convenient way?
Here's my idea. Build a site that uses Paypal or Paypal-like technology. Allow artists to register. Users could go to the site, find the artist they wanted to pay, and donate whatever they chose. They could do this to pay for music they downloaded, or just to support the band.
Users' names could be displayed (unless they wished to remain anonymous), along with messages to the artists.
We could call it Tip Jar. www.tipjar.com is taken, but it shouldn't be hard to come up with a good related domain name.
Would this pay for every unauthorized download? Doubtful. But it would be a step in the right direction, and the legal solutions haven't particularly worked. The goal is to develop a culture in which people recognize the value of supporting the artists they listen to, and to give them an easy way to do that.
I am not a programmer. If you'd like to take this idea and run with it, be my guest.
You can tip me for the idea when the site is up and running.