One of my classmate’s posts that I thought was interesting this week was this one on Maggiehee. In it, she talks about her CD spending habits have changed over the years through a story about a K-Pop star she is a big fan of, named Jay Chou.
As the blog says, eastern Asia is full of piracy and has been since a long time before things like the Pirate Bay made copyright infringement so mainstream. Young students want to buy Chou’s CDs to show support for him, but even this action is hard to do because so many of his CDs are pirated versions sold by bootleggers, and the money will never get to him. But even though she tried her best to buy the real thing, as Chou became more and more famous, his CDs became more and more expensive. At a certain point, she concluded that the price was too high and stopped buying; even though she still liked the music, she says she is “not really his fan any more.”
This is interesting because it points out how capitalism has changed the language of how we express liking or admiring a person/their work. In capitalism, it doesn’t matter whether we like something if there hasn’t been an exchange of money. I’m sure a lot of artists still appreciate when people like their work, or respond to it, or create something else out of it (like a remix), but there is also a sense that a “true fan” is one who buys the albums, the merchandise and pays to see them live.
The maggiehee blog post ends with a quote from Condry (2004): “If music is just a commodity, consumers will get it as cheaply as they can. If music is the art and lifeblood of a group they care about, fans will support that group” (259). I find it funny that spending money for art is now the romantic, idealistic response, and freely distributing it for all to enjoy on their own terms is the evil. I feel like these terms can be a clumsy way of trying to understand ethics in the language of capitalism; aside from giving to charity, I just don’t most people simply do not take morality into account when they spend their money, whether it’s clothes made in a sweatshop, or buying at Walmart instead of a small business, or downloading a warehouse worth of music without paying a dollar.
Condry, Ian. (2004). Cultures of Music Piracy: An Ethnographic Comparison of the US and Japan. International Journal of Cultural Studies. 7 (3), pg. 343-363