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Editor's Note: Rocker Ken Tamplin sent us this article - his thoughts on illegally downloading music free from the Internet - several months ago. We meant to post it immediately, but one thing led to another and, unfortunately, the article fell through the proverbial cracks.

Now, with the record companies threatening to sue individual users for the practice of downloading and with artists the likes of Michael Jackson speaking out against legislature making it a felony to illegally download music, it seemed like now would be a good time to get Mr. Tamplin's words to the public.

Artist / Composer KEN TAMPLIN Answers the Question

by Ken Tamplin

Many media outlets keep asking me this question that I have skirted far too long regarding whether or not it is morally unethical to download music for free via the internet.

I realize I may be slitting my own throat here goes:

Having music as my profession, do I feel "ripped off" when someone steals my music and downloads it for free, sticking me with the bill of writing, producing, performing and manufacturing this music? You bet 'cha.

Am I guilty myself? You bet 'cha.

So what do I do with this hypocrisy and apparent conflict of interest within myself?

Let me put it this way:

Since the beginning of recorded music, music groups have been ripped off blind of their royalties by their own record companies, managers and producers since day one.

Isn't it a bit ironic (for the most part) that these "record label thieves" are the very same record executives that are shouting "stop thief!" when pointing to mp3 downloaders while their own hand is in the till? (this doesn't in any way excuse the downloader).

In addition, they have had a monopoly on the music industry far too long, stifling considerable talent predicated on the fact that these artists are no longer under the age of 21 and have therefore become irrelevant and passť. The Internet does provide for these artists).

Now a technology comes along that they can't get their arms around and yet, this same technology through the internet, has provided the greatest vehicle for media expansion available. Again, ironic. (I must confess that it surprises me that an industry that prides itself and, in fact, makes its living on anticipating trends in media, was unable to anticipate trends in the very  technology that carries their media).

For the most part, you can find things that have been long out of print that these labels weren't even offering (could be a great source for revenue, I might add).

So what do we do? Sue our fans like Metallica considered?

Take college boys to jail for copyright infringement?

Why doesn't the industry embrace the technology and come up with interesting, innovative ways to keep the "buying public" interested in buying, or do they need someone creative to do that for them as well?

Sure, that's it. Get one of these creative thinking artists or software designers to come up with a technology so they can steal the idea or intimidate them out of business to absorb the idea like any good business mogul would do.

You see, then it's legal.

Oh, Ken, you sound like you have an axe to grind. Actually, not really. I don't make my living in the record industry anymore, I make my money in the film industry (who, by the way, will be next in line for infringement). I am just simply pointing out how we arrived here. We can ignore it, or we can learn from it.

The way I see it is this: the technology is not going away, in fact, it's increasing exponentially.

If it were me in the record company seat, I would come up with technologies like, holographic music. Yes, live music videos recorded with holographic video and 5.1 surround sound mixes like you were right there at the concert or recording studio. Then use free mp3's as a teaser to sell the holography. These files would be WAY too large to download (at least for now). Or how about offering 8 channel digital mixers with the CD's so fans can actually make their own mixes of their favorite artists. Intimate interactive biographies (like Reality TV hasn't taught us that some people actually like approachable accessible people). Even throw in a couple of bonus tracks on the song itself of the outtakes or multiple guitar solos that were never used. This too would be too large to download (for now). 

I have been hearing more and more disturbing stories that major labels are now including as part of their standard contracts, label ownership of a majority of live performance revenue (and anything related, i.e. merchandise etc.) taking even more away from the artist. The very thing they think they are doing to salvage the industry is in fact putting one more nail into their coffin. They may be on to something, however. Since technology is changing and will continue to change so rapidly, a media that is living and breathing (like live music) could be a key to keeping the music industry alive and maintaining public interest. If they could bottle up that genie, and figure out a form of media that were to constantly morph and evolve, like recording a string of live shows by the artist with different version of songs, acoustic etc., that could be downloaded by wireless satellite directly to our media players, this would be the kind of forward thinking that could expand the marketplace instead of killing what's left.

These are just simple off the cuff ideas and not ingenious. 

Let's face the music, the technology is here to stay and is growing.

So it doesn't bother me that the technology is here. What bothers me is how we are not using this technology in a constructive way for everyone.

For more information, check out Ken Tamplin's website at

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Copyright © 2003 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400