by Steve Bivans

Listening to music is important to the human soul, I think.

I have known a few people in my life that have said things like, “I really don’t like music.”

Really? I don’t get it. I usually give those people a wide berth. I don’t usually believe them, but I guess they actually exist. They are seriously flawed though, I think.

I couldn’t imagine not listening to music, even for a day. I don’t get to hear it much at work, in a school, but when I’m not there, I listen to it pretty much constantly until I go to bed at night. Music is trans-formative. It sets the mood for my morning. I’m listening to some right now, as I write this section. I suspect however, that if you are reading this post, that you are probably a music fan anyway.

Music was a key component of Tolkien’s works, though I wish he had made voice recordings of all of his books, so that we could hear him sing all the songs, as well as doing the characters’ voices. There is a recording out there of him reading key sections from LOTR. I once found it in the local library and made a copy for my own use, but have long since lost it.

Just the other day the posted a link to a Youtube video that had posted the same recording! I highly recommend you give it a listen! It’s amazing. You can hear the great professor reading from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings! You can almost smell his pipe weed! Tolkien_2692769bI’m pretty sure they recorded it in his home study, because you can hear traffic in the background. It’s literally like sitting in his study with him.

There is another segment on Spotify that contains some different readings, but probably recorded in the same place and at the same time. Both recordings do have a bit of him singing a couple of the songs!

I used to have a few hundred vinyl albums, not to mention CDs and cassette tapes. Most of them I gave to my brother years ago when I moved north. The CDs I uploaded into iTunes on my computers. The way people purchase and listen to music has been one of the fastest changing things in my lifetime. When I was growing up, it was all vinyl. Then in the 80s, cassettes mostly. These days, more and more of us have jettisoned CDs to purchase music electronically via the internet through iTunes and other outlets.

There are some, myself included, that have lamented the demise of hardcopy music, especially the artwork of the old album covers. This is something, as hobbits who are trying to save the Earth, should rethink. The production of all that vinyl, and all those plastic CDs and the cases, which inevitably break anyway, are adding to the enormous waste problems on the planet. Downloading music, seems to be the best way to go. It’s simply the most ‘green’ way to purchase or listen to music. Heck, with sites like Pandora and Spotify, you don’t even have to purchase the music.

Sign up for a free or premium Spotify account. It’s my favorite software on my computers at home, in fact in our house, it’s the number 1 source of entertainment. We don’t own a TV anymore, and only occasionally watch shows on the computer. You can get Spotify on your smart phone too. There is also an app that your friends can download, so that when you have a party, you can let them set up requests for songs on your account, and they can add them to a cue to be played during the party. You can listen for free, and the musicians are paid royalties based on how often their stuff is played. Once you join Spotify, go to my profile and follow me! You can then listen to my Tolkien Inspired Tunes list!

Hobbits, Spotify and Music Piracy

There are arguments against these sites, but quite frankly, they’re usually made by millionaire musicians, who are just trying to reap more and more money for themselves. Most independent artists have flocked to the new way of doing business because the old way of trying to get a recording contract with some greedy record company—taking the majority of your earnings for themselves—and then hoping that some radios station—run by corporate Sarumans—would maybe play your song once or twice, just sucked. Trust me, I know, I used to be a ‘professional’ musician, whatever that means. But now, anyone can record an album in their living room using software, like Garage Band, that in many cases is already installed on their computer, and then instantly upload it to any number of places to sell it, or allow people to listen to it. It’s the modern hobbit way to record music.

Record companies argue—lamely—that just because everyone CAN record their music, doesn’t mean the SHOULD. They have a point, of course, but they’re just trying to hold back a raging river that long ago washed over them. Yes, there’s a lot of crappy music out there, for sure, but personally, I don’t need a bunch of Ringwraith-Suits deciding what music is good enough for me to listen to. Some have argued that this new way of downloading music supports music piracy. That’s true, to some extent. But let me tell you what I think about piracy, in all its forms. Yeah, I’m gonna preach for a bit, so hang on little hobbits.

Be a Hobbit, Be a Pirate?

Piracy, whether we talking about music or Blackbeard robbing gold doubloons from the Spanish Main, occurs when there are a couple of elements: hoarded wealth, and overpriced goods. Music, as a commodity has been overpriced and over valued for a very long time, especially in the U.S. The inflated value of music becomes more apparent when we compare it to another form of ‘recorded’ entertainment: video game apps.

To write and record a song, can take anywhere between a couple of hours, to several days, depending on the writer and the detail of the recording process. For this one song—if you are a major recording artist that is—you will be paid about $1.29 on iTunes, for every single download. Yes, a portion of that, and a sizable one, goes to the recording label, but some of it makes it to the artist, eventually.

In comparison, a game app for an iPhone, might take anywhere from a month to a couple of years, involving from one to any number of programmers, artists, AND musicians to produce it. Game apps can run in price from ‘free’ to usually around $10, though some are more. Most however, fall in the $0 to $10 range, and most are on the lower end of that, closer to $1 to $2. So, the price of one song, ONE SONG mind you, is about the same as the majority of game apps that took months or even years to develop.

My point is, that the music industry has set itself up for piracy. Pirates thrive when there are overpriced goods. They steal them, and sell them at a price that people are more willing to pay. Or in the case of the music industry, most pirates steal them for their own personal use, because they perceive, correctly, that the music ‘industry’ is trying to bleed them of their hard earned cash to pay the fat cat suits that run the record companies. All the while, they limit the number of musicians that can be heard, or they used to limit them.

But it’s no longer possible for the industry to control the production of music and so they are pushing back. They will fail, and they need to. The rich musicians argue that piracy hurts the musicians at the bottom, but this is mostly untrue. Most of the music that is pirated is the music that is overpriced by the industry. Independent musicians know that the only way to survive is to price themselves appropriately for the market, and that the best marketing is to give away loads of free music to their true fans, which creates a ‘tribe’ so to speak: a group of fans that will pretty much buy anything the artist puts out. Independent writers are learning this too—I’m one of them—so if you like my free stuff, please subscribe to my blog, because you will get lots of free content that only goes to my tribe, or Shire, of fans.

People will only pay what they perceive entertainment to be worth. Music sites like iTunes and Spotify are leading a revolution in the way we listen to and access music. And as well, they are saving the world from all that extra plastic, which we don’t need anyway. If you want to be a hobbit, and save the Earth, transition from buying plastic, to sites like Spotify, Pandora and iTunes. And then go out and see some local, live bands!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE