I've tried to define some of the characteristics that make up 'blog culture', including the ethos of a gift economy, where people are rewarded by recognition and 'in-kind' returns rather than cash, and the focus on the "individual, authentic voice". I've also been one of many to be wary of attempts to undermine this authenticity by marketers.
Now — prompted by an example of pretty crass behaviour by a blogger distributing bootleg recordings — I'm beginning to wonder if my belief in that authenticity may have been a little naive in the first place — a bit like the old white bicycles schemes that started with great intentions only to be undermined by the unscrupulous.
We all know that some artists and bands give explicit or tacit support to fans trading live recordings for profit. I guess the publishers may not always be happy about this, but that never seemed to stop the Grateful Dead. So far, no problem. But some artists make it clear that they object to this, and ask audiences explicitly to refrain from recording live shows.
So here is a blogger that has posted a recording of Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists, with photograph, including a recording of the "statement of policy regarding no photos and no recordings". The "spread the love" text above is taken from this same blog site.
Fripp responds in his online diary:
Mr. Blogger seeks to present himself as a provider of music, a supporter of music & of particular musicians, unconstrained & unmotivated by commerce. This is a lie. He does not have the authority to give away our work. He attracts attention to himself, not for & from his own work & efforts, but by taking & using the work of others, not only without consent but with knowledge of their disapproval. Mr. Blogger is using our work as currency in a scheme of trading & attention-gaining, commerce of a different guise. He demonstrates an example of dishonesty dressed up in fine clothes, and presents himself for public commendation.
I think that's actually quite a restrained response. To back it up, let us note that Mr Blogger encourages us at the end of his post to "Support Fripp and The League of Crafty Guitarists and buy their stuff", but the URLs he provides are not hyperlinked. It seems Mr B probably has the technical skills to create a hyperlink, so is he perhaps just a bit shy about his site showing up as referring links to the sites concerned, or not entirely sincere about making it easy for his readers to visit these sites, or a bit of both?
Finally, the coup de grâce is the final sentence: "Please do not sell this recording, trade only in lossless format." To translate: "You know I have no respect for the wishes of creators and rights owners, but you should respect my wishes concerning the fruits of my disrespect." Honour among thieves and all that.
Most decent music bloggers who post files for download include some kind of disclaimer: "If you own the rights to a music file on this site and would like it removed, please let us know, and we'd be happy to comply" (taken from Raven Sings the Blues). OK, it's not as punctiliously correct as asking consent in advance, but it's a pragmatic option for cases where it's often hard to find who to ask. Needless to say, Mr Astronation Blogger offers no such recourse, and invites no dialogue with the creators of the work he distributes. The image of a boy peeing in the swimming pool and making the pool a less pleasant place to visit comes to mind. But perhaps I was naive to think it could be otherwise.