Subscribe to the 7d Media / Trey Gunn mailing list

Blog Archive

blog search

« The Fifth Spin of the Sun | Main | Free downloading and the Creative Process: Part One »

The Whinging Musician and Downloading: Part Two

Note: this post follows on from this earlier post. Go there first if you are just coming to this discussion.

Wow! So many great responses from everyone. I am super enlivened and encouraged, not just by the level of the dialogue in general, but in the depth to which everyone is willing to engage with these questions. My responses so far:

    ONE: Stop It or I will Make You

For those who think I am not aware of the cease and desist strategy of getting these sites to take down my files, I am. I have used it several times in the past, and my understanding is that it is an ongoing strategy with DGM (the main structure setup for King Crimson recordings.) The problem, for me, with this strategy is that you have to either hire someone to do this for you – constantly searching the web for illegal downloads and filing the forms to get them to stop – or you have to do it yourself.

Even aside from my twitch about allocating funds for outsourcing this function, I don’t like this strategy. I will resort to it again if I have to. Meaning, I will take it on if it clearly brings me more money and adds to our culture. (For those who think I might fall into the class of GRS – Greedy Rock Stars – notice the ‘and’ in that sentence.) However taking on this strategy puts me into a permanent mode of trying to run a police state. I would need to keep part of myself constantly on guard to look for infringement against my work, not unlike overseeing the frisking of a live concert audience. This is not a place I want to live my life from. Call me naïve, but I’d rather engage an audience with open arms than a place of distrust.

So, I am trying this other strategy: an appeal. It's just an idea I thought I would try, like a new chord sequence. We can try it on and see what happens.

Interestingly enough, three of the sites I posted this letter on took down the link immediately. They even left the page up with my letter on it and one of the guys said that he hadn't thought of it like this and was saddened that it might damage my continued output.

 - - -

    TWO: Don’t Be A Lazy Bugger

I am not advocating any general kind of policy towards downloading. It is a complicated issue with many angles: legal, moral and psychological. I’ll give my take on some of this throughout this post.

I am just pointing out that if you get any value from my work, and you would like to see it continue to develop, then downloading my files without paying is a vote to have me stop. It’s no different than how one may choose to boycott a company that abuses its workers. Once you have that information then you can choose to support them or not. That's all. I'm not making any huge claims for anyone else. I am just stating my affairs. The financing of all of this is dubious even if everyone does pay for everything at current market rates. Then when you add in that anyone can just take for free everything I have worked so hard to make, it is like having the wind sucked out of your sails.

One poster wrote, “while i sympathize, you don't need to be paid in order to keep creating... plenty of poorer musicians than you make new recordings every day. Not trying to be rude here, just saying.”

This is true. In a way, facing this stuff is purifying and distilling of my aims. Why am I driven to engage the creative process anyway? It certainly isn’t the money. Most of the projects I take on have a piss poor chance of being highly successful. But I do try to take my workmanship up to as high a level I can, partly because this is the most satisfying for me, but also because it gives my work better odds for competing in the market. I mean let’s be frank: we live in a culture of capitalism. This means value is recognized by the exchange of money. As “un-commercial” as some of my recordings can be, you probably won’t be surprised to hear me say that it gives me great joy and satisfaction to receive a check in the mail for my work: “Look, my culture is clearly saying to me that I am valued.” Call that crass, short-sided, greedy, opportunistic, low or whatever. But it is real. If these were the only exchanges I received from my work, I would starve to death on the inside. But take it away, and I would need to be organizing my life in a very different way.

The poster above is correct that I should be able to take the “money equation” out of the creative process and still continue. Yet, this sounds like the voice of inexperience speaking, as the “money equation” doesn’t enter into the creative process at all for me. And by that, I mean when I am working on composing, or producing, or preparing a performance, the space that I enter isn’t touched by the flow of dollars. However when I step back out of that space, I see that there is no way to work at the level and rate that I strive for without putting money back into the equation. Everything costs money. If I want to play a show in Poland I need cash in order to fly there. If I want to make a record, then I need to have a studio to record in. And if I want to spend time developing my craft on my instrument then I need funds in order to cover my expenses while I do so.

I am not saying that I think I am entitled to anything. If the world shouts out a big NO to my work, then it is true I won't stop doing it. But I will have to move at a much, much slower rate and not get as far as I would like before I leave this planet.

 - - -

    THREE:  Mickey Is My Master

Just because it is illegal doesn’t make it wrong.

It’s all fine and well to say, “Downloading files for free is illegal and you just shouldn’t do it. Copyright law says it is illegal. End of argument.” But we all know the connection between the legal system and the business world is completely dodgy. The only reason any law is in place, regarding how business gets done, is because someone with a lot of money hustled someone in government to enact a law to his or her own benefit.

Two examples:

The reason why I don’t collect back-end royalties (royalties when the shows are broadcast or re-broadcast) for scoring work I have done for ESPN is that Disney owns ESPN. When Disney went to congress to ‘re-negotiate’ the length of years of the copyright law, because the time limit was coming up for the trademark on Mickey Mouse, they also set up the processes for exemptions of back back-end royalties. I have only limited info about this, and someone can probably correct me with more details, but basically Disney is so powerful that they were able to set new terms for how royalties were paid. Or not paid, in this case.

Secondly, some things about copyright law are completely messed up. That it is largely illegal for artists to work with existing copyrighted material in order to make derivative works, I think, is damaging to our culture. We should give our artists free reign to copy, change, mess with, abuse, mock, and torment the works of every other artist and all icons (commercial, political and cultural) created by our societies. For one it is great way for people to find their own voices. But it also makes our world much more interesting and exciting when people are playing with it. Thankfully, it goes on anyway but technically much of it is illegal. Though, in my mind, not wrong.

 - - -

    FOUR:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

When I go out on the web looking for free downloads of music that I made and own, I find four kinds of sites:

    1. The fans sites. Basically these are music blogs that don’t just review the recordings they like, they post links to download for free. These folks seem to genuinely want to support the artist’s process but are clueless to the full repercussions of their actions. Yes, they do turn on new people to the music. But they also say “Hey, just take it for free. It doesn’t matter. These musicians are either too rich or poor to care.”

    2. The semi-fans sites that run goggle ads alongside of their “reviews”. These are the same as above, except they are scumming the bottom by generating money for themselves by means of other’s good works.

    3. The pay networks. These guys pump up their links so they appear near the top of a google search for an artist. They generally offer torrent links, but you can’t get the links without paying them a yearly fee. Once the fee is paid you gain access to their network and an enormous amount of links. They use nearly artist’s name in existence in order to generate traffic to their site.

    4. The pay sites. If you can believe this, there are sites that offer my files for a fee!!!! One in Russia sells my mp3s for around $0.09 a track. Pure scam. No money comes back to any artist, though they have the nerve to present the site as if this is the case.


Most of the sites fall into category number 3. No matter how your parse the arguments (file sharing is good promo for artists, most people who download for free eventually purchase, and so forth), there is no justification that this contributes, in any way, to our culture. These sites don’t care about the material they are sharing, they are simply using people’s artistic output to make money for themselves.

Since the web is universally linked to itself you only need one free site to “share” files to everyone. You don’t need hundreds of torrent sites to do this. This means that these folks (category 3) are in competition with each other. And since they make up the bulk of the download sites, they may be responsible for the meme that states that downloading for free is OK. This means the people arguing for free downloads could well be passing on a meme that was started by this segment of the industry in the first place. Even if they didn’t start it, they certainly have an interest in keeping it going and growing. I call double bullshit on that one. Legal action is probably the only way to stop it. Or a vacuum of consumers.

The category four pay sites I have nothing to say about. Category two is probably partly reachable via an appeal, but I suspect not. Category one is definitely reachable and I have had three sites pull down the files already. At the end of the day, this is like fighting the war on drugs – essentially un-fightable as long as there are consumers who participate. I don’t feel like joining in a ‘war on drugs’ style battle, and it isn’t necessary anyway. The only thing that is necessary is that I generate enough cash to keep my own creative process going. So fighting downloaders isn’t great solution. Finding folks who support my work and who would help encourage others ‘lovers’ to become real supporters sounds to be a far more promising path.

 - - -

    FIVE:  The Linda Blair’s of Downloading

There are many psychological aspects of downloading that play into all of this. The main one, in my experience, is there is a kind of ‘possession of the media’ that has virtually nothing to do with engaging it. What I mean is that there seems to be a kind of mindset that goes with pulling stuff down from the web into your computer that has more to with feeling like you are out of the loop rather than in it.

There is all this data and information ‘out there.’ If I pull it down onto my own laptop then I have it ‘in here.’ Music, images, film, text, ideas. All these cool things that I see out there would be way cooler to have them in me. Or at least on my own laptop, then it feels like I ‘own’ them.

I have a suspicion that a lot of the free downloading of music we see may fall into this category. That many music downloaders never listen to this stuff anyway. Or if they do, then they don’t spend a whole lot of time with it. How could they? If you are an avid downloader then much of your time is spent downloading and searching for things to download rather than going deep with the media. If I am correct about this then we are talking about an act of accumulation rather than an actual experience with the music.

If this makes up the bulk of downloaders, then there isn’t much real threat. However, nobody has the real numbers on this. And, if these folks aren’t really engaging the material anyway, then they don’t really need it in the first place.

When you have to pay for something -- turning hours of your own work over for something that you value – a different kind of connection happens. There is a higher value in the relationship. You come to it with something more, you ask for something more and you are open to something more.

 - - -

    SIX:  Lust for Life

In addition to being an aspiring artist, I have also been a patron, myself. I do support artists that I think deserve support. Funnily, in the late 1980’s and 1990’s I used to buy every Iggy Pop record that came out, even though I didn’t like some of them. I felt like I owed Iggy something for making things that not only moved me, but also stretched into areas where no one else would go. I made a decision to support him even after these two things weren’t, personally, the case for me anymore. That decision alone and the act of buying his stuff gave me the feeling that I was participating in his work. Which, I was.

This is an example of the relationship an artist would love to have with their audience – that we are co-chaperoning a vision together. And to do that people need to be present to the work and really engage it. Meaning their ears have to be open to the music and they need to be willing go deep into it and spend time with it. But, they also need to help finance it. Otherwise it will go away. Or at least that particular vision of it may go away. We all know other visions will continue to come and go.

I am NOT saying don’t download my files for free. That is kind of a dumb thing to say, as many have pointed out for many varied reasons. I’m saying think about how music comes into our culture in the first place and find a way to support it. One great way of supporting it is paying for it. Keeping in mind that this only covers part of the nut. We all have day jobs anyway. Nearly all of my solo recordings were only financed because I had made some money through King Crimson. I think Bill Bruford might say the same about Earthworks and Yes. I also, run a small record label and I am building a music coaching practice. If I thought of a way to make a side living doing something else that doesn’t disperse me too much, believe me, I would jump on it. In truth, being a pro these days means making about half a living.

 - - -

    SEVEN: Accept or Perish

From another poster:

“I don't want to dismiss Trey's more than good intentions, but fighting illegal downloads is like facing windmills, and it takes a lot of energy that would be better suited for the creative process, music and business wise. It is frustrating, it is cold, but unfortunately this is how it is.”

As I said above I am not interested in ‘fighting’ illegal downloads. I am interested in having a good strong base of people who support what I do, in order that I can keep on doing it. Some of these people aren’t aware that downloading my files is a vote to have me stop doing that. Make them aware and maybe, just maybe, something could change.

And just because there is a consensus in our culture doesn’t mean we have to accept that consensus. I think an evolving human being is one who is becoming more and more in contact with the repercussions of their actions, extending out further and further into the future. So my small little part in this dialogue is throwing in some information that some people might not be aware of. Then they can decide, based on many other variables as well, whether their actions align with their values. If you’re basing your decisions on bad or limited information then you aren’t armed well.

Regarding the question of whether digital downloading is killing the industry or not, I can’t definitively say. What I can say is that my sales and the sales of many of the musicians I know have dropped upwards of 90% over the last two years. Could it be that interest in our work has just waned? Could it be that our newer material just isn’t as good as it used to be? Or could it be that it is all available for free online? (Earlier this week I found a link for the entire King Crimson catalog, including 20 or 30 collector club discs. The whole catalog!!!) There is no definitive answer, but….come on.

And regarding whether music and the music business has completely gone to the dogs, the brilliant Danny Barnes says No. Danny has the most positive take on the current state of music and the music industry of anyone I have ever come across. Please go read this article by him and be refreshed and inspired about the great things that have, and do, come from all of this technology and global coalescing. And then read this article by him about how to make a living as a musician.


 - - -

    EIGHT: Joe The Plumber

From another poster:

“The last line in your first paragraph sums up the issue nicely:

     ‘How would a plumber or a car mechanic feel about that??’

A plumber or car mechanic does not earn money for work performed ten years ago. They must work every day of their life to earn their keep. They cannot expect royalties from a drain they repaired in 1993, or an engine rebuilt in 2002. They must consistently offer new services to expect an income.

Now artists must also earn their keep like honest men. The bourgeois notion of the "rock star" who becomes rich from a couple months of work performed a decade prior has now ended. Welcome to the twenty-first century, Mr. Gunn.”

Silly man, you can’t make one copy of a record and sell it. Then make a whole new one the next day. You’d still be only making $10 a day. Plus it takes years and years to develop into the musician you go into the studio with. I guess I could charge $20,000 for a ‘special edition of one’ for each disc. That sounds strange but fun. Then the owner who had financed it could give it away for free. I could go for that. But the current way to finance a record is to go into debt making it, then hope to break even some day. This usually takes two to five years. Then, and only then, can you begin to make any money from sales. A Plumber gets paid by the hour; I’ve never been paid by the hour. This analogy doesn’t fit.

And regarding RSWBRFACOMWPADP’s (rock stars who becomes rich from a couple months of work performed a decade prior)…. Oh how I wish I were one of them. I’m afraid that applies mostly to the generation behind Pat Mastelotto and me. Pat busts his ass out on the road, touring like a fiend, and recording whenever possible in order to enter the special club of RSWBRFACOMWPADP’s. You really never know when one of your projects might blow up. Personally, I’ve given up. I’m trying to trim my expenses as much as possible and just figure a way to keep on doing what I do, as cheap as I can.

It might be valuable, at this junction, to break the off-held taboo of divulging the numbers of what we are talking about here. Keep in mind that I present this not as a sympathy play – I have largely moved on from this way of life as my main source of income (for obvious reasons!) – and I am happy enough with my own state of affairs. But, I think it may be wise to have something concrete to look at.

So here are some royalty numbers for my share of the King Crimson records that I have played on. These include from THRAK & VROOOM up through The Power to Believe. These numbers also include all DGM releases with KC that I participated in since 1994, including the DVDs and all of the Collector’s Club discs.

Jan 1 – June 30 2007: $3,650.50
July 1 – Dec 31, 2007: $3,147.50
Jan 1 – Jun 30, 2008: $4,604.00
July 1 – Dec 31, 2008: $3,604.62

There is also publishing money that comes in for these recordings, being that I was a writer for most all of the material. It is too complicated to pull the exact, specific data out of my publishing statements, but the general numbers for same recordings above are always under $1000 a year.

I don’t have very good ways to go through the various statements and present what the numbers were eight and ten years ago. But I can say that these numbers were higher by double, triple, quintuple and even at one point ten times higher than now. Any connection to free downloads? I open to opinions. But I have mine.

 - - -

    NINE: I’m So Special

It seems to me the root of this discussion centers around the issue of specialists. We are, inside all of this, asking ourselves whether it is important to have pro’s or not. Perhaps our culture will vote that amateur and semi-pro’s fill the musical, literary and photography fields (all forms that are easily transferred digitally without compensation.)

Amateurs, in my mind, are those who work purely from enjoyment and engage with their mediums only when they feel moved to. Pro’s have dedicated the sum of their lives to a craft and put their, and their families, survival online with their work. Semi-pro’s tread magically between the two in some ratio, or they have regular jobs that support a professional level of dedication squeezed in between the cracks of their busy lives.

None of these categories seems necessarily better suited to producing masters then any other, which I’ll confess is a virtue I hold for a strong and vibrant culture. We tend to think of professional musicians as being the highest version of musician. I think this is because they have, supposedly, spent the most time doing it. Also, being capitalists we think because you can make a living doing something you are better at it. Though we all know incredible musicians who are not pros. And I know many non-pros who have imaginations far exceeding many damn, good pros.

I guess the question I am raising here is: Do we really want pros or not? It is certainly true that the culture we had (now gone) where musicians could make A LOT of money didn’t necessarily serve us well. The bloated egotism of artists lost in fame, drugs, sex and their own personalities doesn’t seem like a fertile soil for growing real masters.

However, I would also add that neither the Discipline era King Crimson nor The Power to Believe era King Crimson could have come into being if we were functioning as semi-pros. I don’t believe it is possible to build up those kinds of new vocabularies and that kind of facility on the instruments while pushing oneself musically that far, with out space to do so. This doesn’t mean that devoting a whole lot of time to being a musician is going to guarantee those levels of music – clearly something else was going on in those examples. But without the space to explore, it is definitely harder to leave the ground for thinner air.

Obviously I am biased on the topic, because I have made my living as a musician and I think it really was THE way to fully devote myself to the form. However, even now as I move to the side a bit branching out in other professional directions, I still think it is vital for our culture to have professional specialists. They are the ones who can show us things that are possible that we can’t quite imagine ourselves.

What is interesting is that these are decisions our culture, mostly, gets to make for us. Though I still think we can influence the big picture if we see something going off in a direction we disagree with. If we want pros then we need to decide to not take their work without compensation. If we don’t want pros, and believe the semi-pro or amateur roles fill our culture adequately, then it doesn’t matter whether music is free.

Which finally brings me to:

    TEN: Freedom is for the Free

Interestingly, no one has presented this argument: Music should be free.


Terve! And thanks to you all. I must get back to work, now.



PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (7)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (64)

So, it`s a truly pro-pro post, Mr.Trey! I`m nowadays a semi-pro myself kind, as you`ve stated above - because in my semi-capitalistic country is a good thing to have a part time work to help you goin`on with the kind of music I do - and I have been thinking a lot about the actual possibilities both for myself as for my artcrafting, and you`ve just given some clues to work on and develop, ajusting it to my own cultural enviroment, of course. Thanks for such valuable effort. How much will it cost? Just kidding, hehehe!

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRo Favilla

You will try to stop it, but it can't be done sir. FBI and american entities will try to enforce the rules but it certainly will be difficult to expand their influence to countries where piracy is REALLY a problem. How will RIAA stop your piracy in Ecuador, for example? Trying to close certain sites is stupid at best as other methods will emerge. See Napster and Suprnova for an example of my point.

There remains the issue I have with *AntiPiracy". I borrowed my friend's copy yesterday, which I partly bought. I copied it to my PC. So we each have a copy from a legally acquired record, what are you going to do? We broke no laws, or have we? What if I bought my copy from a Second Hand locale?

You can't do anything against piracy, and you know it. Resistance is futile.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I relate, kind of, to your section FIVE, and offer this to maybe inform the "psychology" aspect of the discussion.

As a music fan, I would always try to get familiar with the full catalog of an artist's work, if I liked that artist. Over time, and coupled with a pre-existing condition of obsessive-compulsive tendencies, the act of "collecting" started to become more important than the act of "listening".

As digital availability blossomed, my desire to collect, essentially, everything by everybody, was easily enabled. What was once a couple of shelves of vinyl became terrabytes of digitally archived material in need of backups, indexing, and management. With of course no end in sight.

Nowadays, I barely listen to music. Excess has bred contempt. A very small number of artists will still get my dollars in exchange for bonafide new product, but for the most part I'm leaning towards quiet. I don't download music very much any more.

When I do download, the old rationalization process still kicks in though. Especially, "well I wouldn't have bought that one anyway". That one is still pretty true, though I acknowledge that there exists some non-zero subset of my downloads that I WOULD have purchased, so I own the extent to which I am, and have been, "part of the problem".

Very interesting post, very important discussion to be having, good stuff.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrgdaniel

Thanks for the support, Trey.

I can't say much more right now...because now it is time to go and take my shirt off.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIggy ;-)

Hey Trey,

I'm not usually inclined to post comments in these sorts of places, but I found your study of the situation informative and compelling. I don't know (since I haven't read the first part of the series yet) whether this has already been covered, but I thought that I would mention a peeve of mine with the whole situation. Pardon me for addressing only the largest players in the music business in the fist part. I'm pretty near the decision that much of the insanity in the current situation is the fault of the large industry groups and their treatment of the entire situation, starting several years back. What I mean is something like this: years back when people first started to consider distributing music (whether their own or not) over the internet, it wasn't the record companies that started it. It was people who at that point (I think) did it because it was a cool idea and nobody had tried it before.

Well, time passed, we had IUMA (remember them? Perhaps the first large scale and successful legal online music service) and not much else. Eventually the industry groups took notice and then what? Sample streams for promotional purposes? No, they wrote a couple of cease and desist letters. Those didn't work. Portable devices showed up that could play the music that you downloaded. Now it gets interesting. Here's a dirt cheap distribution medium. There are listeners who are willing to eat the cost of the data storage and part of the (much reduced) cost of delivery. They could have reduced costs greatly, passed some of the savings along to the people buying the music, and still made out like bandits if only they weren't _still_ busy writing cease and desist letters while ignoring the real potential of modern technology to reduce their cost of doing business.

Now where are we? Well, they're not exactly ignoring it now. There are a few legal online music outlets. A little network radio, and so on. Great, they've made it to the point that they should have reached about nine years ago. Of course, they're still wasting their time on cease and desist letters. Anyway, while the large record companies were asleep it seems as if the masses have placed them in a rather uncomfortable spot. They have no good will left with their customers due to their ridiculous legal assault on what is fundamentally a social problem. They have a greatly reduced relevance to society as it stands because promotion and distribution of music can now be accomplished in many cases by amateurs. It sometimes seems to me as if the only thing these people do today is take money from both consumers and artists without offering anything in exchange. It's only their current entrenchment in music that's keeping them in place.

Now for an artist this is a serious problem. If you're beholden to a large record company it means a few things. You'll never be able to have the control over your music that you should, and you'll never make the money you should. Also you might even inherit a little bit of the consumer disenchantment with the industry. The market is getting pretty terrible in the first place, too. If you're an independent artist, well you're kind of screwed in that case because people can't differentiate. I've seen people who insist that buying albums is a waste because the musicians won't get any of the money. Independents who self produce don't come to mind. You've traded the problem of paying the record company to do very little for you for the problem of having to find someone who is not a record company to do it, or you could do it yourself. Perhaps there's a cost advantage, but it will take more work and it really has nothing to do with making music. :)

Well, in the end what can I say? The same technology that allows for illegal distribution of music will allow for legal distribution. The same ridiculously low cost of duplication and distribution applies in this case except that you're making the money instead of letting some seedy website do it. The other advantage you have is your forthrightness and integrity. I have to believe that if you go to your fans and explain to them that you really do depend financially on the sales of your music, they will buy it. I certainly have, though I'm a little behind due to the current state of my own finances. (Now perhaps there's another point of interest in here...)

Thanks for your well reasoned address of the situation. There is a huge vacuum of information on this subject. People simply don't know what's involved in making music, and perhaps most of all that needs to change.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I have never illegally downloaded, copied, or "shared" music. I've supported your career for many many years, often buying your new releases sight unseen before having actually heard anything from them, simply to support you. Coincidently, I too am an artist. For my entire adult life I've made 100% of my living from my art. Lots of famine and the occasional feast, the same as it is for most artists.

However, these last posts have turned me off so much that I find myself no longer interested in listening to your music. I've unsubscribed from your newsletter. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, that's the effect that your words have had on me. I find your stated views on the transactional aspect of creative life, the way in which you choose to express these views, and the conclusions that you draw from them to all be completely distasteful. I think that the way that you view the products of your creativity (and the entitlement that you think these products give you) is totally backwards. Again, I think that my thoughts here are value judgments, opinions, nothing more, which can't be said to be "right" or "wrong." Just my own reflections.

When obstacles to livelihood arise (fair or not), there are many ways to handle them. The least respectable of which is to throw a passive aggressive temper tantrum and threaten your small, specialized audience with cutbacks in the quality and quantity of your work. If you find your career to be no longer sustainable, that is unfortunate. Hundreds of thousands of other folks have found themselves in a similar position during the "last two years" that you lament in response #7. Obviously very few of them can blame their problems on illegal downloading.

Contrary to your assumptions, no artist, however accomplished, is entitled to the "space" (ie: free time, bills and expenses paid, etc.) to stretch out and create their work with no threats or pressure from the outside world indefinitely. If one finds oneself in such a comfortable position for a period of time, one should be grateful, and humble enough to realize that their situation is at least partially due to luck and the current zeitgeist shining upon them. If you don't believe me, go speak with a talented poet, wood carver, mime, symphony composer or any other artist that is not fortunate enough to have their art form elevated by the current culture to the level of a rock guitarist.

If you want to be valued and compensated in the manner of a plumber or mechanic, perhaps you should look into becoming one. But, as you say, the life and livelihood of an artist is not like that of a plumber or mechanic. You're certainly right about that. Throughout history, a great number of major artists were not fortunate enough to make a living off of their works at all. Perhaps working a stint at "Mircosoft, Amazon or Starbucks" might actually give you a new perspective.

As I said, reading your words here assure me that I've already spent quite enough money on Trey Gunn records. I believe there are plenty of young musicians out there that have had much less of a chance to be heard, that have ZERO royalty income streams to quibble about, and that would probably appreciate my money a great deal.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Joey, I think, with respect, you have somewhat twisted the point being made. Regardless of the artistic value of a professional musician's work or the terms in which they see it, it is their 'product'. That being the necessary distinction as to why it is their profession as opposed to part-profession, or hobby (to whatever standard or reception.)

IF one is to make music their career, and profession and devotes two years to making an album, the return has to cover the costs (production and living) of doing so; it is basic economics.

What Trey goes on to say is that there is essentially the question as to whether we want professional musicians at all- a separate debate at this point.

The simple fact still stands- if you are to be a 'professional' artist then the financials have to add up; if they don't you cannot afford to be a professional artist. Unfortunately it seems, at least from my perspective, that you have avoided this quite central issue, instead making a very good point about the difficult life of an artist, and somehow equating the realities of needing to make a sustainable income, with lacking artistic integrity, gratitude or passion.

In my opinion of course.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Joey, Sam is right. You have it ass backwards. It's not about being a grandiose rich rock star or 'threatening' anybody. Let me ask you this since you are an 'artiste' yourself. Do you just give away your art for free? If someone was stealing your art and making it availble for them to profit from your art would you condone it? Would you walk into a museum and just take something off the wall and walk out? Would you steal a car? Let me guess, no but you'd download one, right? I think Trey is right. Music should be free. But in this context it just isn't. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be paid fairly for your work. It pisses me off that musicians are always getting the rough end of the stick especially the talented ones most of whom work their asses off to make ends meet. Trey mentions that King Crimson music would not have been possible if they were semi pro's and I get that. So
if you need that time to be that good then you need cash to survive so if people are stealing from you and you condone this, Joey, then how do you survive?

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhilA

Incredibly, one of my albums is also available on this russian MP3 site you speak of Trey - we were a tiny progressive rock group in Estonia who sold less than 50 copies of our CD that was only available in Estonia (and mail order, but with no contacts to do any kind of international promotion its been slim pickings on that front too), and they took it. I very much doubt that anyone bought it from them either, but it just shows that these people are not picky - if it's a CD, they'll put it up there. The worst part is that you can hear the whole thing for free online anyway over at I emailed them and of course was ignored. Bizarrely, part of the deal that allowed Russia to join the WTO was that had to be shutdown - but hundreds of sites have sprung up in its place which are now ignored.

Perhaps the wider concern is that people just don't care about music anymore, or at least right now? Bill Bruford once said to me of this whole economic crisis that the musician is the first to suffer and the last to recover. Ours is not an essential purchase for most people, particularly for people like us who generally aren't making music that appeals to the young and can be cross-promoted on the Disney Channel - its something only people with money to spare can be interested in, and even they have to seek it out, costing them time as well as money.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCameron Devlin

I'm with ya--I Never download because it is wrong--plain and simple -wrong--I had a site in Russia selling my stuff and comparing me to Lukather and Vai--and could not stop it--and never saw a penny --what scum bags~~and being a play does not make anyone rich like they think we are-we run our own studios that we pay for our selves and we BUY our gear our selves too~~so why can't people see that we need to get our rightful pay~it is just disturbing~and must stop~~thanks for posting --I feel you're pain...RH.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRandy Hetlage~

From Trey --

Great points all around, so far.

I strongly encourage everyone participating in this dialogue to resist two things: the urge to attack and the urge to defend. In my mind, this hasn't happened yet and I would like it to stay that way. Not only is it cleaner, but it also means I won't have to delete aggressive attacking posts and lose out on their good points in the culling.

We are all going to have different opinions here, and some of us (myself included) are taking a leap in exposing ourselves in a way that contains some level of risk.

Joey's letter is so well written and so thoughtfully expressed that there isn't any reason to address his perspective personally. He says very, very clearly: "Again, I think that my thoughts here are value judgments, opinions, nothing more, which can't be said to be 'right' or 'wrong.' Just my own reflections."

In my view he is simply expressing his feelings around the discussion. He is: entitled to have any feelings about this that comes up for him, entitled to expression those feelings and welcome to do so here as long as he isn't aggressively attacking or provoking.

I don't completely understand, as he has been a very supportive audient and does not fall into any of the categories of downloaders or illegal file distributors. So my arguments don’t even apply to him. But feelings don't work like that.

Joey makes a good point about artists humbling themselves with a "regular" job. I would happily advocate a culture where the artists were required to work a certain number of hours a week in a menial job. Cleaning toilets at Starbucks could easily do. In return they would get the privilege of a stipend and access to materials to work with. Assuming that they do work, of course. And, yes, it is a privilege. Though the privilege isn't the "space to explore", while everyone else is busting their ass at a day job. The privilege is more aligned with being able to touch the creative forces in their rawer form, and working to make them heard, seen and experienced.

He also points out something that I overlooked in my paragraph about what may have lead to the 90% drop in sales over the last two years. Over the last two years we had a major economic crash here in the USA with repercussions worldwide. It is, also, impossible to know what makes some music successful and some not. Though I still hold that there is no rationale for making my files available for free – Modulator appeared on 22 new sites in the last week. (I didn’t make up that 90% number, by the way; it came from a relatively large “small label” that I am in touch with. Not, DGM.)

Basically, we are on the honor system now. You have the option to take for free.

It saddens me to lose a pair of ears over this. Perhaps Joey is put off by me pulling back the hood and exposing the engines and flow of oil in the motors. If so, I can totally relate. I remember reading an interview with the Discipline era King Crimson in Musician magazine around 1984. This was before I had met Robert Fripp. The writer of the article interviewed each of the musicians separately and asked them about working with each other. I was so disgusted by the lack of communication between the four members that I put their records away for several years. (Of course, I was naïve at the time. Now I know how complicated it is being in a professional band of that caliber. And it wasn’t until 15 years later when Adrian told me the story of how that interview went down, that the moment was truly redeemed for me.)

Sometimes you just want to hear the music and not the stories going on underneath it. I can relate here, as well; though I don’t want to be putting words in to Joey’s mouth and I would, also, encourage him not to defend himself. Either way, it does seem something has been significantly spoiled for him by this conversation. Bummer.

Part of the risk here is that this discussion about the ‘professional aspects of being a musician’ can get mixed up with a discussion about the creative process itself. What we are talking about here is how the professional aspects make space for the creative process. Or not. I am not trying to engage the questions about the creative process directly – as that’s a whole different animal.

OK, play nice everyone.


PS. I didn’t say that I thought music should be free. I said that no one has put that argument forward. I guess the anarchist element doesn’t roam around here.

PPS. I feel I haven't needed to say it, but maybe I do: My "appeal letter" is probably not addressed to anyone who who be reading it here. I would suspect that 98% of the folks here are super on board with supporting the artists they value -- whether that is me or not. Nor am I trolling for "declarations of faith" from my audients. I already have the best listeners anyone could ask for.

July 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterTrey Gunn

About the "music should be free" argument:

You may be interested in Steve Coleman's views on this:
For those who don't know, Steve Coleman is a gifted saxophonist who played with lots of Jazz heavyweights, including Dave Holland, Cassandra Wilson, John Zorn, etc...

He also has put up most of his albums for free download.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex


I am so thankful that you are being honest and open about this subject. While I have my own opinions about 'free' and how it affects us as artists, both in positive and negative ways, I think the more important point is that we're discussing this at all.

As you state, there will be some that don't want to hear any of this. That's too bad, because the conversation itself is vital to our survival and our continued ability to be professional artists.

After so many years of a truly messed up "music industry", artists are finally able to take the control of our careers back from those who gripped it with an iron fist. What we need to do now is make our fans aware of the realities of the situation. This discussion goes a long way to showing our true fans that their support is needed now more than ever.

That support is also more direct and undiluted than ever, as many of us now own our entire output. We don't have to pay labels and PR firms and managers and such. Every penny that my fans spend on my music goes directly to me and helps me continue to grow and advance as an artist.

Thank you for leading the way and showing us that a little honesty and openness can go a long way!


July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Parker

Trey, your fifth point about the 'Linda Blairs of Downloading' is perhaps the most interesting.

The way I see it, new technology changes the way we create AND receive (I think 'consume' is too narrow a term) words, sounds, images, objects, and any permutation thereof. This has a paradoxical effect. The technology opens up new possibilities, but it also removes constraints that previously compelled us to be imaginative. That means that the onus on us to proactively create the conditions for our imagination to flourish, rather than working within such conditions out of necessity.

How does this apply to the creator of music? To use a crude example, when Wendy Carlos was making her early albums using moog synth in the 1960s, she had to attend to details that would be completely unknown and obscure to most synth players a decade later, to say nothing of four or five decades later now that we've got synth software accompanied by a graphical user interface.

On the one hand, you could say that today's synth players (no longer restricted to keyboard players but also including guitar players and the like) now have the freedom to be more imaginative than Wendy ever could be with her prehistoric synths. But on the other hand, once synths are so ubiquitous that they're kid's toys, you have to start setting your own standards for how to do something interesting with them, because the limitations you're pushing against are no longer readily apparent.

In other words, imagination becomes more of a self-conscious act ('self-conscious' in the pedestrian sense, although you may find this point still holds true if you use the term in a more mystical sense).

Now, some people might think this point is obvious. But what about the similar trajectory of the listener? When thousands of hours of music can be saved on your computer, you have to set your own standards for how to do something interesting with that music, because racks of interesting-coloured vinyl sleeves or jewel cases aren't there to provide a visual correlate to your listening choices.

Some people might react to this situation by asserting that the decline of the physical artefact is inexorably tied up with a decline of the value we place upon recorded music. But this need not be true. The way we value music may have been circumscribed by the physical artefact in the past, but the two things were never synonymous, they only appeared to be. It's now up to listeners to be more creative about how they place value upon music. And technology can either hinder or help, depending on how we use it.

A few years back when iPods first became really popular, I stupidly bought an expensive one with loads of memory on it, thinking that my collector's mentality would be perfectly satisfied by being the winner of the gigabyte pissing contest. After a year of using it, I realised it was making me miserable, but I was too excited by the possibilities of the thing to turn my back on it completely. So I replaced it with a tiny, cheap iPod, and realised that this was much more rewarding to play with. You can put a selection of music on it and then shuffle it randomly to create surprising juxtapositions, or you can put ONE piece of music on there and listen to it repeatedly without end, until it becomes hypnotically familiar.

The key thing for me is to get rid of the damned timer display, which was the bane of CDs and continues to be the bane of DVDs and Blu-ray. That thing encourages you to constantly think of music and movies in terms of the objective passing of time, rather than letting them and you set your own clock (yes I realise that Marco Minnemann has direct personal access to objective time, but as you've pointed out on this blog he's not human).

Music is measured not in minutes, but in moments. The extensiveness of the listener's collection of recordings is only one dimension of their musical life, and is worth little unless it's complemented by the intensiveness of their listening. In short, technology can help us engage with music only if we use it to LISTEN to the music, rather than using it like a squirrel hoards nuts.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErk Gah

I don,t know how many out there own a warr touch guitar or several like Mr Gunn does, but I do.. I own a warr phalanx in addition to numerous guitars,keyboards etc, and I am black.[more on that later]The warr is the most difficult instrument i have yet to master.22 months on and i,m only now starting to "get it"To Mr Gunn,s credit and amazing talent,I feel that he is the best,and shouldn,t he get paid for it?I was out of work for 22 months"laid off" is what we workers call it here in the states,"downsizing" is what the corporate world calls it.Two days after i got laid off ,my warr came. I just stared at it. to make a long story short ,those of you who are getting Mr Gunn,s music for free are "laying him off"downsizing him. he aint getting paid .Sit around folks and figure do you pay your light bill,or eat?Does Mr Gunn by software vst upgrades for his machines, or does he have to split the money on basic necessities?You are forcing him to make a choice, stifling him. limiting his advancements ,and in turn we get no more music,no tours ,no videos.. sounds like a black thang to mel lol......reggie

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreggie

Hmmm. I think the Post-Modernism is where I would like to begin. It's a double edged sword. You had Jazz musicians like Sun-Ra and John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman come in and create a free jazz feel and then you also had the beatnik/hippie idealists come in and say "hey, this is just a lot of random blowing", and because the average person couldn't tell the difference between the schooled and experienced application and the amateur and undisciplined one, a whole mindset was created that just "anyone" could then play music.

Certainly there was no big deal with the rock and country of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Johnny Cash. Not MUSICALLY speaking. But then again, one could say this is simply the aesthetics of a particular time and audience - many of which will hold on to their preconcieved notions that this stuff is the BEST.

Then there was a movement in the clouds. A tremor beneath the earth. This thing known as "The Sixties" came about and in post-war England, the economy was finally booming. This led to a lot of art students, middle class and working class folk having the freedom to treat music as a new challenge. To do something different. To acknowledge the music of their parents as well as grasp onto this "rock" phenom of the New Youth, thus proving to their discontented critics that their new music could be considered art.

In this economy, there were several angel investors. people who ran semi-wealthy independent labels that would spend thousands of pounds over several YEARS to allow their artists to develop and eventually make a big return. They believed in their artists. Art for art's sake. As the industry went from smart enthusiasts to disciplined big business, this changed. Eventually, England's economy tanked due partially to an oil crisis (hmmm) in 73/74. This new fusion and experimental rock became unsupportable sales-wise. It couldn't be marketed. Part of Punk's appeal to business was the ease in which the format could go out. Plus the gnostic overtones of "prog' seemed alien to many folks who just wanted a nice tune they could dance to.

And so those who made the art music fell out of the major limelight and either stopped about this time in order to pause and take personal journeys (Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel), or went in the opposite direction to make pop hits (Yes, Genesis). Bassist from Gong Mike Howlett produced Flock of Seagulls and OMD, Fripp did things with Bowie and Talking Heads. A lot of the new wave synth pop in the eighties was still nodding to the artistic achievements of these prog giants while Punk still stayed in the same level of arena it always had.

In the nineties, all I can remember was R&B and Grunge really taking off. That and "raves" being a kind of merger between electronics and disco. Nothing seemed particularly art-worthy to me. (Exceptions abound, Radiohead etc.) and occasionally the old Kings would emerge to show them how it was done (King Crimson's Thrak etc.) But the basic tenant of art for art's sake seemed to die for me in the nineties. The majority of the audience began to be fed on a diet of rap and terrible rock. The rock that was being played was like a caricature of what rock should be. Like people were playing out a fantasy that "this is just what you do when you are a rock star" instead of living their own lives and exploring their own sound. "Selling out" became a joke that no one understood anymore - I guess you can't sell out if you have no integrity in the first place. And so people began to either think that music had a singular purpose - to dance to, or that it was a kind of disposable soundtrack of nihilistic tendencies. A generation of People forgot how to appreciate music. (Again, I know there are exceptions)

Bill Bruford mentions that now that you can take thousands of songs with you on your iPod, that "music has no sense of occasion" anymore. Anything that you can download for free tells your mind that the thing you are recieving has no other value than the pleasure it gives to your ears. Music is invisible. You can't see it, nor can you see how much work went in to making it. Everyone sings praises to the might of computers and how much they have helped the world, and so music becomes subservient to the infrastructure it is made with. What is left of large companies due to downloading and satelite radio could never do what those early record companies did and allow for an artist to spend years developing themselves. You have to get out there and make that bland hit and get some tatoos and have it all turn over overnight, or you're last week's news. And here's the thing - what service are you doing to music if all you want is to make a bunch of money and then bow out? Where's the joy? And if you don't really get joy out of music, then why are you doing it? You might as WELL become a plumber, or a brick layer. No - musicians make music because they can't do anything else. Not because they aren't capable, but because this is where their strength lay and it is second nature like breathing. The fact is, is that anyone can become a shitty musician, but only a few can become consumate.

This doesn't mean that they have to be paid to live a rock star lifestyle - as I have pointed out, at this time in history that's a lie. It's people trying to engineer a lifestyle for you. Look at the way Genesis conducted themselves ca. 1971-1974. Humble in comparison. But people need to eat, they need equpment, and they need time to develop what they do so that they can bring something special into this world and make it a better place for all of us to live in. Well crafted music involves skill, and these skills are some of the things that people tend to forget about - they think it's all done in post, perhaps. Perhaps an appreciation of these skills are in order before one passes judgement on whether or not a musician has the right to live off of what they do. Perhaps one should quit their job being a plumber and try being a musician and see if that changes anything.

So yes. Keep downloading stuff for free. Maybe you will finally rid the world of all that art and skill nonsense that intimidates you. Maybe if you can steal it long enough, you will drive them all into the dirt and your friends who play crappy music at Bonaroo that you really dug on LSD and XTC can finally "make it" because you have leached all of these people playing "Old Skool Dinosaur Music" of their livelihoods. Yeah. Yay you. That'll show 'em. Cause there's nothing like not appreciating what came before you - hey - is that the wheel you just reinvented? Good for you.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKris Nelson

Hi Trey,
I listen to your music on Spotify were both the composer and record company is getting paid.
I know Spotify isn't available in the US (yet).

Hans Annellsson

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHans Annellsson

How did musicians do before the invention of records and recording hardware ?

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZer

Mr Gunn,
I have to agree with you 100%, I have been a fan of yours since your time in King Crimson, and I will be the first to admit your solo work and even your KC work is hard to find in most American record stores. But that is what amazon, DGM and your own estore is for. If you are downloading some artists work you are stealing and that is the bottom line.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDewey Fischer

What should we do about out of print albums ? Try to find a $250 copy on ebay ?

I run an mp3 blog of category 1 (no fucking diarrhea of google ads!!!!!!!!!). I do it because I can, even if it's not because I can that I should... Let's kill the music industry.

Here is an angry comment anonymously left about one of my posts ( :

Anonymous said...

Perhaps instead of giving away the band's brand new album which their label is trying to sell, you can just post a song or two.

I see that you have included a link for someone selling it, so you are sort of on the right track. But I doubt few people will click that link when you are offering it for free.

Actions like these are harming the small bands, the DIY labels and distros and the mom and pop stores that are just trying to survive.

I believe that is you really think about the people you are hurting you will conclude that you must remove this post and any other items that are still legitimately in print. Honestly, the label has probably invested thousands of dollars to make this record happen and posts like this are ruining their chances of ever recouping their expenses. Are you trying to destroy the indie record label?

It is nice that you are so enthusiastic about music, but your enthusiasm may ironically kill the music that you love.

My Reply:

Dear Anonymous, thanks for your patronizing, anachronistic comment. I disagree at every level:

I see that you have included a link for someone selling it, so you are sort of on the right track. But I doubt few people will click that link
Then why bother releasing a CD ?

when you are offering it for free.
I am not offering it for free. I am "offering" a digital compressed version of the songs. The sound quality is inferior to the original. It is not a counterfeit CD with booklet. And maybe people who don't buy it are not excited enough by the preview from these mp3s, unlike me. A true fan or convert will buy a record or CD. Now are we here to make fans or just sell plastic ?

Actions like these are harming the small bands, the DIY labels and distros and the mom and pop stores that are just trying to survive.
Absolutely not. It's great promotion, actually it's the only relevant promo. It creates a buzz, it draws people to shows, boosts merch sales etc.
In your crusade for musical justice, don't just blame mp3 downloads. Blame the saturation of the market and the speed of digital communication in an overcrowded scene (with poor distribution, this album is still not available in Montreal, I had to order it). There are nowadays so many bands, so easily available anywhere anytime, coupled with an infinite supply of distros and labels - don't forget the used records stores and the digital markets of ebay, amazon and everyone else - that record stores have more competition. Produce more live shows. Release vinyls.

Honestly, the label has probably invested thousands of dollars to make this record happen and posts like this are ruining their chances of ever recouping their expenses. Are you trying to destroy the indie record label?
I've been in bands since 1983, as well as running a label, a distro, a zine and radio shows. I released a dozen albums, countless demos and played many shows. I do it in my free time, self-funded, after my day job and while supporting a family. You whining makles me smile. 99% of the scene is made of people who just do it like that for the fun of it, at their own expenses. I actually think if mp3s are to destroy anyone, it's only going to weed out the parasites. The people with passion will always be there.
Running a label is not a human right, nobody is forced to release anything, or they do it at their own risk regarding the state of the market and their position in it.
Now go check on gemm, ebay, discogs etc. a good cd is a wanted item and will sell, often at outrageous prices. How come I can't find anywhere Vektor's Demolition from 2006 ?

It is nice that you are so enthusiastic about music, but your enthusiasm may ironically kill the music that you love.
The real irony here is this conservative rant for an outdated business model in support of an album titled FUCK YOU AND ALL YOU STAND FOR.
Now I'll remove the post if anyone from the band or the label asks.

July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZer Again

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>