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Christian Rock, Values, and the Major Labels

CHRISTIAN ROCK is one of the many popular genres that have been completely sidelined by the major record labels. You don’t hear it on the radio in most major markets, you don’t see it on MTV, and you can’t find it in most record stores. This New York Times article examines why most Christian rock bands support filesharing– they want to spread their religious beliefs as widely as possible and filesharing is a great way to do that. In fact, Christian rock fans are just as likely to fileshare as fans of other kinds of music, something that surprises a lot of people.

But support for filesharing and a desire to change the structure of the music industy is an issue that spans the political spectrum. The right, the left, libertarians, and a lot of people in between are fed up with the current system and are ready to make a change. What unites us all on this issue is values. And by “values” we aren’t using a code word for one particular set of values, as people often do. We really mean any values. It may sound cliche, but the major labels are truly valueless; they function exclusively to create wealth for a very small number of executives, investors, and superstars (not so much for the investors these days). Worse than just lacking values, the major labels actively force values out. They muzzle public expressions of values by artists because they fear it could politicize their calculated corporate neutrality. And the industry blocks independent labels from expressing values in the mainstream by bribing radio stations to keep out competition.

So, if you care about music because you think it can build community, because you think it can spread a belief system, because you think it can change politics, because you are inspired by musicians, or simply because you think it is beautiful– then you and your music are being marginalized. “But,” an economist might protest, “the music business is a business, and we need big corporations to pick out music for the rest of us and distribute it across the country.” Well, perhaps at some point in our history musicians did need companies with deep pockets to spread their music far and wide, but things have changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Recording studios are cheap, it’s simple to burn or print CDs, and the internet provides every musician with an international distribution network. There’s no longer any economic justification for conglomerate record labels. The only reason the major labels are able to lumber along at all is because they use their monopoly power to force everyone into their system.

Which brings us back to filesharing. Filesharing networks have created the greatest music library the world has ever seen, one that’s easier to use than anyone would have ever thought possible. Children are growing up with broader access to music than ever before and millions of teenagers hear a greater variety of music in a year than their parents have heard in their entire lives. And there is a simple, clear, and practical way to let this music library thrive and get musicians more money than they’re making now (read about it). Would anyone who cares about music as a personal or social good want to destroy the music library and pass up musicians’ best chance in decades at making a decent living? Of course not. But the major labels aren’t in this because they care, so they look at these breakthroughs and see no value at all, just a new set of conditions that will make their monopoly harder to maintain. To solve this “problem”, they’re literally asking the government to declare everyone who’s moving towards this new and better system a felon.

Every day we see Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are clamoring to prop-up an outdated industry that negates every value they espouse, whether it’s individual liberties, the public good, or Christian sprituality. For a politician, taking cash from Hollywood in exchange for favors has always been an easy way to boost your campaign funding without causing a lot of controversy– who in the world pays attention to bills about copyright law anyway? Fortunately, that’s starting to change. Stay tuned over the next couple weeks for ways you can help us deliver a wake up call.


The student movement for free culture kickoff on Friday (see the previous post) was great. Get involved and stay tuned at freeculture.org.


Be a t-shirt factory!

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