Like pretty much every other human being of my generation, I'm very pro-internet piracy. But it's not just the free music. Don't get me wrong, I hear the free music is great (but given recent events around here, I would like to make clear that I would never, ever do something as heinous as download music...), but I love internet piracy because I think it is going to save the future of American music.
The claim floated from the industry is that record sales are down because of internet downloading. Defenders of downloading claim that it's just the shitty music the industry is making, as record execs similarly opposed blank cassettes for home recording, MTv, and multiple other venues "destined" to destroy the industry. However, contrary to these previous claims, it seems that internet downloading could actually destroy the current state of record companies (but alas, even I can't dream big enough to think the record companies will be destroyed).
And I couldn't be happier. If the internet actually were to take all of the profit out of recorded music, it would do nothing but good for all of music. Think about it--the only way for performers to make money would be to go back to relentless touring that would provide a great, but not ridiculous, lifestyle. Would Justin Timberlake be in music if he could only keep an upper-middle class lifestyle through constant effort? Maybe, but I'm not entirely sure about it.
In fact, without the current star-production system, with performers being forced back into refining their playing skills instead of relying on pre-recorded music and highly-trained dance teams, performers wouldn't be able to fake their way into millions of dollars with little-to-no talent. Don't get me wrong, I like the spectacle of big stage shows. But there is a big difference between those who use lavish sets and pre-recorded clips to put on a consumate show (think Flaming Lips) and those who do the same to mask their bland and unimaginative music (think the entire Pop Tarts® Presents: American Idol Tour).
But it's even bigger than destroying pop stars (which would be great). At the heart of it, what I really yearn for is a return to music being connected ot the people. Maybe it's just my punk aesthetic left over from my younger days, but I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly prefer stadium shows to intimate venues. I'm reminded of a story a good friend's uncle always tells of the time he saw Johnny Cash shooting up in a bathroom in a bar in Prarie Du Chien. It blows my mind to think that only 30 years ago many world-famous performers still made their living through relentless touring and building a fan base, instead of drinking Cristal from gold-platted chalices while occassionally recording music. It's inconceivable to think of running into a celebrity like that in such a situation now, because no musician that makes more than ten dollars a year would ever set foot in Prarie Du Chien, Wisconsin (not that I can blame them).
In the end, though, that's what it comes back to. I want my performers to be regular folk, who walk off-stage after the show and have a beer at the bar, instead of retiring to their grandiose tour van, protected from the people who pay their salary by dozens of beefy and angry security gaurds. In other words, it would be nice if mainstream musicians were human beings again, making music for and with their fans again.