Why There Is So Much Great Free Music and Software

There is so much great free music and software because there are so many talented people, each trying to make their mark, each trying to be significant. People want, quite reasonably, to feel they are welcomed and wanted, loved and appreciated.  They want to help and contribute, and to get a nod for their trouble.

They used to be able to make money doing that. They still can, many of them. But increasingly you can get whatever you want (or something very much like it) for free, or nearly free, because there are so many more people competing to rise above the crowd. In the 1960s, we had one band like the Beatles, one Jimi Hendrix. Today, we have a hundred of them. Maybe a thousand. Maybe ten thousand. It’s hard even to say – nobody has the time to wade through the oceans of free stuff out there.

The Internet is, obviously, the great equalizer here. We actually might have had hundreds upon hundreds of people with the ability and appeal of Hendrix and the Beatles, back in the day. But if we did, who was to know? If those people wanted to be noticed, they had to shlep to Hollywood and make their pitch, and a few fat cats got to choose winners and losers. Otherwise, you might hear a great band once in a while, in a garage or at a county fair. But getting known, or getting the encouragement of getting known – that was hard, and it was rare.

The Internet is one key part of the larger theme of globalization. We have so many more great songs and computer programs because we’ve got people from everywhere offering this material to us. So, you see, it’s not just the garment workers and the tech support lines that are outsourced or automated. It will be – to some extent it already is – the lawyers and the health care too. Outsourced and then, when we have slashed our own wages, insourced again, always at a lower and lower price.

The point, here, is that you are actually not wanted or needed. Almost whoever you are and whatever you do, there will (there may already) be a replacement, younger or better-looking, smarter or stronger, faster or cheaper. There always has been, but there were these barriers, you see, and now there are not. Oh, there will always be barriers of a sort. It will always give someone a mild headache, to have to decide whether to keep you alive or toss you on the burnpile; it will always require at least a bit of effort to turn the thumb up or down on you, on your favorite musician, on whoever would have been an Einstein or a Lennon, back then. But job security, or other kinds of specialness? That, you can kiss goodbye.  Soon, if not now; many, if not all.

So when I say, as I said in a previous post, that we need fewer jobs, I don’t just mean to say that jobs are overhyped, or that they distract from more important leisure activities, or that they drain families and communities of the time and energy that their star players should be devoting. I mean to say that we need fewer jobs because, in the final analysis, they are not about love. They are not about acceptance; in fact, they are all about the antithesis of love and acceptance. They are about struggling and pushing and clawing your way up to the head of the line at the soup kitchen, so that today, at least, you don’t get stuck with the dribs and drabs. Today, by God, you are Somebody.

In a world oriented toward other values, the question is not whether you have a job, and therefore have money, and therefore deserve decent treatment because you can buy it. Buying it means, essentially, that you can force someone to be nice to you – because if they are not, you can withhold their sustenance. It’s a game of daggers at the throat.  Please, let us all back down from this civilly, and survive another day. When jobs are properly diminished, put into context against human needs, the realization emerges that you deserve to be treated decently because you are one of us, and we do not leave our own behind.

I am sorry that the Beatles of this generation have essentially zero chance of ruling the world as Lennon and McCartney once did. At the same time, I am glad to see so many talented people doing what they love, and obtaining some recognition and reassurance from it. We are progressing. In our next iteration, we may even have advanced to a point where the local guitarist, never achieving fame even of the Internet variety, is nonetheless commended and valued for his/her work and skill – and, beyond that, is also able to trust us, to know that our love is not based on his/her having earned it, having pried it from our grip.

We are not there yet. But there are mildly encouraging indicators.

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