Volume 14, Number 13
December 25, 2007

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isil kutluayMusical Mayhem
When Kyle Broflovski and Stan Marsh, my favorite nihilists from "South Park," decided to become rock stars, it didn't take long for them to realize that they didn't know anything about music. So, they attempted to collect CD's to widen their horizons! But, what started out as fun suddenly turned into mayhem. Eight year olds tend not to have a lot of money, so the duo turned to Napster to get free music (back when Napster still provided "free" music). Even before they could enjoy the latest Metallica single, black clad Interpol-agents, captured Kyle and Stan and showed them the impact of downloading. How could we live in a world where Lars Ulrich can't provide golden teeth for the shark he was swimming in his Olympic sized pool? How could we still enjoy life knowing Britney Spears may have to travel in a jet that includes a plasma TV, but no remote control!? How can an average Joe even think of using Kazaa, Limewire, a host of Bit-Torrent sites, or any of the other evil software agents that exists if it means that Master P's kids won't get the "island" they wanted for Christmas?

The downloading issue could be one of the most intense topics of debate since Darwin's Theory of Evolution. The ordinary masses just want a little more music, while paying a little less money. There are two approaches out there. In one corner, there is the precious Lars Ulrich, tired of reveling in a world where nothing else matters, who is now building a more mature and definitely wealthier life. He has responded: "No way! I need money for my mansion in Miami, and custom-made clothes! And my condo in LA needs a Dali?" On the other hand, you have the Smashing Pumpkins saying, "Nah, I couldn't care less, as long as you sigh deeply while listening to my new album, there is nothing more to want," and release some of their music online for their fans. However, even while I download, I can't help but wonder- what would happen if I we did all stop buying music? Will the circle of apathy become a large black-hole, absorbing the musicians as well as their muses? After all, there is no rational reason for someone to provide a service if they don't get paid, right? Besides, what is left in music if the fans don't appreciate and cherish the efforts their idols have made during long nights spent in the studio? Yes, applause and screams from adoring fans at concerts may be enough for some, but I also feel that someone who fills my life with sensational melodies and opens new windows to a world I didn't know existed probably deserves to be a multimillionaire.

While being stuck in the middle of the debate, and the mayhem it has caused, I decided I had to take a side! Then, Radiohead came up with this brilliant sounding idea! They released their new album, In Rainbows, online and announced that fans could pay whatever they wanted! At first I thought that it was a good compromise by the record companies since the price paid would be negotiable. But in my previous Econ Theory course we discussed the concept of price discrimination. While my professor told me about how price discrimination (offering different prices to each customer) leads to an overall benefit to the producer, while the consumer gains nothing but the ignorant bliss of thinking he has paid the amount of money he wants, I thought about this exact case. It seems that the surplus and overall profit coming from these kinds of sales were immediately transferred to the producer. So, yes, the option of "paying what you want" was crossed off of my list.

What are we to do? Should we buy albums at original prices and watch Missy Elliott grow a little fatter? Or, should we log on to Limewire while our guilty conscience whispers to us about how unfair we are being to Muse? Well, the only response could be a long pause; after all, it is not that easy to find a solution to an equation even Lars Ulrich cannot optimize. In this problem, the unknowns are semi-definite and the methods are blurry. Every attempt, every choice is acceptable and true. Do whatever you want. Just don't be a Kyle and Stan! Don't let what used to be fun become musical mayhem.

Il Kutluay (ECON/II)

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