Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bravo, Radiohead!

My son Tom's birthday was Sunday, but he didn't get his gift until yesterday, and he won't get most of it until December. I preordered Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows.
Radiohead is a wonderful band. I have a few of their songs on my own iPod, and I think Tom has everything they've ever done. They're for Tom what Paul Simon has always been for me. And I LOVE that they're self-releasing this new album. You can order the download for whatever you wish to pay. If they average just 30 cents per album, they'll break even for what they'd get from releasing it on a label. Imagine that--thirty lousy cents! I didn't go cheap--I actually ordered the full package, which includes the download for now and also the music (including some special bonus tracks) on both CDs and vinyl, and a book, when they're shipped in December. That was expensive, but I feel pretty good about it because ALL the profit goes to Radiohead.

I'm still reeling from the trial in Duluth about illegal downloading of music. I can't believe that the jury fined the woman $222,000! When I was in college, I could afford NO music at all. My brother-in-law had all of Paul Simon's albums, and he copied them onto cassettes for me. I listened to them over and over. Did the companies or, worse, Paul Simon lose money because of me? Nope. I had no money to buy music at all, so even if I couldn't copy his records, I wouldn't have been able to buy them. I did get a lot of listening pleasure for free, but as soon as I did have a job, and after compact disc technology was invented, I went out and bought every single album Paul Simon made. I forked out a few hundred dollars, of which Paul Simon would have received maybe two or three dollars. That's the way things work now--a jury made up of human beings is more compassionate toward big business than they are toward their fellow human beings, and now a single mother who makes barely $36,000 a year will be destitute.

But Radiohead is skipping that corporate middle-man. Good for them. And until things change, I am no longer ever going to buy music or movies that are in any way associated with EMI Group PLC's Capitol Records Inc.; the Arista Records LLC label and its parent Sony BMG Music Entertainment, which is run by Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG; Vivendi SA's UMG Inc. and its label, Interscope Records; and Warner Bros. Records Inc., which is a unit of Warner Music Group Corp. Period.

Over the 21 years since I started my radio program, many people have told me they tape my show off the radio or in other ways copy the program to listen to when they want. Usually they're rather apologetic, as if they were stealing something from me. But I've produced the program mostly at my own expense and always as a volunteer for all those years because I WANT people to learn about birds and love and protect them. So I'm always delighted to hear that people enjoy it. I'm a lousy capitalist, and if I weren't heavily subsidized by my sweet husband, I'd never have gotten this far doing so much for so little money. Now, though, we do need more money than I'm bringing in. I'm speaking at several upcoming events:

  • Audubon Upper Midwest Regional Conference this weekend
  • Annual fundraising dinner at Hope Lutheran Church in Eau Claire Wisconsin October 18
  • Bear River National Wildlife Refuge--I'll be stopping there to do a program en route to--
  • The annual meeting of the Environmental Education Association of New Mexico in a couple of weeks
  • Woodland Dunes Winnie Smith Annual Harvest Dinner November 3
  • the Central Valley Birding Symposium in mid-November
Then I'm hanging up my hat with regard to public speaking, at least for a while, to get a regular paying job. My expenses usually exceed what I make at talks (and I do a number of talks for little or nothing), and my Power Point projector bulb is on its last pixels--I can't afford to buy a new one, and right now can't even afford to buy mealworms for my chickadees. Three college-age kids, some necessary home improvements to make our house more handicapped accessible if my mother-in-law wishes to stay with us during her recovery, paying for a new car--all that is more than a single income can be expected to cover. So I'll be applying at a local temp agency and see what office jobs I'm qualified to do. Once we're back on our feet financially I'll be back.

My own radio programs are all available on the Internet for free, legal downloading. You can get them straight from my website as mp3 files, or via iTunes as podcasts. All the information about them is here. I hope to continue doing that while I work, but I will probably have to cut back some because of time constraints. I'm not as young as I was when I started the program 21 years ago!

It's funny--the one time I've had a regular income from corporate America (well, I THOUGHT it was a small local company), it turned out I'd unknowingly given a huge corporation two years of my life--literally. Now a faceless company almost a thousand miles away owns every photo I took from February 2005 through March 15, 2007. Fortunately, I wrote on every gallery that anyone could download the photos for educational or conservation use for free, without permission. That was lucky, because that allows me to continue to use my own work, too. I just don't get the modern world. I'm glad Radiohead is so successful doing things their own way, following their beliefs and not giving in to the lure of big bucks with record labels. It's lovely to see the little guys win one once in a while.

By the way, my Tom's birthday is the same day as Thom Yorke's. I like that.