What Be Found Among the Pirates, Billy?

An astonishing, unbelievable universe of music. Music you never dreamed of and music you barely remember, from the ancient of days all the way to once upon a time called right now.

It's not hard to find some of the titles by some of the Major Artists that the Industry is so upset about but in my Time among the Pirates, these tracks and these Artists, that are so clearly Owned, are found on a minority of sites and are actually a minority interest.

Just like all the other music out there on all those sites.

What's a minority interest in this case?

Several dozen live concerts by 10 Years After. Thai surf bands from the sixties. English Folk fundamentalists from 40s and 50s. Bulgarian techno. Old dub plates. Old Egyptian pop music. Classic polka collections. Pre-WW2 radio shows. Military music. Music from merry-go-rounds and ferris wheels.

Ethnographic recordings of songs and languages from around the world. Classic books in an audio format. Speeches by Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Mashups. The newest tracks by bands so cool nobody you know has even heard of them yet.

Some of it has "fallen out of copyright" and into "the public domain" - ie- even the extreme extensions of the statutes of limitations in the Bono act have run out. Some of it has been recorded and uploaded with both the permission and even encouragement of the musicians involved. (http://www.archive.org/index.php)


The list, like the beat, 
goes on. 
And on. 
And on.

Most of it has two things in common.

1) It's free- yours for the time it takes you to download it and to type a quick thanks to the person who's made it available, and...

2) You couldn't buy it if you wanted to- it may never have been for sale, or it's been out of print for years. Maybe it never made it to the country you live in. Maybe only a few hundred copies were ever made.

What it adds up to is a global archive of sound- an imperfect history of recorded music since the dawn of recording to tomorrow morning. It's a strange and beautiful virtual library of music that only exists online.

Volunteers have put countless hours into digitizing music that the Industry was never interested in, or lost interest in and/or won't make available because their business model fails at 'niche level'. Many pay the storage costs for their collections each month out of their own pocket. Anyone who finds music they feel they own and don't want to share on one of these sites has only to ask and it disappears. 

There's been no plan, no central body, no organizing meetings and no money has changed hands. It's chaos, in the true sense of that word- a complex open system of music available to anyone with access to the internet. 

Thanks to these music freaks and geeks, anyone who is curious can hear the sound of the world singing.


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