Music business as nasty neighbours

I guess most of us growing up, had the grouchy-old-man neighbour?

In Bishop’s Avenue, he lived a few doors along in the white bungalow hidden behind large bushes. He was known to all of us as the nasty man who hated children. Truth and myth became hard to separate, and a few summer’s evenings would be spent swapping and embellishing the rich backstory to Mr Angry’s life. He was a retired spy who’d been tortured by the Russians. He’d been accused of murdering his wife. He used to run a sweet shop but got prosecuted for shortchanging his customers. Nobody really knew and of course it didn’t really matter.

The basic algorithm was, however, pretty simple. The slightest intrusion by any child into his real or psychic space would provoke noisty outbursts, often followed by phone calls to parents or letters to the school or the council.

Needless to say, for bored kids this offered the prospect of endless entertainment. It provided just the level of personal risk to make it engaging and attractive for an early experiment in peer-to-peer collaboration and competition. Mr Angry was, I’m sorry to say, stuck in a vicious circle: each outburst or complaint served only to increase the creativity and enthusiasm of the neighbourhood kids’ provocation.

I was reminded of him by this story about the latest effort from the Music Industry: Newport State of Mind removed amid copyright claim. Following a complaint from EMI Publishing*, a delightful and affectionate parody of a best-selling song, transposing the setting from New York to Newport, Wales is pulled down by youtube.

These folks seem determined to cast themselves as miserable and humourless in their dealings. Dealings, as others have pointed out, with people who are actually among their artists’ biggest fans. People whose witty tributes are surely more likely to reinforce the original artists’ fame.

And each time this happens, the kids, of all ages, are going to hate the industry more and (hopefully) become ever more creative in ways of getting round its petty traps. The entertainment industry’s provocations just mean people will want to use it for entertainment, much as we kids did Mr Angry.

Now, with hindsight, I fear we kids may have been pretty mean and unjust in our treatment of Mr Angry. After all, we hadn’t been spening our pocket money in his mythical sweet shop for years and years.

Somehow I don’t feel remotely that compassion for the music industry.

Hat tip: Tweet from @coadec, suggesting that merely for having linked to that youtube, people could get disconnected.

* Update: I said “EMI” in my original post but it may actually be EMI Music Publishing, possibly at the behest of the original songwriters. Whoever it is, I hope they recover their sense of humour.

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