Archive for May, 2012

Morrissey, Insecurity … and Security

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Unless we factor the incredibly lucky into the equation, there’s a problem that punters have faced at least once in their gig-or-club-going lives: the spectre of brutish, violent and overly aggressive security. Let’s not pretend this is the norm by any means – most security staff are hard-working and professional – but most music fans will be able to recount one or two experiences in which their supposed ‘protectors’ acted as anything but. Sure, a lot of those people will hold their hands up and admit they were breaking the rules of the venue in question – too drunk, maybe, and causing a scene – but even then brute violent force is often deployed when a firm guiding hand to the exit doors will do.

Why are we bringing this subject up? We’ve been looking at several reports of Morrissey’s decision to finish a gig early last week due to the behavior of ‘macho’ security guards. This also happened back in December of last year, when the melancholy Mancunian walked off stage in protest of security guards ‘assaulting’ fans.

Animosity between security and the onstage act is not a new phenomenon. Obviously there are unparalleled cases like the Rolling Stones’ foolish decision to employ Hells Angels at Altamont – events so beyond the norm as not to factor in a general overview. But fistfights and other fun frolics – they’re an occasional hazard. Remember this from Kurt Cobain?

Or this from 30 Seconds To Mars?

Or this from Guns N Roses (three minutes in)?

All of these share a common factor: security seem to hugely over-react to a fan or fans who are getting perhaps a little carried away – but aren’t causing anyone any harm. The question is: while annoying, isn’t this just an inevitable part of the gig-going process?

Most of the time security are on the lookout for genuine threats to both the performer and the crowd. The odd mistake may take place, and an innocent person might fall fowl of their ire – but is this just a price that has to be paid? From a detached point of view, it’s easy to say yes – but the poor fan on the receiving end of such an incident would probably say otherwise. It’s certainly a contentious issue. What do you guys think? What are your experiences?

The ongoing saga of Joel Tenenbaum

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If you keep up to date with developments in the digital music world – and seeing as you’re already reading the BAMM website, we’re gonna go ahead and assume you’re pretty clued up – you’re probably familiar with the ongoing story of Joel Tenenbaum, a former Boston University student who was fined $675,000 by the RIAA for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the internet.

Tenenbaum decided to fight his corner. Viewing the punishment as deeply out of perspective, Joel enlisted legal assistance and took the RIAA to court (with the help of Harvard professor Charles Nesson). A federal judge agreed that the punishment was excessive, but it was alas reinstated by a court of appeal.

Infact, if you want to know the story in full, just spare a few minutes to take a listen to this episode of BAMM Insights, in which we interviewed Tenenbaum himself:

Enjoy that? Good (and there are several more episodes of Insights you should check out too, covering a wide range of digital and music issues). Now take a peek at this clip in which our very own Phil Lang examines both sides of the piracy/punishment argument:

Why are we bringing this issue up today? Because Joel’s most recent appeal has failed, and he’s still in the firing line for that none-too-pleasant 675K fine. Joel just graduated on Sunday, and – while he’s no doubt justifiably proud of his achievement – this ongoing saga can’t help but take the shine off that.

The thing is this: let’s look at the consensus here. In the episode of Insights posted above, Joel admits breaking the law, and is more than ‘happy’ to accept an appropriate punishment. The key word here is appropriate. If you were to hit the streets right now and ask people what the punishment for illegal file-sharing should be, what sort of answer do you think you’d get (barring any RIAA employees you might happen to bump into)? A relatively small fine – maybe five hundred or a thousand dollars? A brief stint of community service? Something in perspective, surely, because the vast majority of people have either a) dabbled in the world of the online five-finger discount themselves, or b) agree with Paul Resnikoff (see above video) that it’s a crime on a par with a traffic violation. Illegal, yep, and you’ll get your day in court. But you won’t be destroyed.

What will happen if Joel refuses to pay up? Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t have a spare $675,000 down the back of the sofa. Will he face jail time? Music pirates have been sent to prison in the past – admittedly for far greater offences, but nonetheless precedents have been set.

No-one would deny the right of artists to get paid, nor that those who steal music should be punished. But look at it this way – someone who illegally downloads music could theoretically face a prison sentence. Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted of the manslaughter of Michael Jackson, was sentenced to four years in jail. Conclusion: there’s not too much difference between the punishment for downloading a Michael Jackson song and killing Michael Jackson. Is that fair?

What are your thoughts on the issue? Feel free to share in the comments box below.