The Cure's Robert Smith

A little over a month after his last all-caps, double-spaced rant against “THIS ‘ART FOR FREE’ IDEA,” The Cure’s sourpuss of a frontman, Robert Smith, has unloaded another blast of venom at his critics and those who support the “IDIOT CONCEIT” of giving music away online.

Smith’s 750-word screed, posted on the band’s official Web site today, follows up on a Feb. 28 missive in which he lashed out at “PROFESSIONAL APOLOGISTS” in the media.

In that first salvo, Smith labeled his critics “CRETINS” for suggesting there could be a new business model in which artists provide their music free of charge and earn a living through other avenues such as touring, song licensing and merchandise sales.

In today’s post, Smith — without naming names, or resorting to flagrant name-calling — takes a shot at Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, artists who, over the last couple years, have shaken up the dying music industry by giving away their albums online and letting fans who wanted to pay for the music do so.

Smith writes:

WHAT I AM ESSENTIALLY SAYING IS THIS:
WHATEVER ‘BRIGHT NEW WORLD’ I AM EXPECTED TO ENJOY
ONE IN WHICH SONGWRITERS/MUSICIANS ARE OBLIGED TO MAKE THEIR MUSIC AVAILABLE FOR FREE
IS ONE THAT IS TOTALLY UNFAIR
AND THAT WELL ESTABLISHED AND SUCCESSFUL (IE WELL OFF!) ARTISTS
WHO DO THIS BECAUSE THEY CAN AFFORD TO DO IT
ARE HELPING TO CREATE AND SUSTAIN A CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT OF EXPECTATION:
THE EXPECTATION THAT ALL MUSIC SHOULD BE ‘FREE’
IT IS A DISMAL POSITION

Smith goes on to crunch a few numbers, presenting a hypothetical songwriter who pens 25 “good” songs a year. To make the U.K. median annual income of £25,000, there are infinite possibilities for that songwriter, from selling each song for £1,000 apiece to pricing the songs at a penny each and hoping to sell 2.5 million.

Both options are pretty unrealistic, he notes, as is much of what falls in between. But what about pricing the songs at nothing? Then what?

Subsidizing a career through merchandising, live revenue and/or selling songs for commercials are apparently all extremely distasteful ideas to Smith — even though the Cure has done all of those things, and, it’s fairly safe to say, made a whole lot of money doing so.

Nevertheless, he concludes:

SO…
DESPITE THE FACT THAT I KNOW MY SONGS ARE ‘GOOD’
AND THAT PEOPLE WOULD BE HAPPY TO PAY FOR THEM IF ONLY IT WAS CULTURALLY ACCEPTABLE
(LIKE IN ‘THE BAD OLD DAYS’ WHEN RECORDED MUSIC HAD ACTUAL VALUE?!!)
IT SEEMS I HAD BETTER FIND A ‘REAL’ JOB
OTHERWISE I WONT BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO LIVE…
SERIOUSLY
HOW CAN THERE BE ANY OTHER CONCLUSION TO THE MISERABLE ARGUMENT THAT RECORDED MUSIC SHOULD BE ‘FREE’ FOR ALL?

It is, of course, a valid and legitimate argument for a working artist to make, even if Smith’s poorman act is a bit hard to buy.

Nevertheless, fans would probably prefer that Smith — in addition to discovering the elusive caps lock key (left pinky!) — would instead focus his energies on the companion album to 4:13 Dream he promised to deliver as soon as contractually permissible.

Read Robert Smith’s complete “MORE FREE MUSIC” post here.

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