Maybe it’s because “artist rights” aren’t actually as important as anything else mentioned in this paragraph?
I mean, it’s nice to pay artists for the work they do, and it’s often actively shitty not to pay artists for the work they do. “Hey you — you’re being kind of an asshole” is probably not an unreasonable thing to say to someone who seems to take a kind of perverse pride not paying for music (which is not the case in the original article, from what I can tell; being plugged in to your college radio station also doesn’t really make you an “average” music listener/downloader). But that makes the thesis of the piece “a lot of people are trying to self-righteously justify being thoughtless jerks, which is really irritating.” True! Defensive ad hoc justification is usually the first defense of a thoughtless person, though, and that’s as true of the Camper Van Beethoven dude as it is for anyone else. But would an increase of thoughtfulness fundamentally change anything?
It’s not clear to me that “direct purchasing of music as a means of supporting an artist’s living wage” has ever in the history of art been the most efficient or effective way of actually supporting “artist” as a full-time job. That isn’t to say it isn’t possible, but most of the filmmakers I know teach or do commercial work. The fine artists I know teach or do commercial work. The actors I know teach or do service work while they hold out the hopes for commercial work, let alone “artistic expression.” The musicians I know do all kinds of things — insurance sales, writing, teaching, commercial soundtracking. I think we should change the stupid maxim: “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, teach.”
Nor is it clear to me that the majority of society actually respects “artist” as a full-time job — which might be some kind of generational or national problem. I’m not really sure how much I respect “artist” as a full-time job, as someone who has a graduate degree in fine arts. Certainly not as much as I respect “teacher” as a full-time job (plenty of artists get just as screwed in their teaching jobs as they do in their artistic pursuits; not sure what Lowery’s lecturer deal is like at UGA) or as much as I respect universal health care. Those are two characteristics of trying to be a working artist that to my knowledge make it particularly cruel in the U.S. as compared to other countries.
I also find this all this sort of sad. Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy “fair trade” coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that certify they don’t use sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples. On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation. Except for one thing. Artist rights.