Do you want to know why I don't feel sorry for the record companies when they complain about file sharing and other piracy? Because, when you think about it, they still owe consumers a lot of money.
Recorded music is one of the few products for which you can't get your money back if there's something wrong with it. Oh sure, they'll furnish a refund if, say, the disc is scratched or unplayable. But if the music itself is inferior, and the disc becomes just another $20 coaster, well, then you're screwed. Because it's the music—not the medium—for which you are paying.
I can't count how many times I bought an album only to find that it's half-good, or quarter-good, or no good even, save for the song on the radio that tricked me into thinking the thing might be listenable in the first place.
The way I see it, if the entire track list sucks, the record company owes me a full refund. If half of it sucks, I'm owed half, and so on. In my lifetime, I have purchased approximately 3,000 CDs, MP3s, LPs, cassettes and 8-tracks. Adjusting for inflation, price changes and the varying degrees to which different albums bite barbecued earthworm gizzards, I've calculated that the record companies owe me $16,187.50.
What's that you say, record companies? It's not your fault the music blows? Wrong! It is your fault—for intentionally creating a culture of mediocrity in the industry; for the payola and plugola scams you perpetrated against the consumer; for signing and promoting only sexy recording artists, leaving all the awesome ugly ones to wither in the dungeon of obscurity; and for pressuring artists to dumb down their songs for the mainstream, even though everyone knows that music written for the mainstream sucks on industrial-sized wet-vac hoses used for hazardous-waste spills. Oh, yes, record companies, it's your fault alright, so you owe me.
Not that I'm acting on it. It's just too scary. I'd be that guy who lifted just one Dylan song and Columbia Records Chairman Rob Stringer would get an email alert telling him what I downloaded, where I live and a quick note about which type of hammer is best for pulverizing a person's mouse-hand.
That said, record companies, you still owe me. You owe me for all the Genesis albums I purchased after Phil Collins replaced Peter Gabriel and turned them into a faerie band. You owe me for Alicia Keys' Girl on Fire because you did not disclose that the music was embedded with a subliminal directive to slice open my scrotum and use my testicles as earplugs. You owe me for the three crappy R.E.M. cassettes. I don't know what you did to those fellas after Murmur, but you must've done something to turn them into an enormous puddle of tedium; therefore, you owe me.
You owe me for Van Halen's 1984, which sucked not only when compared with previous, awesome Van Halen albums, but also when compared with hand jobs from skittish lobsters. You owe me for the first four Eagles' releases, which I procured based on the strength of Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), only to learn that the only notable songs on those records were also on the greatest-hits album that I already owned.
You owe me for Black Eyed Peas' Elephunk because of the group's deceptive and sinister qualities. When I first heard it on the radio, I was like, "Yeah, man—where is the love?" But when I brought Elephunk home, it quickly became evident that Fergie is The Devil and will.i.am is the pulpy dreck that drips out The Devil's ass.
You owe me for The Rolling Stones' Dirty Work (et tu, Stones?). You owe me for the original motion picture soundtrack to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was so inadequate that Sgt. Pepper got busted down to Private. You owe me for Patti Smith and Patty Smyth because I accidentally bought a Patty Smyth record thinking it was by Patti Smith and, tragically, put it on the turntable. After the ear-bleeding subsided, I went back to Sam Goody and bought the correct Patti Smith album, only to discover that "Because the Night" is the only good song on it (yeah, I said it).
You owe me for all those one-hit-wonder albums. I'm talking to you, Universal Records! That Chumbawamba album, Tubthumping, was just Dumbawamba.
Are you hearing this, MCA? The Musical Youth debut was so bad it knocked something loose from my ureter. Suffice to say, I passed the dutchie and a kidney stone on the left hand side.
And do not, RCA, for one second think I have forgotten about you. Although I enjoyed Lou Bega's version of "Mambo No. 5," you should have warned me that Mambos 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 were going to kill all the exotic fish in my aquarium. So, you not only owe me $20 for the CD, but you also owe me for a batfish, a jawfish, three seahorses, two emperor angels, one painted grouper, a black-banded cat shark and 26 assorted gobies and grunts.
Ditto The Disturbed, Aldo Nova, Biz Markie, The Waitresses, The Busboys, Kajagoogoo, Big Country, The Vapors, After the Fire, Flying Lizards, Red Rider, The Proclaimers, Young MC, Art of Noise, Pat Travers and—well, those are just some of the artists whose discs I purchased that had only one decent song and for which you now owe me.
So, remember this, record companies, when you're whining about losing money over copyright infringement: Just be happy your customers don't file a class-action suit and let's call it even.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
Make sure not to miss the Sordid Tales podcast!