How did my legal digital music project go?

musicians-with-masks-1921Six months ago I set out to make sure all the music on my devices was legitimate. How did the project go?

Now there are legal and affordable ways to legitimately own digital music, there are no excuses for owning pirated material. 

Or maybe not, checking all the songs stored on my computer are legal proved harder than expected.

Just to be clear, illegal means songs I haven’t paid for but should have. If I own the CD, then rips for my personal use are legal. Songs downloaded from band sites or other legitimate online services offering free material don’t count.

When I started there were 15,000+ songs in my iTunes library. I guess most were illegal.

Today I’ve around 10,000 songs. Nearly all are legal. If I come across anything potentially dodgy, I buy a legal copy or trash the file.

I’d like to say all are 100% kosher, but that’s not realistic. I’ve deleted everything I know is dodgy. Where possible I’ve either purchased songs from iTunes, brought the music on CD or downloaded them from Auckland Library’s Freegal service.

One big problem is knowing for sure something is legal. iTunes songs are straightforward, I can tell from the app what was paid for and downloaded. With CD rips I can look at the physical media.

There’s nothing so obvious on the Freegal songs to tell me they were legitimate free downloads. The same goes for other legitimate free downloads.

The other huge problem is that Apple’s New Zealand iTunes site doesn’t offer many of the songs I’d like to buy – nor does Amazon. Generally I note the song and head off to TradeMe or Real Groovy to find a CD copy – most CDs cost under $10 and can be a much cheaper way of buying music than iTunes.

Where newspapers sit in the bigger picture



While the numbers will be somewhat different in New Zealand, the message is clear. Just three years after the first modern tablets went on sale, they are almost as popular as printed newspapers.

Newspapers still make plenty of money. I suspect that for every dollar spent on advertising to New Zealand tablet users at least ten times that amount is spent on newspaper ads.


When I worked on the NBR Rich List

Rich List 2013 banner FOR WEB“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

And New Zealand’s rich are different from those elsewhere.

I worked for the NBR in the 1990s and wrote stories for the paper’s Rich List edition.

My job meant getting short interviews of rich listers and checking details about their wealth. It didn’t take long for one thing to become clear, New Zealand’s rich did not like talking about their wealth and went out-of-the-way to downplay their success. Many tried to persuade me they didn’t belong on the Rich List. One hired a publicist to persuade me he didn’t belong on the Rich List.

Compare this with the big noters in Australia or the US who would pay publicists to get their names on local equivalents of the Rich List.

One possible explanation for New Zealanders coyness is that the day after the Rich List is published, Inland Revenue tax officers would pore over the estimates before taking a great deal of interest in any mismatches between tax returns and the published estimates of wealth.

Maybe. But I don’t think that’s the only reason.