.Letters for the Week of November 27

Readers sound off on problems in the music industry, tech's influence in the Bay Area, and a new sports stadium in Oakland.

“Oakland Is the Better Option for the Warriors,”
Seven Days, 11/13

Problems With the Proposed Sites

In my opinion Oakland will not be able to retain either the Warriors or the A’s without reducing crime.

Notwithstanding the above and the fact that neither team owner wants to stay in Oakland, both the proposed sites mentioned in your article are fraught with problems. It should be noted that both MLB and the NBA prefer a downtown location. The Coliseum is suitable for a football stadium.

Coliseum City, among other things, is way too complex a project to undertake without redevelopment funding to take the risk out of the project for developers. It also seeks to create a new downtown when we already have one that needs reinforcement. The current proposal does little to meld with the adjacent East Oakland community, offering essentially a gated community instead.

Howard Terminal, near Jack London Square, is a better choice but is also fraught with problems. Among these, it is too far from BART; adjacent to Schnitzer Steel, a flagrant air polluter; and a deep water berth capable of providing high-wage maritime jobs and port revenue.

The ideal site would be the air rights of I-980, between Brush, Castro, 12th, and 18th streets. The new A’s ballpark could be located north of 14th Street, and the Warriors Arena/Oakland Live venue could be located to the south of 14th Street. This location would reinforce the existing struggling downtown western edge. Additionally, this location could reunite downtown with West Oakland, a community on the cusp of a renaissance, by putting a lid on an ugly depressed freeway, no pun intended. Yes, I acknowledge a few residences adjacent to Brush Street may have to be demolished to create enough width for the ballpark, but otherwise the air rights land over the freeway are free. Hence, financing would be easier. Why won’t your newspaper support this concept as a reasonable alternative for a future venue for the A’s and Warriors?

Bryan Grunwald, Oakland

“The High Cost of Free,” Music, 11/13

Cheap Means Loss of Income

Not seeing the big picture of consequences for choices, words, and actions results in people wanting cheap and free. I speak to people who have never made the connection between wanting to buy as cheaply as possible and not wanting a wage cut or to see businesses shut down. As a speaker and author I am often asked why I don’t speak for free as it “gets my name out there.” They have a hard time getting that I don’t want my name out there as a free speaker. My writing is also of value, so getting paid for it is not unrealistic. We need to educate people to see that their free is someone’s loss of income.

Marilyn Belleghem, Ontario, Canada

Offense Is the Best Defense

Until IP creators of one form or another the world over come together and begin an intellectually aggressive but legitimate assault, the corporates will continue to exploit. Offense is the best defense.

Jonathan Starkey, Cheshire, England

Gravy Train Is Gone

While I broadly support the points made by the film, I don’t think they’ve got a snowflake’s chance in hell of changing a damn thing. And while piracy certainly did make a big dent in things during the Nineties, it’s not the only issue here. A number of factors supported the old model:

1. Restricted supply of music due to high production and distribution costs.

2. Restricted number of musicians able to get known due to limited number of promo channels.

3. No Internet. Few computer games (none till 1979), therefore few other distractions or ways for the youth to identify themselves, except through music consumption and purchase.

4. Limited options for unregulated copying. Cassette was real-time, each further iteration losing quality.

5. Relatively high profit margins on the product, meaning relatively low sales could generate relatively high income.

All those factors are gone, and we’ve pretty much got the opposite situation. Where we had (relative) scarcity, we now have saturation, most of it of very dubious quality. There are almost no restrictions of any kind when it comes to production or distribution, even if that means music that sounds good (because the software will get it that way at a low price) even if the writing and performance aren’t so good.The middle class of musicians who survived without being that well known for the period from broadly 1975 to 2000 (of which I was one) only managed that because they either sold enough of their own DIY CDs (maybe 10,000 to 20,000 sales on average) to survive, or managed to persuade a label to fund their work, even though the chances of that label making a profit were slim. Something on the order of 94 percent of all records made never made a profit, but the big sellers subsidized the low sellers. This meant low sellers could get an advance and survive even if the records didn’t get into profit. Now, that won’t happen

No label can afford to “take a punt” on an artist who isn’t obviously — very obviously — commercially viable.These days that middle class of musicians need numbers that were pretty difficult to get even in the boom times — at least hundreds of thousands, preferably millions — and in an era when getting “above the noise” requires massive promo efforts and budget. Yet their market always was relatively small, even in the old model. You really think they’re going to pull the massive numbers they need now? It’s not going to happen. The gravy train has gone, brothers and sisters.

This isn’t going to change. So best of luck out there. Personally, I’ve just about given up making music for the consumer and releasing it as records. Yes, I’ve got a Bandcamp site and iTunes distribution for my older catalog, but it’s just beer money, at best. So now I’d better get going on with the current work — knocking out music scores for TV. It isn’t glamorous, it’s not very well paid, but it is some kind of living.

Tom Green, London, England

Ad-Supported Model Does Damage

I’m surprised how much illegal downloading is mentioned and how little ad-supported streaming “services” are in this article. Services such as Pandora and Spotify do the same damage as illegal downloading but in a more severe way: They train people to think they are not paying for music and that to do so is unnecessary. At least the illegal downloaders have the opportunity to feel a sense of shame!In the ad-supported model, not only do musicians essentially not get paid (fractions of a cent per stream), but music is no longer what generates value — instead it’s the listeners that are being sold to advertisers.

In the end, we all pay for the music we listen to, the TV we watch, the social networks we log in to, and even the Express. Less of the money, however, goes to the content we love, and instead goes to the companies that are spending so much to create all that we try to tune out.

Scott Alexander, Oakland

Degrade Digital Quality Over Time

I’ve wondered why digital music cannot be programmed to make each successive copy be more degraded, the same way cassette copies get worse with each generation, until eventually the copies are worthless, sound-quality-wise. I think that would do a lot to stop the massive free sharing of music. I believe a big part of the problem is that once someone posts a digital song on an illegal site, it can be shared forever with no loss of quality.

Joe Livoti, Concord

Paying Versus Sharing

Music is property. If it’s not your creative property, how did you acquire it? Did the owner/creator grant you permission? Did the owner/creator sell it to you?

“Sharing” is a cute term for lifting things that don’t belong to you and not paying. These “discussions” amaze me in how intellectuals spend time and energy debating the issue of whether to pay for goods and services rendered.

Quite simply: pay for the music and films you enjoy. Pay in the same spirit by which you expect to be paid when you perform your jobs and/or craft. What if your boss decided to “share” your paycheck with strangers, without any consideration for you and your family? Would you mind if a stranger “shared” your wife?

Quite simply: pay.

Carl Chambers, Stockton

“The Bay Area Has a Values Problem,” Raising the Bar, 11/13

Nothing of Value

Zuckerberg and the rest of the dotcom pinheads are pimps. They have convinced the world that they create products that are so valuable that if you don’t have the latest whatever gizmo, you have no societal value or access to what is hip and cool. In fact, they create nothing of value, it is all an illusion. Twitter — are you kidding me? Why do I care what some idiot in Iowa thinks about anything? At the end of the day, the world will not stop or be the least affected by not hearing from you instantly.

You really are not that important. The finance vultures do not even begin to comprehend the notion of a social contract. How much money do you really need? The combination of the arrogance and greed of these two sectors will be the demise of the nation if we, the people, do not get them in check fast! It may already be too late.

Gary Patton, Hayward

“The Future of Feces,” Feature, 11/13

True Signature Achievement

Even with the funny headline it is a pleasure to see Dr. Neil Stollman on your cover. Dr. Stollman is dearly loved by his patients because of his wit, charm, compassion, and kindness. This is a guy with an enormous heart, whose focus is on relieving suffering.

It is funny and ironic that Dr. Stollman is getting high-profile public recognition resulting from his work with fecal transplants for patients afflicted with C. diff /gastroparesis. Important as this is, Dr. Stollman’s true signature achievement may be in his ability to transform the routine colonoscopy into an entertaining adventure.

Amelia Marshall, Oakland


Our November 13 event preview, “Author Series Seeks to Humanize Arab Americans,” misidentified the person who started the Islam & Authors series. It was Ali Sheikholeslami, one of the founding members of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, not Raeshma Razvi.

In that issue’s What the Fork column, “An App for Donating Leftovers,” we misspelled chef Eddie Chu’s last name and incorrectly stated his age (he’s 24) and previous place of employment (Momofuku Ssam Bar).

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