There is nothing like the subject of money to get people talking,
including me, so it seems! Am I alone in finding some of the
statements that have recently appeared in MMD, in the discussion on
charging fees, slightly alarming?
Michael Stehney wrote in 010204 MMD:
> ... this hobby is not for the poor! I have never heard of a homeless
> destitute person, sleeping under a bridge with a player piano!
Neither have I. However, when did the MMD become a forum for the
hobby of _collecting_ musical machines? It is quite possible to be
an enthusiast without having the resources, or even desire, to own
anything. It costs next to nothing to enjoy listening to instruments
that are on public display either in museums or at events.
I do not, nor am I ever likely to be in a position to be able to, own
a Belgian dance organ. Does this in some way invalidate the enjoyment
that I get from listening to them or mean that I should not be allowed
to even have an interest in them?
One of the great things about the MMD is that it allows anyone to play
a part in the hobby which we all presumably enjoy. Mechanical Music
should not be considered to be an elitist hobby only available to the
few. This is not the first time that someone has suggested who should
or should not be allowed to participate in our hobby.
It is perhaps worth bearing in mind that many musical machines were
built to provide entertainment for the masses. Where would our hobby
be today in fairground organs, barrel pianos, orchestrions and
everything else where built to only be heard by those people who could
afford to own them. One thing is certain, there would be fewer of them
around for us to enjoy today.
Michael also wrote:
> All of you are reading this on computers that you have paid hundreds
> or thousands of dollars for. And are paying a monthly access fees?
Not necessarily so. Here in the UK many, if not all, public libraries
have Internet access freely available. Several ISPs exist that do not
charge a monthly fee. These both allow a wider exposure to MMD, and
everything else available on the internet, than might otherwise be the
The above should not be taken as a condemnation of the suggestion that
a compulsory fee should be charged for receiving MMD. It is not. If
deciding whether fees should be charged, there are a number of areas
that need careful consideration, though.
The MMD is a forum for anyone with an interest in mechanical music,
regardless of how broad or specific that interest is. I am sure that
there are readers of MMD who have no interest in many of the subjects
that are discussed. Indeed, it has been said previously that a number
of people interested in musical boxes have requested to be removed from
the distribution due to the lack of musical box content.
If fees are made compulsory then more would certainly leave as the
Digest would not be considered worth the fee they are expected to pay.
Then what happens? Someone asks a question concerning a Symphonion (or
whatever) and the people who have the answers are no longer available
What is the net result of this? A reduction of the richness and
variety in the discussions which take place in MMD. Those people
who may have only a passing or a very specific interest, and thus may
submit only one or an occasional article to MMD, can be an equally
valuable part of the readership. This is just as applicable to those
who ask questions as well as provide the answers.
We should all be grateful to Jody and Robbie for allowing MMD to be
available on a donation only basis and that financial considerations
have not been the prime consideration.
Traditional 'paper based' groups do charge membership fees. What
are these fees for? To cover the physical and tangible costs of
running the organisation. By and large, the people who run the groups,
and thus make them possible, donate their time for the good of the
Of course there are costs associated with MMD. If the level of
donations currently being made cover the costs of the Digest,
is it worth disrupting the balance and dynamics that currently exist?
I fear that the change would not result in an improved Digest.
If the donations do not cover the costs, perhaps other means of
raising the necessary funds should be investigated and not just the
option of charging a 'membership' fee.