Loudon Wainwright's "Something for Nothing"

Loudon Wainwright’s “Something for Nothing” is an entertaining and fair commentary on file sharing, from a songwriter’s perspective. Download the MP3 first, and read the lyrics below. (I’m not sure, but I think Loudon would approve.)


Loudon Wainwright III, “Something for Nothing”

You can pull one of my songs right out of thin air

Go ahead and download me, see if I care

In love, war and cyberspace, everything’s fair

And it’s okay to steal ’cause it’s so nice to share

You’re in luck ’cause last night, it happened again

I was feeling creative about twenty to 10

So I sharpened a pencil and I wore down its end

And now soon you’ll have something to share with your friends

It took twenty minutes to write down this song

The tune’s public domain so I didn’t do wrong

I chewed up the pencil and the eraser’s all gone

Scratched my head and my balls, but it didn’t take long

Songwriting’s not so hard, it’s well-understood

Anyone can do it and everyone should

I’m sure you could write and sing something as good

With some balls and a pencil, I’m sure that you would

A PC’s like a crowbar, it’s only a tool

And music flows like water from a big public pool

But I wanna get paid for my work, but I’m a fool

Because trading and sharing’s so awesome and cool

I don’t mean to be flip, I don’t want to be pat

Those Metallica guy are all getting too fat.

Free information, yeah, what’s wrong with that?

Something for nothing, that’s where it’s at

And those moguls run labels and you call them all crooks

Because they crunch the numbers and they cook the books

But I signed that contract and I got my hand shook

Shaking hands with the devil, it’s not as bad as it looks

You can pull one of my songs right out of thin air

Bootleg and download me, see if I care

In love, war and cyberspace, everything’s fair

And it’s okay to steal ’cause it’s so nice to share

4 thoughts on “Loudon Wainwright's "Something for Nothing"

  1. Excellent! Where is this song from, and did Loudo give permission for it to be posted?

  2. “Something for Nothing” seems to be an ironic choice of song for a radio performance as it is (has been!) so easy to bootleg.

    I think that the song is a plea for artistic/fiscal understanding as much as a condemnation of downloading bootlegging nerdy sons of bitches and while it displays Loudon’s penchant for, and ability to write clever songs to order it remains, for me, one of the weaker songs in the unrecorded canon.

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