The passing of Bangladeshi pop idol Azam Khan is notable not just because he was an all-around champ—a former guerrilla fighter turned platinum-selling artist—but also due to the fact that he exited this world with barely a taka to his name. In fact, Khan had to suspend his cancer treatments in Singapore because he couldn’t foot the bill, despite having sold untold millions of albums during his long and distinguished career. Shortly before his death, Khan blamed his misery Bangladesh’s lax intellectual-property laws:
“I’ve recorded 17 best-selling albums over my career but I have made less than 700,000 taka (10,000 dollars) in royalties,” Khan told AFP from his sickbed in his modest two-bedroom house in the capital Dhaka.
“If I’d had this many hit albums in Europe, I’d own a private jet. In Bangladesh, rickshaw drivers will sometimes give me a free ride out of pity,” he added.
The whole sad account of Khan’s penury is worth reading, because it eloquently makes a point I’ve made here before: pirates often exist not because consumers are total craven, but rather because legitimate products are either incorrectly priced or too difficult to obtain. Merchants don’t want to live in fear of having their inventories seized, or rely upon capricious underworld sources for their goods. They do so when there is no other viable option.
More Azam Khan music here. Not really my thing, but still several notches better than Nickelback.