Home Taping Is Killing Music.

A topic we’ve covered in the past but it always gets people talking so we thought a return to it was worthwhile. The subject I’m talking about, as you may have guessed from the title, is whether the internet is a good or bad thing for music. Paul has his opinion on the matter which you can read below. We’d also love to hear your thoughts too – that’s what the comment box is for.

If you’re of a ”˜certain age’ you’ll remember the above logo and the slogan ‘Home Taping Is Killing Music’ with an amount of affection. Did taping the Top 40 (another thing you’ll remember if you’re of a ”˜certain age’!) really mean you were ”˜killing music’?

Nowadays, with the www almost controlling our lives, it’s much easier to get hold of music:

a) without getting off your arse.
b) without paying for it.

The view on not paying for it sparks a vehement argument. Is it illegal to download something available in the public domain? Is it illegal to be in the public domain in the first instance? Does it steal from artists?

I have mixed views. If someone copies music and then sells it on, that’s clearly wrong. It’s counterfeiting. But, if someone were to download music and listen to it on a CDR in their car, is that wrong? Yes, they haven’t paid for it, but, does it allow the artist to get into a place they may never have been in before?

Let me give you an example. I didn’t buy the first Reverend & The Makers album, The State Of Things, but, I was sufficiently impressed to go and watch them live (if you never have done, you must, they’re superb). When their next album, A French Kiss In The Chaos was announced, I pre-ordered it. Then I went to see them live again, and my wife bought a t-shirt at the gig. This year, I was very excited about the release of their third album, @Reverend_Makers. Now, it’s commonly known that artists have long made most of their money from gigs, so after ”˜illegally’ listening to their first album, I have then gone on to buy four concert tickets, two albums and two t-shirts, one for my wife and one for me. In my opinion, I haven’t done anything wrong, in fact, quite the opposite.

Now I appreciate everyone isn’t like me, but, is this the area we need to concentrate on rather than a carte blanche ”˜blame culture’?

The blame for illegal downloading? It’s easy to blame technology and the internet, and don’t get me wrong, they have their part to play, but, if you are one of these people of a ”˜certain age’, you’ll remember album and single prices rocketing in the 80s to the extent that buying them wasn’t easily affordable. Record companies took the piss and their artists released records containing loads of ”˜filler’. I myself even predicted the music industry would implode and I was right. Once upon a time in the 80s, I would buy records by liking the sleeve alone. There was a time when you could tell a record was by a particular artist even if it didn’t have their name on the sleeve ”“ Pet Shop Boys and New Order were the masters, but I even remember buying stuff by The Bible and The Big Dish because the sleeve shouted out their name even if you couldn’t red it there physically! I digress.

”˜Filler’ records happen less and less nowadays with many artists releasing via their own website etc. and I see this being the way music will be available from hereon in. They don’t need a big label to do stuff for them anymore. I’ve recently bought stuff by Ian McNabb, Portion Control and The Great Leap Forward from their own websites (yes, I have a varied musical taste). Selling them for less than the price of a tenner also helps. I’ve bought Blancmange and Martin Stephenson cds from recent gigs, and, I’ll tell you something, there’s no ”˜filler’ on any of them! Artists nowadays seem to a have the ability to gain full control over everything they release.

I was recently lucky enough to join an audience with Ian McNabb at Radio Lancashire. I asked him how he felt about writing such brilliant Icicle Works singles in the late 80s and none of them being Top 40 hits. His reply was that it’s all relative ”“ High Time sold 40,000 copies back in 1987 and reached Number 76. Nowadays, that amount would get you a Number 1 single. Is downloading music killing it, or do people simply not buy the quantity they used to?

The problem for me, and the main reason I stopped buying albums, was not knowing what I was going to get on them, and, here is where the internet can help. Streaming of full albums on websites is a great way to see what you’re going to get, and, once you’ve heard it you decide what you want to do. If you don’t like it, surely you don’t ”˜illegally’ download it? If you do like it then you’re tempted to buy. Recent streaming of the VCMG album means it’s on my Wanted List. A few years ago, Radiohead allowed you to download their album and then pay what you thought it was worth. It’s a method that has been used by several other artists since.

Let me throw something into the mix (pun intended) ”“ is it ok for ebay and charity shops to sell used cds and records? The artist doesn’t benefit. The punter gets something for nearly nothing. Sound familiar?

I repeat, I appreciate not everyone has the same view as me, but, the point I’m making is that it’s not a clear cut argument. It’ll go on forever I’m sure, but in the meantime, let’s all enjoy the gift of music, and, be grateful we all have access to it like we never have done before.

For people of a ”˜certain age’ there will always be the memory of guessing when to press ”˜Pause’ on your cassette player to avoid getting Bruno Brookes’ voice on your tape.

This is Paul’s first piece for Louder Than War. Paul’s website (where this first appeared) is Heaven Is A Place On Pendle. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, easily one of the best radio shows on the BBC. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow his personal twitter, @hiapop.

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13 comments on “Home Taping Is Killing Music.”

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  1. I am of a similar opinion in that I used to tape stuff off people but if I liked it that much would go and buy the album. I’d only get tapes of stuff I wasn’t that desperate for anyway, so they didn’t really lose out as I wouldn’t have bought it on spec.

    One thing different though is the ease of listening to music now. Don’t get me wrong it’s a good thing but when we used to trade demos or stuff taped off the radio/bootlegs then it seemed much more exciting. You definitely had to work harder and be a committed fan in those days…not that I want to sound disparaging of today as we would probably have taken that option if it was available.

  2. Good article but what about the tribute bands who make money from playing other artist’s material or just stealing their sound ie The Ex Pistols and Nowaysis who were even on top of the pops there are also thousands of Cabaret acts who do the same thing without permission,. Where do we draw the line at stealing ? Today people use their phones to capture images and sound at gigs and to me thats like stealing an exclusive version of a song that is always invariably played and sung differently. The internet has a lot to answer for really where it has become easy to just download tracks. I think itunes is fair in the way it works but there are quite a lot of other download channels that are free, and its easier to “get it online”, than it is to visit a record shop (personally I love going to record shop’s) everything today is easy to obtain and I think it’s uncontrollable which is a damn shame for the artist. Prime example are the guys (forget their names now) who wrote “All by myself” which Nilson had a massive hit with. They never made a penny and in fact it ended in suicide. The music business is a world on it’s own, where everybody surrounding the artist will make more money than them so their work is already stolen before its released. Then again hasn’t the artist in the majority of cases always stole from the previous generation so to speak. where do we draw the line.

  3. I have mixed feelings on this a bit like you. On the one hand the internet has allowed me to discover so many great young bands I wouldn’t’ve had a clue about if I’d only had access to mainstream tv & radio. Bands like The Lost Boys, The Spitfires, Deadbeat Echoes, The Lucid Dream, Colorama, Houdini Dax, The Keys & The Sufis. But the downside is that there is no money in it anymore and without the investment that used to come from record companies it’s harder & harder for these bands to survive. I’m old school, being of that ‘certain age’ and would happily buy music from these artists in either vinyl or cd format – I don’t do downloads. Unfortunately a whole new generation now expect to get their music for free and that’s the problem for record companies. I don’t know what the answer is unfortunately.

  4. The point with eBay and charity shops is they’ve at least at some point been bought and is loosely proportionate – one CD can only really be re-sold a limited amount of times to a limited amount of people. This is not the case with downloading, one purchase can and does spawn hundreds of thousands of downloads, which is grossly disproportionate.

    Stores like ‘thatsentertainment’ provide an interesting model AND something that downloads do not offer – cheap old stuff. You can’t get new releases for below market value there but you can get the Best of Roy Orbison, Franz Ferdinand’s first album and a Northern Soul compilation all for a fiver….with legal downloading there is the worry that everything is quite expensive and pushes potential purchasers away.

  5. In this www. age it’s the scale that is the problem, and the arguement that the massive record labels and multi millionaire artists can afford the loss.
    The issue of sharing someone elses work around the world for free impacts the new artists and the smaller ones who only income is from what they do, make records.
    Having just sunk a not insignificant sum of my own money into a relatively small project of 1000 units, if someone were to make the album available for free download and 200 people make and copy instead of buying one then that’s 20% of the sales, money that would go into the next project.
    Ultimatly it’s the artist who will lose out with reduced sales and a bigger delay between releases, and arguing that artists make nothing from 2nd hand sales is so wide of the mark to be unbelievable, do car manufacturers benefit from this?
    Sharing music amongst friends has always gone on, I’ve taped albums for friends to introduce them to new music and they’ve gone out and bought it as a result, but as I said at the start, this is about scale and ultimatly the majority who download for free will continue to do it and not buy physical product as the culture of something for nothing, regardless of the fact that someone relies on the lost income to pay their bills, is here to stay.

  6. Back when Napster was controversial, and sites like it were the only straightforward way you could download music, the argument that music fans who downloaded free tracks ‘illegally’ were also the ones who supported the bands with their money stood up very well. The record companies were curmudgeonly and slow.

    That was 12 years ago though. Nowadays, it is not hard at any time to hear music you want to. Musicians make so much available for free, that, in my view, avoiding paying for what they do ask you to is just unfair. Especially so for independent musicians and labels.

  7. Can’t remember who it was but someone recently said, when asked about this kind of thing, but the reply not word for word went something like:

    Having 40,000 free downloads is not a problem … not having them is the problem

  8. What would Lars Ulrich do..?

  9. Taping from the radio always meant a DJ talking over it (deliberate) so you would never get a perfect copy. All our future videos will be edited with dialogue in or shorter than the actual song so ripping them ioff youtube will be pointless. I think there was a time you might’ve taped something off a mate to check it out but music had far more importance then & you would go buy it if you liked it. Now music is just another part of the background noise (if you’ll pardon my pun). What I find really dissapointing is that many people my age (49) are into the whole stealing music thing & that’s beacuse they came from a time where it meant a lot more. I guess if there is little chance of getting caught for a crime many people will commit it.

    Regarding the second hand CD in a charity shop, that’s definitely fair game, the artist already had their cut from that sale & it’s a second hand item like any other, you wouldn’t not sell your car beacuse the car company wouldn’t get any more money out of it.

    If you like it, buy it, if you aren’t prepared to buy it you don’t like it enough.

  10. PS ….. The internet giveth, the internet taketh away.

  11. I do think musicians get very hypocritical and precious about this sometimes … the very same who might complain that someone downloads their songs for free, are often people trying to get all manner of things for free off someone else, or shall we say ‘make the most of scarce resources’ … the music industry is rarely wholesome or accountable at any level

  12. My bug is not with the people who download. Why wouldn’t they? Its free. I don’t even mind people recording tracks from albums for their mates – after all, thats how we all found our favourite bands. The ones that REALLY bug me are the CUNTS that upload the albums to their piss poor websites for EVERYONE to download, just because they don’t have an adequate sized penis and feel this makes them popular. I can’t abide these people. What gives them the right to upload someone else’s work?

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