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The debate about downloading on the site has been fascinating (read this blog here as well)

link to pro downloading blog

Alec Empire has been pointing out that the funding and survival of bands is just not that simple. And that the much touted idea of cheap recording is not quite what it seems and that the creative process is not always something that you can knock off in your bedroom and give away for free.
We liked his answer so much that we have reprinted it here as a blog on its own. (Alec would also like to point out ”Ëœalso one thing”¦those who know me are aware of my tone when I speak English. When I write, things can come across a bit harder than they’re meant to. It’s this translating from German into English thing.’)

People obviously doesn’t know the reality of indie musicians and labels these days. I wrote an article about this issue two years ago: LINK
this is a very complex issue and I hate when people give these easy answers. (“bands should sell merch”, “you can reach millions of potential fans”, “myspace is great”). Censorship or control by governments or corporations is NOT the solution. it will lead to censoring music as well.

The reality is that young musicians can only survive if they come from a upper middle class or rich background these days. that’s wrong in my opinion because we don’t get the best possible music this way. (if you like Amy Whinehouse, Mark Ronson, Lilly Allen, then you might not have a problem with that. I think the music scene should be about the music itself and not about who can afford to do it or who has a sponsor. The means are here, AND people even listen to the music!)

It is so important to divide between indies and majors (which hardly nobody does! (Can Louder than War get onto this?)

Also let’s get rid of the charts systems. they are manipulated and corrupt (especially in the digital world). this is not a competetive sport, this is music. And what most ”Ëœpop’ musicians do these days was done (in my opinion better) by innovative underground musicians decades earlier.

We live in times where the rich steal from the poor. That goes for musical ideas as well. That is what the argument should be about. (and about the majors being greedy. Sony music and Universal don’t even bother about losing millions. they write it off.)

We need to make the indies more powerful again, and we can only do that, if everybody every once in a while pays for music they like.

I personally don’t care because I come from a different decade (white labels selling up to 20.000 via indie distribution channels.), but I see many young bands who started enthusiastic stopping music because there is no way forward for them. That is bad and will bring down everything at the end.

I don’t want music to be provided by the state or some big corporation, I also don’t want musicians to sell me something else. I want them to focus on what they can do best: music.

In this whole debate nobody really supports the musicians. Filesharers AND majors are equally greedy. the same thing will happen to film (it is already, but it hasn’t come as far).

We need to establish a different mind set before censorhsip and other forms of control technologies are kicking in.


I think it is not that relevant how I record my music. To put it simply”¦I make it a creative decision (when it’s within the budget. If I do an independent film score and there is no big budget, and the producers ask for an orchestra, well, then they got to put that in the budget, otherwise they can’t have that. If the producers want a famous singer on the lead track, we have to convince her or come up with the right amount, so she can afford to do it.).

And that is what I try to explain”¦ people have that arrogance to think they can judge and decide over the artistic process.

Someone says “I’m pretty confident you could replicate a lot of that sound with a crap mic and some decent vsts on a laptop if you spent a bit of time on it.”
So how come you haven’t made that record yourself? If it was that easy? Do you think those guys are that stupid? So if the technology was out there for that cheap, they wouldn’t have used it?

If Rick Rubin decided with Johnny Cash this would create the best recording possible, people should accept that and enjoy the music.

Believe it or not, it is actually not only the gear that creates the value, it is the brainpower of those who make the music. It can be a subconscious thing. (This is why studying at university doesn’t make one a great musician. Neither does taking heroin.)

It is about connecting the dots, coming up with interesting combinations of people, equipment and musical ideas.

So if everyone would record over a ”Ëœshitty’ microphone via an Apple laptop, we would lose the diversity and I guarantee you music will start to really suck.
oh, am I talking about most R&B records in the top 40? or hundreds and hundreds of dance tracks which come out digitally every week? Put an expensive car and bikini girls in the video, that will make people believe they are buying something which is worth it. It hasn’t come that far yet, but it will. Everybody can see where it’s heading, that’s why Louder Than War wrote this article above. Certain types of microphones make certain voices sound amazing, they capture the voice in the best way. We would miss out on those artists!

Watch Black Swan ”“ that explains it a bit. Johnny Cash’s life was probably the most important factor in why the recordings are special sounding. And that is not even worth 12 Dollars for you? I think I will never understand that mindset of those who argue this way.

To me music was always so important, it was priceless. The value and quality that music brought to my life couldn’t match any price tag.

Should music be free? The Piracy debate – by Alec Empire

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. well let’s hope there is a change in the publics’ mindset!!!!!! I find it very frustrating that ignorant people think music should be free, I’m sure they would be incredibly angry if they were asked to start working for free!!!!

  2. great post for a much need discussion about creativity, copyright theft and music : ” We live in times where the rich steal from the poor. That goes for musical ideas as well. That is what the argument should be about. (and about the majors being greedy..” #deact #deappg

  3. this news story on Microsoft ripping off Arcade Fire couldn\’t come at a better moment to make my point… httpss://stereogum.com/629931/microsoft-blatantly-rips-off-arcade-fire/franchises/commercial-appeal/

  4. […] Alec Empire blogs on music piracy for Louder Than War […]

  5. I explained a lot more in my comments here : (there are also really interesting comments from other readers.) httpss://louderthanwar.com/blogs/internet-music-piracy-google-finally-act-is-it-a-good-or-bad-thing#comment-1280

  6. Just posted this comment here on the other site. People asked me to add it here as well (now that many link to this one directly, it might be a valuable addition).

    Alec Empire
    6th February 2011 at 19:24

    One example….Germany\’s Fusion festival
    They have managed to keep it completely sponsorfree. You can\’t even buy drinks from brands like Coca Cola there. It is an amazing festival, one of the last few of its kind (I would even argue it\’s the last one). about 50.000 plus are going there every year.
    Why does it work? Because everybody who goes there knows why they are doing it and they pay the entrance. You will never see the big major label bands playing there, because they can only pay fair fees to the bands and not these outrageous amounts which are being paid by festivals that are sponsored by corporations (which still are raising the ticket prices to my surprise.).

    That is the spirit I am talking about here. It is time for independent musicians and fans of that music to join forces and build a strong community which can survive and grow without the middlemen. But music fans need to understand the effects their actions have and that they have to take responsibilty for them.(same goes for musicians of course)

  7. I posted the tv clip about hidden advertizing in pop music videos…. Yeah Yeah Yeahs now appearing in ads as well… httpss://stereogum.com/635272/absolut-karen-o/franchises/commercial-appeal/

    This is really happening people. Anyone who still doesn’t understand the consequences should wake up.

  8. Interesting German clip about hidden corporate product placement in today\’s pop music videos. My idea of hell. We must build a new independent community that supports new, unestablished artists. A community that is not about maximizing profits at cost of the quality of the music. Musicians, music fans, everyone needs to come together on this and find a solution.


  9. Patrick posted the link above. I thought we should just read directly what the small record shop said.

    Here is the statement on their website:

    “It is with sadness that as of today we are closing down our operation. The sales have dropped radically due to all the illegal file sharing going on, and we can no longer survive.

    We have learned many things and we are proud and happy to have been able to represent so many great labels and artists, and we would like to thank each and everyone of you for a good collaboration and for the good music you have released. We wish you the very best of luck and fortune in the future.

    It is our sincere hope that all artists and musicians around the world start to speak up and fight for their professions and careers, or else we are afraid it\’s all gloom and doom from here. Unless you find a way how to monetize chaos.

    This whole scene we are witnessing is a circus where pirates have hi-jacked concepts that are too important to be misused the way they are: democracy, freedom, bright future. These entities, it seems, are beyond their grasp and comprehension, as they truly have absolutely nothing to do with piracy.

    File sharing without the permission of the owner of the copyright is a real killer. It killed us. And it is killing the labels we work with. It is a fight for our livelihoods, and for a free culture production. Because without a strong copyright law we risk to be caught in a patronage and sponsoring web (and that is a kick-back by 200 yrs). We need copyright laws. And we need people who respect the law and pay the author.

    We wish that everyone had the same respect for the creator as the many customers of Dotshop. And to all of you, our loyal music loving customers from all over the world – we thank thee graciously for your support, love and intelligence. Thank you!

    Anders Bersten, on behalf of team Dot.”

  10. These are real people speaking to us here. Anyone who says there is no problem, denies what\’s really going on.

    Now read this statement from Pirate Bay after their defeat in court:

    “We have, ourselves, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our Internets, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

    Even though large parts of Internets and many old and famous trackers have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Ifpi and all the odious apparatus of MPAA rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the ef-nets and darknets, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Internets, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the baywords.org, we shall fight on the /. and on the digg, we shall fight in the courts; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, the Internets or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the Anon Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in Cerf\’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.


    The Pirate Bay Crew – Now until needed.”

  11. Not one word in there about artists or those who provide content. No passion for anything.

    Their \’New World\’… will look like the dark ages.

    Sad stuff. People who disrespect others like that drive the majority of the people towards conservative governments and more regulations.

    The internet should be an experiment that lets people determine their own lives.
    The so called \’Pirates\’ should join some music scenes to learn something about that.

  12. […] from the band\’s new album Is This Hyperreal? out now via Dim Mak. Produced, mixed, recorded by Alec Empire, Nic Endo and new ATR member CX Kidtronik (Saul Williams / Nine Inch Nails), Is This Hyperreal? was […]

  13. […] has previously looked at this issue; Should music be free?, The Pirate […]

  14. […] you. Alec Empire, a German musician, gives his opinions on the question. You can read it here: httpss://louderthanwar.com/featured/alec-empire-blogs-on-should-music-be-free Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  15. […] UK. They defend the right to get music for free on the internet as opposed to the music industry and musicians who see it as losing their livelihood and control. He sends us a blog stating that the death of the music industry has been excagerated… […]

  16. I think there is more of a valid argument for water being free. Why do we pay for water, when it is a free resource? But we are used to paying water rates. We accept that pipes must be maintained. We buy bottles of water to drink and we accept that even though water was free to the manufacurers, they are the ones who bottled it and distributed it and put it conveniently somewhere we could buy it when we felt thirsty. We accept this. Without artists of every kind, the world would lack something major. Art and design is what (apart from nature and love) make the world a great place to live. They bring joy and entertainment to us all. There is a thing called Desert Island Discs on the radio where the presenter asks famous people what records they would bring with them if they were stranded on a desert island. They are allowed only five choices. This is difficult for them to decide on. When you start to think in terms of scarcity, the value of anything goes right up. It becomes so hard to choose only five records. You begin to wish for more. How can I survive with only five records to listen to? you start to wonder. Being a musician is a bit like being a chef in a restaurant. The chef must first get inspired by some idea of what they are going to create, they must then source the ingredients, then spend time trying different combinations in the kitchen, making several versions of the dish until they have created something delicious. Before even that stage happens, they must have spent years learning how to cook in general. They have also had to convince a restaurant to hire them by making the right social connections, getting work experience and proving themselves to be the best for the job. Once they have created their dish, they must come up with a name for it and feature it on the menu in a way that makes people want to select it. They must make it look delicious, especially if the combination of ingredients is unusual or different. The food must be prepared to health and safety standards. The chef must juggle doing other things in the kitchen at the same time as creating the dish to the highest possible standard every single time. The chef must negotiate working with other staff in a high pressure environment if it is to all come together beautifully, hot and delicious on the plate. The waiter then sweeps into the kitchen and swans out with the dish and presents it to the customer at the table (which has been suitibly prepared and decorated to enhance their experience of the food). The chef gets paid for every moment of their time. Not just the moment when the customer starts eating or takes their first bite. The chef is paid to go out shopping for ingredients. To spend time in the kitchen. To cook behind the scenes. Musicians are not. Unlike with food, the music created if recorded, can be played again and again. So it’s value for money to those who pay.


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