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For What It’s Worth: File-Sharing, Art and Noise.

Is illegal downloading killing music? Are file-sharers mean-spirited, tasteless fools who despise the musicians they are callously ripping off? Is music worth nothing in this day and age? Should the wide-open seas of the internet be bounded so that pirates cannot pilfer precious data with such casual ease? It’s a widely-held opinion that Google should shut down torrent sites, even on the old-style liberal left where in any other circumstance the idea of censorship and of the restriction of information by state or corporate forces would be greeted with the sound of righteous alarm bells going off like fox-stalked geese. It shouldn’t surprise me, but exactly how un-punk can you get, calling for Google to shut down internet highways? Can you imagine Ian MacKaye begging help from the police or from Sony? Clamouring for tighter laws, more and harsher penalties, ferfuckssake? It’s scary how constrained by reactionary suppositions the debate is”¦

So here’s a thought experiment to recontextualise all that heartless piracy: think about music as being just one of many art forms that are first and foremost activities and experiences. Its status as commodity is secondary to the fact that people like playing music or drawing pictures or watching films or reading books. Never mind any churchy nonsense about edification: art is made and consumed because it feels good to do so. For thousands of years music has had very little to do with money and lots to do with life: people played music because they could and were rewarded because other people valued it; some of those who played music earned a living doing so but plenty of others just played for the hell of it. I could expound at you here to the point of nausea about how the need to create and enjoy and think about art makes up a fundamental chunk of the human animal, but I will spare you before the vicar comes calling; suffice it to say that taking pleasure and solace in music, or in fact any Art with a capital “Ahh”, seems to be woven into the lives of human beings as inextricably as the enjoyment of sex or food or staring out at the sea. Looking at it that way, it is odd and disturbing to think of music ”“ MUSIC! – as tradable stuff, like bacon or Barbie dolls or plutonium.

It’s not as if the pro-file-sharing Pirate Party’s stance on freedom of information is utterly alien to current culture: I give you libraries. Similarly Piratical in some ways, the fundamental principle that libraries stand on is that knowledge is beyond normal concepts of ownership and that equal and free access to these things is desirable. Elementary stuff, but worth repeating when you’re talking about putting artificial, legally-enforced restrictions on the circulation of art. Here’s Philip Pullman on the wonder of a world’s worth of knowledge and intellectual stimulation being yours for the taking and the utter horror of the prospect of market forces (stupid, inhumane, blind market forces) destroying the project of enlightenment and pleasure that set them up for everyone, a National Health Service for the heart and mind, because, wait for it, they don’t make money. The fucking shame of it. (And, and, they’re selling ancient woodland that despite having been held in common for thousands of years is now to be bought and sold as if it were vacuum cleaners. It will be air next; water already having been packaged and marketed and sold back to tap-owners the world over. Pfft.)
It seems obvious to me that it is A Good Thing that books be distributed as widely as possible, that they can, totally legally, be swapped for free through sites like Book Hopper (https://www.bookhopper.co.uk/ : the Napster of paperbacks) or sold second-hand for fifty pence. That postcard reproductions of extraordinary (and in all likelihood extremely expensive) works of art are bought cheaply and pinned on bedroom walls. And that music made in Manchester can be heard in Kalamazoo or Timbuktu ”“ and vice versa – regardless of the economic or social status of the ears that are hearing it. Is that not a positive thing, something miraculous that the internet has enabled and has enriched the sum total of human experience? I consider the mega-library that the entire world wide web makes out of itself, the wonderful, massive, almost entirely uncommercial project of digitalising knowledge so that it is held in common for anyone to access for free (from Wikipedia to Project Gutenburg and including Wikileaks), to be a wonder of this freshly connected world: stop for a minute to consider how head-stretchingly amazing that is. Deliberately restricting the free flow of music files is entirely at odds with that endeavour.

So to the uncomfortable reality of file-sharing: the itch that the music biz can’t resist scratching. Only very recently in the big scheme of things have people sold their music by making it into bits of plastic: the bits of plastic cost money to make and therefore have monetary value. These days people don’t want or need to buy quite so much plasticised sound. That particular bit of history is pretty much over, gone the way of Top Of The Pops and Smash Hits. I don’t want to be glib about the impact that the downwards trend in physical purchases might have on those who have built their lives and careers around the idea that discs were saleable, although it’s debatable whether sales of actual records has ever been responsible for that much of an average musician’s income: of course it’s utterly shit if you’re losing your house or can’t pay for recording time or have been dropped by your record label, but the reality of the situation is that infinitely copiable digital files that cost nothing to reproduce and take up no physical space have, on one level, no value at all. No labour was involved in their reproduction and there is no scarcity to measure their value against; selling something that can be got, endlessly, for free is always a bit of a challenge. (Not that it is entirely without precedent: here’s a sharp and illuminating dissection of how Western financial and cultural mores have managed to sell the apparently unselleable, from yoga to baby milk to megabytes: https://colorblue.dreamwidth.org/60441.html). Whatever the value of an MP3, it needs to have a price if i-Tunes is going to sell it, although determining how much it’s worth is apparently quite a random business. A single track might cost 79p to buy, but in a US file-sharing case last year, the judge decided that someone who had downloaded 30 songs from Kazaa should pay recompense of $22,500 per song. It’s now been reduced to $2,250 on appeal, but is that how much the bytes were actually worth? Is that a true representation of what the record company might have lost in sales? Impossible to tell: they’re plucking these figures out of thin air and taking no account of the income actually generated by increased fandom from things such as concert tickets or merchandise or follow-up (physical or digital) purchases (anyone who snorted at the idea that home-taping was killing music can tell you that it did precisely the opposite: it generated fans by the thousand).

Art is a problematic commodity in general, there’s no doubt. For all its glorious, multiple layers of value (piled on top of the mundane monetary ones) it’s a slippery beast; squeezing it successfully into a market-based economic system is going to involve constraints and trickery on behalf of those who would profit from it. It’s bad enough making stabs at defining what is or is not art without trying to figure out, for example, how sculptors can make a living when they might take a year over the creation of a single piece. And how about my friend who makes intricate site-specific installations out of pretty, prickly, plastic tags that be-web a vacant room: how on earth can she sell that? How do writers earn their daily bread? Some do get paid (more or, ah, usually less generously) per review or article, or have readers who will buy paper copies of their poetry and novels, but thousands of copies of their books may be leant out by libraries for minimal reward or sold by second-hand bookshops for no reward to them at all, borrowed, shared and given away until their leaves come unglued. Countless others write anyway and share the product of their hours of labour on blogs or zines for nothing. Photographers? They don’t get paid per view; all those images on Flickr or in galleries, gorgeous, clever, touching, thought-provoking, laboured-over, life-enhancing stuff: it’s mine to pore over for free. It’s obvious that artists do whatever they can to make a living, labour that may or may not be directly or indirectly related to their art work. Don’t they, like musicians, deserve recompense for all their hard work, as the anti-p2p brigade protest? “Deserve”, of course, is a tricksy concept, almost as tricksy as “hard work”: what does Patrick Gale deserve to get in return for my enjoyment of his novel that I bought in Oxfam last week and spent three achey-eyed nights devouring? Deserving or otherwise, he got not a penny from me, poor dear.

So most musicians are not alone in finding it difficult to make money (any money at all, let alone a living) from what they do. It’s a hotch-potch of strategies wherever you look, and there’s not even the cushion of the dole or the blessed Arts Council Grant to put lentils on the table any more. Add the imminently breaking thunderhead of Tory cuts to a couple of years of recession and it’s obvious that file-sharing is only one piece of the economic puzzle. The disc-selling game is up and the lumbering megacorporate beasts that are the major labels are all but obsolete, middle men without a cause. They know they have to diversify, into the games market, into streaming, into merchandise, into selling experiences and services rather than records and they will have no compunction about dropping the bits of their edifice that don’t serve profitability. Like bands that turn out not to be Kings of Leon. Or notionally independent subsidiary labels. This is, after all, The Man we’re talking about. What’s left for musicians is the age-old problem of getting their labour rewarded fairly and adequately. Same old chestnut that Marx and co. grappled with.

The analogy that springs to mind is that of the coal industry. Yes, really, it’ll work, I promise. Coal became unprofitable; pits got threatened with closure; miners went on strike. But keeping the pits open just because the miners needed work was never going to happen. The REAL problem was not the fact that mining coal was no longer profitable, but that the massive crunching teeth of industrialism chewed up and spat out PEOPLE. People who had families and hungry stomachs and feelings and lives. (Why would we do that to ourselves? Why comply with a system that treats us like fuel? Another story”¦ ) But plenty of people, including yer standard lefty types in well-intentioned solidarity with those whose jobs were disappearing down capitalism’s chomping maw, argued passionately to keep things as they were, to stick with coal, instead of demanding that energy and ingenuity and compassion be spent on finding equitable, humane ways to make sure that people weren’t chucked on the scrap heap along with the redundant pits. That’s how I see those who are trying to force the music business to stay as it is by treating the sharing of etheric bytes as straightforward theft: they’re clinging onto coal for dear life, when there’s wind power and waves to harness, as Luddite as you like.

You need to zoom out considerably to see the wider picture: the fight that’s worth picking is on a much grander scale than imagined by those who nit-pick about the selfishness of file-sharers. The problem is not to do with the motivations of p2p users (who are as likely as anyone else to be musicians themselves and, it seems certain, buy more music the more they download for free) or the ease or not of making music without the backing of labels or state-of-the-art studios or sharp-eared engineers (of course you can make fantastic music on your computer or a cheapy four-track; doesn’t mean you should have to) or even the quality of pop music in 2011 (alive and kicking: some dross, of course, same as it ever was, but a good fistful of pearls): it’s about the undeniable fact that new technology means times have changed for ever. Maybe Bandcamp will soon be turning uploaded and shared tracks into hard currency by the (virtual) shedload; maybe the examples of Kristin Hersh or Amanda Palmer (both of whom fund their music-making in very direct and ingenuous collaboration with their fans) will serve as inspiration for countless new strategies; maybe Spotify or LastFM will actually start turning a profit. Who knows? This is a transitional period: in a decade’s time it will probably be face-palm obvious how musicians can get paid for the work they do. And the Sisyphean enforcement of anti-filesharing regulations will surely be viewed as the heavy-handed, hopeless, reactionary, tunnel-visioned task that it is.
I’ll end with a quote from John Philip Sousa (an American composer who lived from 1854 to 1932 and after whom the sousaphone is named). Despite his predilection for new and interestingly-coiled brass instruments, he was a neo-Luddite, deeply suspicious of how new technology would affect his art and particularly worried about the effect of mass reproduction on music. He predicted the phonograph would cause “a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestation, by virtue – or rather by vice, – of the multiplication of the various music-producing machines.”

Sounds familiar, if not exactly a popular view of the advent of mass-produced recordings. I’ve seen enough comments about the dire state of the charts today and the bleakness of a downloadable future to sniff out the same smell of fear in the arguments of the similarly Luddite anti-p2p-ers: their good-hearted intention to protect and preserve ordinary people’s livelihoods turns to ill-focused anger at change and mass society in general. Maybe it’s time to blame something other than the use of new technology for crap working conditions and see the accessibility of digitalised music as a liberation rather than a threat.

For What It’s Worth: File-Sharing, Art and Noise – by Lucy Cage

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  1. After reading the above piece I have decided to give up making music as a proper career option. I am in my 20’s and maybe naively have imagined to forge some kind of career where I could play music every day and earn a modest living from it. In the cold light of day this will never be. No record companies are interested because they have no money now, they are the past anyway. I can bang a few more tunes up online I suppose but they will be lost on an endless sea of noise. I can burn off a few shoddy cdr’s but would like the covers to be nice to reflect the music inside. I can give away my music but whats the point? that might get me a few gigs but thats not enough to pay the rent each month, can’t be on the dole forever. I have to pay the bills so I am going to retrain properly in some other field, maybe web design? I will still play music I suppose for myself, but I’m going to take my music offline as I’d rather keep it for myself than have it copied and passed around endlessly. Maybe in ten years musicians will get paid but I can’t with that long, good luck with it all, its worn me out.

  2. unny you should mention punk because I can\’t think of anything less punk than rolling over and giving all your music away to someone else to exploit.
    And exploit is the word.
    The Pirate Bay mob are worse than major labels. They steal you music. They don\’t even give you an advance like the majors used to. They control your music for ever with no contracts and give it all away and use it as a profit making platform and as a way of establishing themselves as a political party.
    I can\’t think of anything LESS punk rock than that.
    Punk rock was about DIY but it was also about being in control of your own life and not letting corporations whether it was EMI or Pirate Bay control your life.
    Imagine if punk bands had given all their stolen by EMI who didn\’t even have to pay for it so EMI could give it away. That would be crazy. And yet it\’s ok for a new corporate company called Pirate Bay to do the same. The musicians now get no promotion, no support, no help and are left on their own. It\’s all very well saying tour and sell merchandise but some bands are not touring bands. Maybe they will be forced to sell their music to ads but you posh types don\’t like people doing that either.
    Not everyone can afford to do music as a hobby. Not everyone is a spoilt middle class brat.
    Not sure why Ian Mackaye is mentioned. He\’s successful and established businessman who runs a successful independent record label that has already made its money. He\’s from a comfortable background and was monied when he started making music. I really like his records but I feel he\’s in a comfortable position and can afford to support file sharing.
    Unfortunately music is now for the Luke\’s and the Lucy\’s of this world- the rich middle class who can afford to give it all away. it\’s no longer for the poor kids- the great driving force of music for years- they are losing interest and leaving music to become a miidle class play ground of Nathan Barleys slumming it and writing about eacother in the Guardian
    I think what people object to is people taking the music and giving it away for free and patting themselves on the back for it and prtending they have some sort of left wing punk rock reason for doing it. It should be up to the musician if they want to give their music away. This will never happen now and the selfish middle class who want everything for nothing in their sneering, holier than thou way have won but music has lost.

  3. If a baker makes a cake, he expects to get a payment in return for the consumption of the cake. If a musician records an album, he should also get paid for the consumption of his creation.
    Don’t bleat on about the cost of sugar and flour or the cost of plastic or studio time, it’s the way that it’s mixed together that the customer is(should be) ultimately paying for.

  4. How insulting can you get than to suggest that working-class kids are only in it for the money?

    And, yes, assuming you have the time in your week, pretty much everyone CAN afford to make music as a hobby: recording is one thing, but it costs nothing to play. Picking up a guitar is cheaper than building Airfix kits or gardening. A rehearsal split between a band is cheaper than a film, a meal and an evening on the piss. Not everyone can afford to make music their profession: true now, true twenty years ago. There are a whole variety of reasons behind that: the influence of current musical trends and degree of talent being two major ones.

    As for the guy who says he’s giving up music and would rather keep his recordings to himself than share them with others: words fail me. Go and watch the first couple of minutes of that Henry Rollins video John’s posted elsewhere on this site for a bit of enthusiasm about the joys of making music but not playing the corporate game.

  5. @ Mike,
    but the cake is still there, how many times do you think you can sell it?
    The more I read ill-informed anti-filesharing propaganda, the less likely I am to go and support bands by buying LPs, Cds, going to see them or buying t-shirts etc.
    Nobody else expects to make money out of their preformances more than once- lectures, plays, sports performances, dances don’t get repeat performance fees.

    The money from mechanical reproductions goes mainly to the business people that, like all exploiters of the capitalist system, profit from the labour of others. Now their income streams are drying up, they are complaining to their well-connected friends. Witness Mandelson staying on David Geffen’s yacht then launching the digital economy bill just shows how rotten the system is, and how ill-considered legislation can cripple what it was designed to uphold, the rights of the creator of the work.
    The more drivel I hear from ‘hard done by’ musicians who are too lazy or thick to understand that the world is changing, the more likely I am to buy records and CDs secondhand, If I download, it’s almost always for music I’ve already bought, albeit in a different format. I’m not paying twice for the same cake!

  6. hi there, can you please maybe do up a list as to who THE MAN is? as it seems to be the major labels, the independent labels and anyone who doesn’t adhere to your right on ‘leftie/lentils/I have read a bit of das kapital’ worldview. i just saw a guy outside my window driving a van, is he THE MAN?

    Henry rollins last time I saw him was doing interviews for MTV backstage at a festival, is he THE MAN? rollins is another guy established from another era/old model when people bought records, so is mcKaye. rollins was involved with alternative tentacles records, on the west coast USA, they sold records, are they THE MAN?

    Is Alex empire THE MAN? he ran digital hardcore records in the 90s? he has a publicist, so is he THE MAN?

    still no pirate type has answered my question, if an artist self-releases their music and DO NOT want to give it away (but sell a few physical copies or legal mp3s so they can finance the recording and, petrol for gigs and cost of doing up t-shirts) who gives the pirate party or any other p2p/torrent link site the right to give it away for them. Is this self-releasing musician THE MAN also?

    the old model is gone, that is a fact but you seem to be lumping everyone into 2 camps the luddites that are still adhering to the record sales model and just dont get it and the new/great/wonderful give money away free model that will solve everything. that is naive, 1st meeting at socialist worker claptrap.

    down on the street, at the coalface, not at some university/co-operative meeting where everything is ‘I SAY TICKETY BOO DARLING’ musicians are packing it all in at an alarming rate. its left to the irritating 2nd generation brats of famous people like lilly allen and same such trustarian twats to run things now. think about that in a few years when you are driving your SUV, and saying, oh the pirate party, that was a phase I was going through darling, now I’m working for Daddies company.

    so again I ask, if an artist self-releases their music and DO NOT want to give it away (but sell a few physical copies or legal mp3s so they can finance the recording and, petrol for gigs and cost of doing up t-shirts) who gives the pirate party or any other p2p/torrent link site the right to give it away for them??

  7. There are a million ways of obtaining copies of digital files, from music to software. You make not like it, but if you don’t accept it then you’re a Luddite, as Lucy says. Railing against change may seem appealing on the surface but it’s not a great long-term strategy. And in the meantime you end up on the same side as anti-freedom initiatives, from the Digital Copyright Act to the Great Firewall of Australia.

    I’m a member of the Pirate Party UK because I prefer to acknowledge the reality of the new situation, to stand up for freedom of communication, and enjoy the benefits of the internet age, such as the rapid growth of direct action like UK Uncut and – yes – better access to culture regardless of your income or geographical location.

    It’s certainly true that we won’t be having this debate in ten years’ time, in part because MP3s are a fairly inefficient way to get your music. Faster internet and better phones have made on-demand streaming a reality, and the rise of services like Spotify demonstrates that people are prepared to pay for their music in a convenient form. (Yes, I have a subscription, in case you were wondering.)

  8. loved Alec Empire’s comments about building a new independent structure. One that offers fair prices and pays the independent musicians and labels by using the new technology.

    In the meantime Lucy Cage can download free mp3s of corporate punkrock on pirate bay and make the world a better place.

    Lucy , you live in the past. You get what you paid for.

  9. aaah, but excuse me but I am not a luddite, I think I can decide if I AM OR NOT AND NOT BE DEFINED BY DISAGREEING WITH YOUR VIEWPOINT. Just because I do not agree with you does not mean I do not embrace change/technology. If you had bothered to read the previous posts you would know that.
    spotify pays a miniscule amount to musicians. a miniscule fraction for each play, why don’t you do your research and stop preaching to people.

    so again I ask, if an artist self-releases their music and DO NOT want to give it away who gives the pirate party or any other p2p/torrent link site the right to give it away for them?

  10. Do you know what a Luddite is, Patrick? It’s not you or I making up those definitions: your stance fits the bill, even if you don’t like the term.

    What gives me the right to lend a book to my friend to read and then pass on her friend… certainly not the author. Why do you think that’s legal but sharing a musical file isn’t? Is it do to with fairness or about the way business works?

    PS: if anyone is preaching about what is RIGHT and WRONG on this debate, here and elsewhere, it’s the antis; it’s also the antis who are chucking about all kinds of personal assumptions about who file-sharers are.

  11. Patrick, the channels are still wide open for musicians to earn petrol money for gigs by actually playing the gigs (where, if their music has been freely disseminated, a larger audience will be present). Printing T-shirts can be paid for by, guess what, selling the t-shirts (the more of which will likely be sold if a broader section of the community has been exposed to your band).

    And what about the expense and hard work or writing and recording material? Well, think for a minute about the cost and expense of making a video, how is that recouped? The video could be seen as a promotional endeavor, an advert, if you will, for the song. By extension we can now think of the song itself as an advert for the band. This is what you ultimately need to be selling – the band.

    As for control of your hard-written songs being swiped out from under you and pasted all over the internet for all to plunder, you’re probably not going to find this happening until you’re already enjoying some degree of recognition for your work. At which point, roll out the teeshirts.

    It’s always nice to get paid to do your hobby, but millions of musicians are suffering from the delusion that the world owes this to them. I think one of the merits of the current situation is that it’s freeing people from this often painful and frustrating delusion, allowing them to pursue less lucrative, but more rewarding musical paths, whilst moving on with their lives and letting go of the heartache of never having been snapped up by a major.

    I’ve been a self-publishing musician for over 20-years. 20- or even 10-years ago i was saving anything up to a thousand pounds to make a record, then touring exhaustively to promote it, all the while hoping for some airplay or a review so people could actually find out about what i was doing. A year or two later the release would break even and the next album could be manufactured. I’d end up pretty much evens once the distributor and shops had taken their cut. These days i can host as many albums as i like on Bandcamp, I have no manufacturing costs and there are no transactional obstacles between my music and the people that want to hear it.

    I don’t make a living from music, nor do i ever hope to. I decided early on that i didn’t want to have to make any musical decision based on the perceived marketability of its outcome. I learned a trade and it has served me well. If you make music because you love to, having a separate vocation will allow you to finance your own creative endeavors, and allow you the luxury of distributing it in any manner you see fit, for profit or non-profit.

  12. I’ve read this debate with great interest and have a few points to make. As a singer who has sung with bands/units signed to/ and creating their own, Independent labels and I mean gigging and touring bands, I’m confused.
    When did the money ever reach the Musicians? What Musician wants to support a system where supporting the product and living on a shoestring means hard work, assimilation and maintaining the power of the Label industry to churn out shit. Why support a system that says we can “market” you to the public, I can reach my own public thank you and directly now through the very technology we question. Whether they like my music is their choice and I’m hoping they’ll come back because we are music lovers, innovators and music consumers and then fans, ME Too!

    I welcome the disintegration of the archaic industry that never supported the excellent musicians I’ve listened to and heard and think dealing directly with music lovers is the answer.
    Secondly, we were happy to sample!!!!!!!!
    Thirdly, as a singer, you musicians have chosen, spun backwards, reverbed to fuck and used, totally out of context, many of my and other excellent Singers warblings and We’ve got a credit (feat. blah blah) or paying us recording fees for a fave album track. You are the most self protecting group of people I’ve ever met. But you don’t mind the imput from singers who do it for passion and no payment……..see the ridiculousness now?

  13. I just changed my Fb profile picture. Featured in Melody Maker 1995, Us on tour in Belgium, I got paid £30 quid and pd’s of course!

  14. Look we all READ the other debate. This topic of the OUTSIDER knowing NOTHING of how the INSIDES of the whole working system, not just the ‘internet system”, the bigger picture is BEYOND annoying US actual musicians. Not to start a spamming war, coz I’m not one to hit that low, yet others maybe looking at it from both angles, so take off those rose tinted glasses & think of it as a ball on a snooker table & think of EVERY part there is to music MAKING & as an industry.

    If those who want to give up making music, as they don’t see it as an exciting thing or have any passion left. If I had a euro or a pound for every person whining about the state of the music industry. id put it into making a studio or music school where people can come AT THEIR OWN FREE WILL & learn. Get OUT THERE, get thinking what YOU can do. I was brought up learning music, kids younger than me who did GCSEs got to pick music as an actual GCSE & IT & DT. I didn’t. It was classical or nothing. Ie you learnt about the orchestra & or learnt an instrument. Now people don’t bother, there’s guitar hero. Wrong.

    Go read what Henry Rollins has to say here. Perhaps you’ll change it back again. Has anyone thought of music & olympics & THAT affecting ‘music” & on cameron’s imperial ideals of a “budget”. Why can’t people use a kindle or a book & RESEARCH about how this stuff works? Does no one use ONLINE libraries in this day & age. I’m not being bitchy, just the same old argument. Do those that follow the pirate pay/download herd: you actually MAKE music? Thought not. So why stick your nose up at something you are ignorant to? Learn about it first, then talk/discuss it? I’ve had these discussions with many people. It gets tiring to hear 1million people have the same view on where music is at & they know it & yet THEY DONT MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES.

    What annoys me is I want to finish my music studies, yet music doesn’t have money, news flash, europe doesn’t have money, it’s busy spending it on defense systems & BAE drones & a war that never existed in the first place, yet alone they will win. Does education have money? No it’s why I had to stop. Now a new government with hiked up student fees & no jobs to show for it. No wonder people are at their wits ends/stratching their heads what to do. If & when I release something a) I want it to be good b) I am not making some thing that I don’t feel I want out there to be heard c) do I want google & downloads? Thanks by no thanks. d) I may release test pressings, small runs on vinyl. A friend of mine in LA has done this. Now he has released 2 albums, of his own. No label help, no big budget. He’s a graphic designer/comic book artist. Draws all the time, I am surprised by his music. I am business savvy & spent many years learning this side of things, In markets in London freezing to death at all hours of the day & night. Yet it shouldn’t just be music & musicians who are worse off.

    Yet maybe when there are no jobs, there won’t be period, wake up & believe it, no I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist, A friend of mine wants to start a fashion label. I ask her how it’s going to sell, what costs she has made. Yet she wants to just be creative & make her garments. This is the problem. It’s art vs commercial, quality vs quantity. Just now in 2011 there is the CHOICE & DECISION btw downloading/filesharing/corporate control AND the vinyl dj distro ideals of musicians backing each other, a community, where djs know each other & people support each other. This is what’s needed. Yes either could go, tomorrow, be aware of it. Labels could start NOT signing or etc; nothing will last, nothing does, coz we consume technology, we got in a virtual era & our mindset as a society became “spend spend spend” not realistic or pragmatic about what if etc & banks went bust, the economy tanked. Seriously the dot com bubble burst all over again. Just with houses & mortgages & credit this time.

    For me it’s US new up & coming people WHO ARE OUT THERE, trying to get things done. It’s the same in film. Directors, script writers, cinematographers, they want to pull away from the old dinosaur of hollywood & make a 20th at least or 21st century way of working. I have seen animation used in films, I wish it could be used for music video. It’s been used in commercials (no doubtly mainly car adverts). A korean director made the first step the other day by making a film purely for or on an iphone. See evolution has to happen here. We’re stuck in this merry go round of no mans land, static in quick sand, in a bog & of quagmire. If we don’t get up there & take action now, then there will be nothing. I mean NOTHING at all. I for one, don’t want that to happen. Please go out there & do a survey. Ask clubs about this, ask pubs, ask venues, ask promoters. Call them up, ask them. Ask the concorde, the barflys, 02 venues, ICA, the neccs, concert promoters. Do it, I’d love to know what they say. I am serious. I’d do it, yet I have production lists coming out of my ears & music to make.

    Linda you got paid for it. I’ve done photography 10 years. It won’t pay, not now, I’ve got other ideas what to do with all this. Photo files are data files too. So are films. Don’t just think it’s ALL & ALWAYS music. Good luck.

  15. Linda I agree with you & like your points. do you still make music now & do you have a website? thanks

    Now this has been mentioned. I don’t wanna seem like a condesending snob, yet do any of you REALLY know what you’re talking about? Lucy back what you say UP & with FACTS? I feel everything I read is just ONE tiny part to the BIGGER puzzle or jigsaw, also it’s like looking into an ajar door of a land you’ve never entered or don’t know about.

    Also make it 2 sided, pros & cons, not 1 sided. That would flesh out whatever it is you’re trying to say now.

  16. “…The analogy that springs to mind is that of the coal industry. Yes, really, it\’ll work, I promise. Coal became unprofitable; pits got threatened with closure; miners went on strike. But keeping the pits open just because the miners needed work was never going to happen. The REAL problem was not the fact that mining coal was no longer profitable…”

    The Tories closed the pits as part of their war on the working class and the deluded belief it could be imported cheaply. The import of coal continues, (currently 43m tonnes a year) at a cost of £3bn a year to taxpayers.

  17. As far as I am aware, to lend a book to someone is legal to copy this book is not. To lend a CD/LP to someone is legal, to copy it is not. The only thing I am anti is the pirate bay. You just don’t get it do you, you can theorise about copyright and the man (still haven’t found out who you think he is exactly? the major labels, alec empire? the independent labels? )and censorship online, but the sad fact is PEOPLE ARE GIVING UP MAKING MUSIC BECAUSE THEY CANNOT FINANCE THE NEXT RELEASE BECAUSE NO-ONE HAS BOUGHT THEIR MUSIC.

    so what do you do Lucy? I think it is very relevant, as people are expected now to have a 2nd career to finance their NON-PAYING music career. If torrent stealing impacted you the same way it affected other people on here maybe you wouldn’t be so quick to champion it.

    lots of talented independent musicians made money even up to the year 2005 with decent independent labels, rough trade and such labels used to run ‘breakeven’ contracts, where the profit is split 50/50 after any expenses.

    forget about people being luddites and not embracing the ‘new model’.I ask yet again, if an artist self-releases their music and DO NOT want to give it away who gives the pirate party or any other p2p/torrent link site the right to give it away for them? a self-releasing musician is not THE MAN !

    how can anyone take the pirate bay seriously when you have banner ads for poker sites on it, you are profiting from other peoples creativity. And what happened with that supposed $8 million gaming company takeover by ‘global gaming factory’ you were willing to accept?
    It is all HYPOCRISY serving your own narrow agenda. not music lovers at all.

    “……What gives me the right to lend a book to my friend to read and then pass on her friend… certainly not the author. Why do you think that\’s legal but sharing a musical file isn\’t? Is it do to with fairness or about the way business works?
    PS: if anyone is preaching about what is RIGHT and WRONG on this debate, here and elsewhere, it\’s the antis; it\’s also the antis who are chucking about all kinds of personal assumptions about who file-sharers are.”

  18. Patrick: do you really think that I used the words “The Man” when referring to major labels in complete seriousness? Of course a musician who releases her/his own music is not the man. Chill out a bit and read what I actually said rather than what you would like me to have said. It’s not as black-and-white as you present it.
    PS: I am not the Pirate Party: I’m not a member and I don’t use it. I was interested to read Loz’s post and thought he had good points to make.

  19. Good stuff, Lucy. I’ve recently posted that it was the structure that has existed for the past 100 years that has made the system of selling copies workable. That structure is now gone.
    This argument has been made before, but you’ve delved into the human aspect of the system for maybe the first time I’ve seen. Not only is selling plastic bits a bad way to make money at doing art, it’s bad for the health and long-term creativity of the artist.
    I’m promoting small-scale sponsorship of artist’s careers. Direct payment from fans to artists to allow them to eat and create. It makes perfect sense once you let go of the nut in the monkey trap of unit sales.
    Give the music away! It advertises your mad skills. Ask your fans to sponsor you. Many will do so.

  20. Poolside- what people rightly object to and what the original blog was about was companies like Pirate Bay just taking people’s music and profiteering from it- very different from your idea.

  21. Lucy, i recommend you do some serious BELLYDANCING and get more feminine… And i mean this seriously. You sound like a man… and to me it’s just a terrible turn-off. Vulgar use of language. Just plain vulgar. And the arguments you are making are not so bright either… Let me see, i’ll tell my mom she should play those piano concerts for free… She and i gave our entire lives to music. Our childhoods. Our free-time. Our all. WAY to go, Lucy! BRAVO! I will say no more. But please take my advice on this one – and i’ve been teaching women since 2006 – become more FEMININE in your ways. Your hormones will be more happier… men will be more happier… and this world will also benefit. And inspire other women in the process…

  22. @billyboy: i have been here many times… thought i’d just give up… but i REFUSE to. You have a talent? Then other’s stupidity and near-sightedness is NOT going to stop ME from fulfilling my Soul’s full potential. So please DO continue! Ok? Hugs :)

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  24. I will say this, if you possess some talent then in the music business you will get out of it what you put in regardless of file sharing.

    In my band we have enjoyed a small amount of success but we never really earned that much. We would have if we made the effort to set up gigs and tour and make merchandise. We didn’t because we have lives outside music (jobs/children etc) and we’re all a bit lazy but the few tours we did paid for our albums to be made. I always thought we were lucky when we went on tour because it was like a free holiday with your mates. See for me, going on stage every night isn’t work, it’s fun and if you do it and consider it to be work then you’ve either never had a job or you’re just in the wrong business.

    I find it faintly ridiculous that people expect that they can choose pop music as a viable career. Wake up to yourselves! It wasn’t going to happen 20 years ago, it isn’t go to happen now. You have to take the rough with the smooth, the ‘smooth’ is all this technology that has made it possible for every aspiring musician become their own sound engineer, photographer, publicist and distributer. The ‘rough’ is as soon as someone else gets hold of your work they can use some more technology to spread it around for free.

    Tragically, judging by these arguments, it seems that making music for pleasure (yours and others) is now redundant and that musicians today only feel it’s worth doing for monetary reward.

    Getting paid for doing something you love? Do me a favour, do you know anyone else who lives like that? You’re not special, the world does not owe you a living.

  25. Piracy is killing the music industry is a big fallacy used to end our civil rights and give way to government’s absolutism on the net. The real issue that is killing the industry is the surplus of musicians, free music channels, and the democratisation of professional recording capabilities. When I was 12 I used to stay away Saturday nights so I could tape record the only radio program offering quality dance music (Zona3, RNE). As today, I just need to turn on my media center to get quality dance music installing, using shoutcast I have a huge variaty of electronic radio stations, so I always find something that I like. If I like a track and I want to heard it, I just type the name of the artist on Youtube. I also have 60 Gb of creative commons tracks on my hard drive that I need to listen to. Why should I pay for music them??? What the life spam of a track nowadays??? This is a saturated market where there is more offer that demand… Ergo is dying.

  26. Good point Miguel. I agree everything should be free- as a musician I’m happy for my music to be given away for free and I’m happy to see people like Miguel and Lucy work for free to better the world as well!

  27. Love the article. Artists will never stop, regardless of money. A lttile bit of poverty should bring some of these artists back down to earth! I always shy away from the big campaigns and block buster artists anyway. Music should be a discovery of yourself. Not spoonfed. Just an opinion. None of the guys on sub-bassmusic are making money for their work and they pump it out for the love of it!!

  28. What most of us object is not these great ideas of getting music out there on the internet but these leeches like Pirate Bay giving all the music away, music that someone else paid to make. And then they have the audacity to claim that they are some kind of freedom fighters. Horrible people.

  29. how can anyone take the pirate bay seriously when they have banner ads for poker sites on it, they are profiting from other peoples creativity.

    It is all HYPOCRISY.

  30. 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 financially 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.


  31. @Alec: as you know, i am on the same page here, and we share the same goal in this regard (it was good for me to know, when i found out end of January. was feeling very lonely in all of this). but sometimes the following drives me crazy: most people are only full of WORDS of action, but very little action. eitherway: someone’s got to make the first step. i am 29 now – waiting 10 years is definitely not an option… What are the ideas on this so far? Are you going to DO it??? Start it? Inspire? Make this collective?

  32. Here’s a study which seems to indicate that music piracy is in decline:


    Make of it what you will. For one thing it only looks at Bittorrent – not the best place for long tail music. But I think Miguel makes a good point that free or feels-like-free music is *everywhere*. The incentive to grab unlicensed MP3s is far less than it was ten years ago.

    Another thing that Lucy mentions in her article, but people are glossing over here, is that the people who “pirate” music the most are the *exact same people* who spend lots of money on music. This is not just speculation, it’s been shown by a succession of studies (like this one, for example: httpss://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/4206.html). Attacking pirates is quite literally shooting yourselves in the head.

    And finally, what the fuck does it matter what Lucy does for a living?!! Either her arguments are valid or they’re not. Make up your own minds about what you read, you dimwits, instead of wasting energy looking for hidden agendas. That’s what did-in “the Left” at the end of the 20th Century. There’s a big crisis coming – much bigger than that of the poor downtrodden billionaires who own the big recording companies – there’s no time for stupid infighting.

  33. Pirating is part of the process of the corporates crushing what’s left of our culture. Pirate Bay and their ilk are the new corporates, the new billionaires and this time they don’t even have to give you an advance for your music, they just take it.
    It does matter what people do for a living- music is a rich person’s hobby in the 21st century- please read all the comments and try to keep up.

  34. what? and the revolution is just around the corner as well? socialism doesn’t work, as mentioned previously, ask any 12 year old who has read animal farm, or the millions starved and murdered by Stalin in a failed experiment with other peoples lives in the 20th century. There will never be a revolution in England, people are too cynical……….”sorry mate, not going to the revolution today, I couldn’t be arsed”


    That\’s what did-in “the Left” at the end of the 20th Century. There\’s a big crisis coming – much bigger than that of the poor downtrodden billionaires who own the big recording companies – there\’s no time for stupid infighting.

  35. “Pirate Bay and their ilk are the new corporates, the new billionaires”

    The level of fear and paranoia in here is really very disturbing.

  36. ‘The level of fear and paranoia in here is really very disturbing.’…not fear and paranoia, just an inquisitive and questioning mind- Pirate Bay are not a kid in their bedroom robbing other people’s creativity and giving it to their mates- they are a big operation robbing people’s creativity and giving it away who also pat themselves on the back and present themselves as anti establishment heroes and don’t answer questions about how they finance themselves…
    Which is important when they have ads for party poker and iphone 4 etc all over their site- making money from other people’s toil- how very old school capitalist eh Pirate Bay! is this the sort of thing that UKuncut.org.uk endorses?
    I thought you were better people than that

    At least the old model establishment would pay the working class kids money for their work- the new model just steal the work and give it away and profit from corporate ads and tell you that they are your friends- very 1984.

  37. ok, i now leave with this. httpss://tinyurl.com/OldSolutionsOldProblems Thank you all for contributing to my own flow of thoughts. I am sure solution will be found. All the best, Elektra Dekker

  38. 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.


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