If there’s one topic that every music site, blog, magazine and opinionist in the world has to voice their view on at one time or another, it’s illegal downloading. Ever since the whole Metallica Vs. Napster fall out in 2000, the music world has become strongly divided on the subject of illegal downloading and file sharing. Bands and fans alike have split right down the middle with some artists strongly supporting moderate file sharing while others bitterly oppose illegal downloading of their music, their work and their art. Tickets There strongly supports the latter and since UPC won their case yesterday, we decided it was the perfect time to tell you why.
Anti-Capitalism – Viva La Revolution!
Is anyone else getting sick of people constantly heralding the advantages of illegal downloading? The constant punk rehash drivel we’re subjected to every time an outspoken unemployed college student or post grad jumps to defend illegal downloading and the D.I.Y. environment that’s rising from the ashes of the once mighty music industry? The whole anti-capitalist, anti-system propaganda they drill you with to justify their positions and the slew of examples of tyranny and control the record companies yield and the travesty that befalls good bands. Sorry my friends, you’re not hurting anyone….aside from the bands you claim to love and support that is.
Funnily enough, you rarely hear any of these struggling artists come out and support the outspoken contingent that drives these messages. I’ve yet to hear one of the hundreds of independent Irish bands who are actively looking to make a living from the music industry and their art come out publicly and say yes, ‘we want people to illegally download our music and share it with the world forever’. They may give a free single here and there, offer free streaming of new albums but that doesn’t mean they want you to ignore the physical copy when you see it in Tower, or click next when it pops up on ITunes. They’re offering you these free streaming sources because that’s practically the only thing new bands can do these days to make themselves known and make a name for themselves. It might be easier if they had a record company behind them, you know pushing their name, getting them airplay, managing them properly and what not but no, the ‘champions of the illegal file sharing’ have made certain that there’s no money to be made from real bands anymore. Round of applause, you’ve done a good job killing hopes for new bands around the world.
While these ‘champions’ make their speeches, write their articles and blogs, fill their IPhones, IPods and MP3 players with terabyte’s of stolen music, all the while feeling smug that they’re fighting the enemy, bands and artists are feeling more pressure than they’ve been subjected to in decades. It’s no secret that many, many bands and artists have/are and always will be given the shaft by the industry that feeds of their work but now, thanks to the lack of revenue from real bands (aside from the handful of lucky ones), record labels are no longer interested in even pretending to sign new acts and why would they be?
Record labels are in the music business to make money, same reason as every other company out there. If they don’t make money, they can’t compete or give their artists a decent financial or competitive platform. These days, X-Factor, American Idol, Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Jedward, Take That, Justin Bieber and Cheryl Cole make money for the record companies so who do you think will benefit from that? I doubt anyone could believe that Justin Bieber’s success will land Ham Sandwich a recording contract. More than likely a Justin Bieber replica will reap the benefits.
Unfortunately, the industry isn’t hurting. But Jobs are being lost, less and less bands are getting signed, A&R men have become virtually non-existent, Promotion is becoming more focused on the guaranteed buck earners with little or nothing left for new and upcoming artists yet the machine keeps rolling. Major record labels like Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, EMI and the Universal Music Group continue their acquisition of smaller, independent labels because real bands aren’t selling albums anymore, which is creating an excellent little niche monopoly in the music industry. Without record sales, most independent labels haven’t a hope of surviving long and without these independent labels even fewer ‘real’ bands and artists will get signed in the future. The fewer ‘real’ bands on the scene decreases competition and stops people from being distracted from the main sales pitch and products. Welcome to a world laying the foundation for 24 hour, manufactured, conveyer belt music monopoly with no dangerous originality, no un-controllable elements and a marketing strategy that’s been perfected over decades and is now ready to come into full fruition.
There are arguments of course, the best being the claim that music is now returning it’s original state. Before the 1930’s, bands almost exclusively played live and that’s how they earned their reputation. Live performances were the be all and end all and now, more than any time over the past few decade’s bands are relying on live performances to make an income and afford to stay together. This is a fair point but next time you’re going to see your favorite Irish band and they’re playing to 30/50 people despite having (in your opinion) the greatest song repertoire in the country, ask yourself something, would you keep going? Would you be happy in your 5th year together playing to crowds of 10,20, 100+ max? Receiving rave reviews from the few major sources with readership, working hard to appear on any radio station, magazine, TV show or event that’ll have you and still end up with a better reputation than your bank account and ticket sales would lead you to believe?
It isn’t all about the money, but as a wise musician once told me, “if you’re gonna be in a band you need a lot of free time and a lot of money”. That is what it takes to make a real go of things in the industry but if you aren’t selling albums, aren’t filling venues but you’re still paying for studios, rehearsal spaces, travel costs for tours, management, booking agents, equipment rental, equipment purchases, tour hands, rent, food, bills..etc, etc then the money comes into play and bands need it to survive and compete. They need it to make a name for themselves. Thanks to illegal downloading, even some of the best bands are being left to rot and defend for themselves.
Some like to point out that they’re really only out to hurt money made bands and they still buy music from smaller unknown acts. Very decent of you, but please explain to me why those ‘smaller unknown bands’ aren’t appearing in the charts if that’s where your money is going. Record labels still aren’t signing these small bands because they don’t believe there’s a market for them. Why? Because older bands that sound like them aren’t selling anymore. Illegally downloading music from the likes of U2 and Metallica won’t hurt them financially in the same way it will a smaller act but if you step back a moment and see the big picture, you’ll notice any illegal downloading affects all of these bands, big and small. If bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and The Smashing Pumpkins want to give away their music for free then great. These guys all have studios, money and can do what ever they like. If a band doesn’t want you to download their music for free then have some respect and don’t do it. There’s no justification because it’s illegal and despite some peoples claims, it isn’t a victimless crime. It’s hurting the bands you love and only making the record company’s control of our beloved music world more dominant and powerful. Dead weight is cut, profits increase.
As for the whole ‘you can’t respect something you didn’t earn’ theory. Well, that might explain why even semi-big independent album releases generate hype for about 2/3 weeks before disappearing off the face of the earth. People can’t focus or devote themselves to albums or bands anymore. It’s trendy to be eclectic and all knowing about everything but you know what, sometimes it’s a lot more enjoyable to find one good album and immerse yourself in it rather than finding 200 poor albums with various hooks and going through them like socks. Quality will always be king in the world, everything else is fleeting and that’s why the quality bands deserve the attention because they’re the ones you’ll re-buy on new formats. They’re the ones you won’t take for granted. They’re the ones you’ll dream of taking your kids to see, just so you can pass on the same joy you feel every time you think of their music and they’re the ones that you’ll bore your friends to tears taking about every chance you get because you just can’t thank them enough for giving you something very special and you want to spread that message as far as you can reach (Def Leppard RULE!!)
Don’t download, don’t file share and don’t rip off bands money. They need it to survive and the more money they make, the more likely it is the recording industry will come back and help these bands out again. There’s a lot more money to be made from bands who can tour and release albums for decades on end than there is from overnight success stories who manage to keep it together for a quick 3/5 year period before the press attention and drug problems send them spiraling out of control, Rock bands can hold their drugs and they know how to moon photographers when the occasion rises. Pay for music like you would anything else and support your local bands, your independent labels, your local Record Stores (who sadly didn’t get a proper mention here – we’ll make it up to them) and the recording industry. Things are only going to get harder and harder for these bands so let’s try to show them we do care and we’re not just in it for the freebies.