Monday, 28 September 2009

Musicians must get paid!

UK music posted a newspaper ad yesterday which really connected with me. It reproduced a blog from Falco, whose recent recording was illegally posted on the internet 8 weeks before scheduled release for so-called fans to download this for nothing. This totally devalued their work, destroyed any potential spike of interest in the band, meant they had no subsequent increase in audience, sinking any boost to their gig fees and ruined their hopes to make their mark from their music. I don't know Falco's work , but I felt for these guys. It's wrong.

Falco is just one of many victims of the rip-off notion that creative people's work doesn't deserve to be paid for; that resisting filesharing is luddite and old school; that simply saying that filesharing is wrong is somehow uncool (typically advanced by crews who've already made a career packet and are established live acts commanding decent fees) ; that the music industry ( whatever that is, these days ) has only itself to blame , so who gives a toss; and that it's right that a Mars bar is paid for but not a song.

The winners are criminals and new technology bores who think talking about new distribution paradigms will help musicians make a living, but really make an income from talking themselves into some blogosphere media guru commentariat rep. It's contemporary vicious capitalism at work by guys in sloppy tees and jeans masquerading as hipsters. Filesharing is not about friends swapping song lists or copying tracks they love to their buddies. It's about the bulk transfer of masses of data - songs! - facilitated by crooks & ISPs for misguided fans.

The pathetic recourse proposed last week by FAC ( the Featured Artists Coalition) is to send a warning letter - scary! - to the worst offending filesharers to tell them to stop . But if they ignore this, and the theft persists, they'll get another letter! Whoah! & third strike, they'll support squeezing their bandwidth! Strong stuff! It's pathetic. It's like saying that restricting shop hours would limit shop lifting! Musicians' livelihoods are at stake along with their support networks, roadcrews, suppliers, set designers, sound engineers , studio owners and myriad others. I have contempt for the apologists who won't stand up to this organised theft.

Gang of Four is lucky. Last month we got a gold award for Entertainment! celebrating the sale -the sale! - of 100, 000 units in the UK over the last 30 years. Are we the last generation of non-pop bands who'll ever again be able to do this? We earned little bits here and there when we started, which meant we could afford to keep at it, get signed , make records and attract an audience so that relatively early on we earned a wage & could do the job fulltime. Technology creep is dooming musicians to perpetual dayjobs. To hell with poverty! Say no to illegal filesharing! Don't do it!


  1. Not paying for music (or at least not worrying about it) is actually a very neo-conservative/neo-liberal point-of-view – the thinking being that somehow markets will be self-regulating and magically sort themselves out (i.e. bands will find other revenue streams). Of course this notion doesn’t address artists who make music that is ill-suited for live venues or who are incapable of playing live for whatever reason. As well, fans of the Radiohead idea fail to realize that the cost of fandom is higher than ever – even if the recordings are ‘free’. Scarcity (where the money always resides) has easily been transferred from recordings to personal-appearances and merchandise. Nobody understands this better than Beyonce – who, if you shell out an extra grand for her concert ticket, you can meet in person.


  2. I agree. In a time when , in a time when it's possible to digitally clone certain types of production exactly, the value- the cost to fans - will be in authenticity and proximity to genius, live events, presence marketing a la Beyonce, a la RadioHead . A cost that will incesaingly benefit established acts and discriminate against start up. we see this in the last man standing digital model where there's only one signifcant player in ia given territory and which will crush competition.