Once upon a time, people used to go to see live music. That and composing music was the only way they could listen to it. “What is this ‘technologee?” they would have said if they saw a compact disc.
Humans had been around for millenia before music started being recorded. Although the technology was very cutting edge at the time, the recording technologies have embarked on a steep learning curve since the 1940s and we have come a very long way to where we are now. From Vinyl to tape to CD to mp3 (and don’t forget minidisc…) people’s music collection has changed shape numerous times. But did we complain every time we had to upgrade our collection? (I say ‘we’ – before I was even born vinyl was being described as ‘retro’, but to deny me the right to complain anyway is just downright ageist.) No. Well, maybe a bit, but upgrade we did.
Recently, the big music bosses have caught up with the times and realised that, in the last 10 years, some people might have downloaded music without paying for it. We all know the arguments for and against, in my view both sides have reasonable arguments.
The main problem with the whole debate is that the Fat Cats major labels have no statistics to back up their claims that people are, on a large scale, reproducing copyrighted material, not paying for it and redistributing it without the relevant permissions. In fact, it could be argued that those downloading music are also prolific music buyers as well. And they go and see the bands live. And they buy the special edition CD. And the T-Shirt. The DVD. The ‘Best of’ album. And ‘The Life Story of…’. In every recording format. So is the ‘issue’, as they see it, really an issue that affects the artists? Or just their pockets?
When Radiohead released their album on their website for a suggested £10 but actually it was a ‘voluntary donation’ the average price paid was not zero. This categorically implies that people do have principles when it comes to buying music, even for a huge band like Radiohead. Kind of puts paid to the accusations that we’re you’re all free-loading scroungers who have no concept of ownership, no morals and would happily see our favourite artists out on the street as long as we can save ourselves £10.
Things have changed. Social media is a big part of many people’s lives nowadays and if you’re an artist trying to get you’re name about, you’d be a fool not to be on MySpace, Facebook and Twitter at least – promoting yourself, offering downloads, freebies or exclusives. The advent of this new communication tool, unfortunately for some, may lead to the demise of the Oligarchical rule of the music industry. While I know for a fact they do a lot for emerging artists and they help no end with their PR and marketing and there have been a lot of artists in the past that would have never got off the ground without their label, there are other means to get in the public eye nowadays.
So on that note, let’s look at the recent Facebook page ‘RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO.1’. You know it, you joined it and you downloaded the song. How do I know? Well, actually I don’t. But the song got to number 1, so a lot of people did. I actually bought it twice. Quiet, people, quiet… let me speak… I’m not a hero…. I’m not. Actually I just bought it a week early without thinking so I had to buy it again to make sure it counted towards the correct week, but that’s not the point. I still bought it twice.
Many have scoffed saying ‘They’re on Sony anyway, so is SuBo’ blah de blah, lamenting us for joining in with this petty nonsense, refusing to take part generally swaggering around off target and missing the point. This is the general public mocking the Fat Cats, showing them we choose what to buy ourselves, not them. If for once* I can be part of something that pisses off The X Factory and brings a good tune back into the public eye then good. 79P well spent.** It is, in short us flexing our bicep.***
So Simon Cowell, Peter Mandelson and every other boring square who only cares about cash but thinly veils it as caring for the artists, I say to you: Don’t buy music do I? Just steal it do I? Reproduce it without permission do I? Incorrect. I buy good music. Not shite. Stop churning out crap and you might see some higher sales.
*Ok, twice – See ‘Jedward’
** I bought it twice so that’s £1.58? After the first time they put it up to 99p, so it’s actually £1.78. But still.
*** Unlike any of the X Factor crap, this campaign raised a lot of money for Shelter – £60,000 as of yesterday.