Recently, I did a carpooling as a way to go to the new year eve organized by my friend. In the car, with me, were the driver and a musician. Thus, the conversation quickly went to a talk about illegal download.
First of all, to give some kind of a context, I am not the biggest fan of majors. I don’t really like that the CD is still at least 15€, which I found expensive. I don’t appreciate that a music is sold 1€ if you download it legally and you’re still restrained on how you can share it, sometime even between your own devices. I really hate the exacerbate feeling of “property”, like if it was the most important thing ever, and invasion of private life in the name of proprietary rights. Hadopi is not something I would call a good thing.
Simply I feel like this because I hear those crazy rich majors with the most profitable market in the world say they are robbed when I feel robbed myself.
Nevertheless, I understand that every work needs retribution and music should not be an exception. Sadly, with music virtualization, as for software, it’s becoming easier and easier to get it for free. I think that the downloading movement is now to strong to be stopped.
Nowadays, people developed what I call music bulimia. It’s all because we are able to listen to a lot of music all the time for free. This, associated to the fact that radio take less and less risk in the music they are playing and play more and more of the same kind of music, created a generation that uses the internet as a way to discover better music.
So let’s start with myth busting (or not) done common ideas about illegal downloads.
First argument : artists lose money from the non selling of their albums.
True but according to my newly made musician friend endorsed by a major, it isn’t so big. From a 15€ album, the artist for between 1 and 1,50€ per album maximum, 1,50 being a very good deal. In simple words, you need to sell 1000 album to get 1000€ for your month.
Second argument : Streaming isn’t fair.
True, streaming platforms as Spotify don’t retribute their artiste very well.
I’d like to have more information and experience on the subject before making a real conclusion. However, it’s a recent thing and it’s fairly possible that streaming service ain’t “fair”.
Maybe they should not be considered as a primary source of revenues but as a source of promotion instead.
Even though it is not the best for now, it’s a system that, obviously, is working. People are spending money for it. Instead of removing all their songs from the service, we should work on a fairer system that use monthly subscriptions. As seen before, CD’s artist’s shares with a major weren’t very fair either so I’m not sure where streaming compares to it. It’s easier to critics the newcomer compare to an old bad system as the bad system is considered normal since it has been working for years.
Remember taylorism at some point was the newcomer and was criticized. However it quickly became the norm.
Third argument : every download is a CD that wasn’t bought.
Wrong, wrong and wrong. I’m listening to a million songs on streaming platform I would never buy. Either because they are silly or because I don’t identify enough to it to spend money for it.
Thus, downloading is actually often a win win for me and for the artist.
Indeed, I’m more eager to pay money for a show than for the music itself. One could say I’m less picky on the shows than I am on the music. And I guess most people are. Other would say I’m cheap (which is half right considering my financial situation… Guess my bank account is stating that I can either pay for the CD or the concert but not both.)
So all this music I’m listening to but I don’t pay for is a possibility of me going to a concert instead.
As an example to illustrate my point :
I would never buy Evil Cowards’ music but I would definitely go to one of their show. Or Richard Cheese. Those groups definitely beneficiated from me listening to their songs on YouTube.
You know what happened when people started downloading movies ? The suddenly went more often to the cinema. It’s the same in music. What money you were putting in music that you don’t anymore will just go elsewhere. People will go to concerts, buy signed copy of an album, a music instrument or T-shirts of the band… People will not sneakily keep their money while Machiavellianely laughing at their dying artists. They love to support. And they support what they love.
One thing that is important for artist is to find good partners. People that will search for concert and promote the artist. This is were majors usually help a lot. But with a major comes constraints. You sometime cannot really choose to not do a show, you have to produce albums at a certain rate, the goodies selling are not yours. One of my friend and his band chose to not be endorse because of all the constraints. They say they would have more “promotion” and they would be able to touch more people but they would overall lose money and be force to play in gigs they don’t want to.
And they are not one of those huge band that easily attract million of people. They are a small band that started to gain some recognition. The fact that they refused the majors offers is plenty significant. Downloads don’t kill young starting bands.
While the system where artist were promoted by a high figure pay cheque and a major came to an end, another kind of music business model emerges. The fact that big majors take less and less risk in what they produce is proof that the system is dying. When one cannot renew itself it just means that it’s only trying to slow down the fall. Exactly as the Roman empire, trying to evolve without making the necessary changes that would force it to go through an actual revolution. Because a revolution is always painful.
Creativity is not only in the hand of radios, TV and big major companies now. Yes they still own a lot of money and power but it’s the end of an era. The time where it’s easier than ever to reach your public, where independent labels actual are the best way to work, where everything gets more specialized and in the meantime diversity has never been so huge, is arriving. Crowdfundings, goodies, concerts, masterclass, premium content, artist associations and patronizing are some of all the way to explore to make money with your music.