cialis serif;”>Lisa Gorry investigates the other side to illegal downloading

If you look at the likes of the early Motown records, artists never made money on their records, even if they wrote the songs on it; all the money went to the Motown record label and this has followed into today’s market”


One of the hottest topics on any music forum, column or magazine these days is the question of illegal downloading; is it as bad as we are led to believe, or is there a better side to intellectual property theft that we are ignoring? The rate of expansion of the internet and how we use it has completely overturned how the music and film industry have to operate, breaking down barriers between artists and their fans and creating fresh new opportunities for unsigned artists to breakthrough without the support of any major record label. However, this supply has created a massive demand and it turn has lead to the mammoth growth of the illegal downloading industry.


We all know the arguments against illegal downloading; it’s essentially stealing, it robs the artists of well-earned revenue and respect, the lack of funds that may have been generated from your illegal download could perhaps prevent the artist from funding any future work etc. However that being said, it would appear that artists aren’t as concerned as one would think about their music being distributed free of charge.

Artists from a variety of genres have expressed their indifference to the illegal downloading of their music. Jon Boden, a multi-instrumentalist and English folk-singer, has commented that he doesn’t “especially mind if somebody pays” for his music. The somewhat twee and traditionalist notion of music being used to express oneself and to have something which one loves doing is apparently not as old-fashioned as we have been lead to believe by moral-preaching-profit-racqueteers. When Nine Inch Nails Frontman Trent Reznor found out in 2007 that their album “Year Zero” was retailing at a crazy $30 based on a record label decision that fans would pay this amount, the ballsy singer went on to proclaim to a sellout audience at an Australian gig to “Steal it. Steal away. Steal and steal and steal some more and give it to your friends.” Of course, this kind of nonchalance on behalf of one artist mightn’t be so applicable to another, depending on success. Some big artists, such as Nine Inch Nails, may not have to worry about whether they make money via music downloads, as they already have a solid fanbase who are willing to pay not only for a CD, but also to see them live, rather than downloading songs.


Duffy, award-winning singer of “Mercy”, told Shortlist Magazine in 2008 ““Well, I mean, it can go two ways – there are pros and cons to everything… Some people think it creates illegal access, but I think the big wheel is round, y’know? I think it’s got more positives because it basically gives people access, what’s the harm in that?” She went on further to say “Somebody asked me the other day what I thought of illegal downloading, and I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t care’, because I think the majority [doing it] are kids and as they get old and get more income they’ll probably buy records. So it’s just making music a part of everyone’s lives.”


Some artists have gone so far as to make whole albums available for download, a good example being Radiohead with their album In Rainbows in 2007, which they made available to punters for the price they saw fit; It was the consumer who decided how much they wanted to pay, after the band dumped their major record deal due to unhappiness with the industry’s morality. Of course again, Radiohead having such a colossal footing in the industry anyway, they could guarantee a good profit, regardless of how little the price, as their international fan base were a sure thing to buy the album no matter what. Unsigned or independent artists however have found that releasing some songs for free download can generate the interest needed for real sales, so it’s not just for big artists.


Garr Yeahman, an up and coming singer-songwriter from Dublin said that he thought downloading was “a great way for musicians and artists to promote themselves… When I get my album out I really hope to log on and see it’s getting downloaded… I’m not into making money, I’m into getting my songs heard that mean a lot to me and hope people can relate to them.

“If you look at the likes of the early Motown records, artists never made money on their records, even if they wrote the songs on it; all the money went to the Motown record label and this has followed into today’s market. My friend Damien was signed to Sony E.M.I and he once said for every album of his sold for 13 euro he made 2 euro out of that sale.”

Garr couldn’t understand why bands gave out about downloading; “a musician makes his money playing live and it’s always been like that. The ones who give out are probably under their own independent record label and that’s fine because they’re putting there own money and hours of work into it, but if the band or act are signed to a multi million label they have no reason to give out.


According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, ninety-five per cent of music available online is downloaded illegally. The report says that the majority of music was downloaded for free with no payment made to artists, despite a record growth in digital music sales in 2008. The report in 2009 reported a rapid expansion in mobile phone partnerships such as Nokia Comes with Music, claiming to offer unlimited free music to its clients for an annual fee, highlighting a new generation of subscription services for digital music.


“Music companies have changed their whole approach to doing business, reshaped their operations and responded to the dramatic transformation in the way music is distributed and consumed” said John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of IFPI. In spite of this, the boom in online piracy has not been quashed. In 2008, in a survey carried out by the recording industry body, it was discovered that over 40 billion files were illegally shared.


Essentially, the controversy surrounding illegal downloading is the impact it has on the artist. It could be argued that without the security of guaranteed earnings through recorded music, artists are forced out onto the live music circuit, meaning that the emphasis of music as an art form falls onto live performance rather than a produced recorded sound, resulting in a purer musical talent with more chance of success and earnings, hailing back to original musical roots, where music had a purer personality; Is that not a good thing?