Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Recently, due to the debacles of SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, the subject of piracy is being discussed more than it has been since the 1800s. With the ongoing attempts of the content providers to colour all of us who choose the path of the download as criminal ne'er-do-wells. I, like a lot of people, download tons of stuff from the internet and can only apologise to the music industry that the £700-£800 I will drop on gig tickets this year is sadly not enough. Some of the keenest advocates of the pro-piracy argument, other than the residents of coastal somali villages, are the artists themselves. Given that, I think it's a fair point that the argument has never been between the pirate/customer and the content creators but rather between the pirate/customer and the content providers. That's a very important distinction because it paves the way for an important question. Do we need the content providers? The obvious answer here is, in nearly every case, yes. It costs millions of dollars to make even a relatively cheap television programme, films cost even more and let's not even talk about how much it costs Nintendo to make Mario again. That does leave us with one question. Do we need the record industry?

"Coldplay are big at the moment, could it sound more like Coldplay"

In the long-long-ago, the before times, we tolerated these sleeze-balls because they held the keys to the means of production and distribution. It cost a lot of money to make a record and to then distribute that to the record stores, record stores you may remember used to be places to buy music rather than to build collections of vintage vinyl. Obviously it costs thousands of pounds to put an mp3 on the... wait a minute. If you think that there is some kind of con going on here you are not alone. The music industry is notoriously unfair to the musicians. You see the industry works by loaning money to musicians in the form of an advance. It's basically a loan. Like all loans it has to be paid back. Due to this arrangement and the share of royalties artists receive, 20%, it is entirely possible for a film to make 11 million dollars and whilst the band fail to receive a single penny. This means that the second album will also require a loan to fund...

I can't believe there was a picture for this.

So what does the artist actually get out of this deal in the current day and age. They get their album professionally produced and distributed. Things that you don't actually need. Over recent years the increase in the availability of home recording tech and software, it is entirely possible for talented amateurs to put together an album that is indistinguishable from a “professional” album. Hell the Foo Fighters knocked together their latest Grammy winning album in Dave Grohl's garage, obviously Dave Grohl's garage is probably nicer than your house so it might not work that well for you. Why not record some live performances shove the videos on YouTube and build a bit of a following, once the audience is there fly on over to Kickstarter and get the audience to front you the money to hire your producer and the like.

This is what I'll front anyone making a Firefly themed album.

The record label will at least help you get the publicity you need though, they'll make sure the right radio stations play your tunes. Unfortunately none of the radio stations want to play your unique blend of battle-metal, chap-hop and nerdcore, so the record company tells you to be more commercial, to play it safe. Any record executive worth his salt will tell you, for example, that all singers need to be super-sexualised slut bags to hope of having success. Record labels are the reason the charts are cluttered with identikit pop nonsense who happen to be the exact same reason that you currently hate music. The record industry is a mechanism to take young fame-hungry “musicians” and take them from Nevermind The Buzzcocks guests, up to the heady heights of Nevermind The Buzzcocks guest presenter before finally dumping them into the Nevermind The Buzzcocks identity parade.

... I'm not as funny as the Buzzcocks writers.

The musicians who make a proper career of it fight the record label every step of the way. I'm not saying that all record labels work this way, some of the independent labels give a lot of control to the artists but the fact that this is a selling point for these labels says it all. Instead of relying on that process these days, due to the joys of the massively interconnected web of cables we have slung across this little blue marble, it is entirely possible for you to reach every single potential fan. You don't need to reach every single person on the net, you just need to promote yourself in the right places.

Much like the way your mum works the docks after the ships come in.

What about touring, surely the label will be of some assistance there? Well through the process of crowdfunding, it's not just possible to have a sell out tour without any help from the label it's actually impossible not to. You can sell the tickets then book the right venue to fit everyone in. You don't have to worry about overheads, just sell the tickets for the price we all know a gig ticket costs and work the rest out later.

£7.50!!! Seems fair.

The basic point I'm trying to make here is that these days it takes a lot of hard work to make it as musician without a record label, but you get to earn money whereas the old system was easier and it made a lot of money but you'd never see it. Please remember those are the people who call you thieves for downloading the Led Zeppelin back catalogue. After writing this I suppose I'd better promote my friends bands so check out The Subterranean Popular, The Intergalactic Graffiti Artists and Jail

eddie <take the power back>

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