Note: The following text is Jake Schaefer, marketing manager and publicist at Rhymesayers Entertainment.
Having spent the better part of a decade marketing, promoting and selling music created by independent artists, I can safely say that the issue of music piracy, bootlegging, illegally downloading et al is not a new concept to me. Over the course of my tenure engaged in this industry I’ve had various emotional reactions to piracy. Some good and some bad. There was a time and place for piracy, at one point it played an integral role on how listeners were “exposed” to music but with abundance of free music direct from the artist as well as 3rd party streaming services I no longer see the relevance or need for piracy therefore no reason to defend it’s existence.
Initially it felt good to see the albums you were working end up on bootlegging sites. This strange sense of accomplishment that your indy artist had “made it”. A summation of all the hard work you put in to creating a buzz, securing press and blasting through all of the horrid noise created by Myspace in the early 2000′s. The fact that people were bootlegging your records meant that there was enough interest and demand for your product that people took the time to rip, upload and post your music.
Then the internet was graced with the “FIRST” complex, where one’s credibility as a blogger was simply to be the first person to leak a new album. Essentially what this did was push album leaks further and further away from the proper release resulting in some albums being leaked months prior to street date utterly destroying album sales.
Think about how much attention you give one album. Three or four weeks, maybe less before it falls out of regular rotation or rotation all together? Imagine what that does to an album’s sales when it’s leaked 2-3 months before street date. Are you really going to go out and buy that album? No. Your “download guilt” will have been buried by some vague statement like “oh the record wasn’t that good anyway” or “I don’t even listen to it anymore” to justify yourself.
An aside. I personally feel the mid-2000s were the worst time for piracy. Everyone had laptops, high-speed wireless internet was everywhere around us and we saw the addition of Twitter and Facebook to our lives. We had never been so connected nor was it as easy to share files instantly across the globe.
Where did this all lead? It led to artists giving away everything for free. It started with singles, then free mixtapes then free albums. It was the point to counterpoint. From one extreme to the other. It blows my mind that the mentality of the entire industry went from “well people are going to steal it anyway so we may as well give it away for free”. Then slowly artists and fans alike started seeing the cons to this model.
Artists weren’t making any money and fans didn’t know what to listen to. Every shitty band in the world was releasing free music drowning out anything that was worth listening to. Musicians pulled back on the reigns, bloggers stopped posting every single thing that came through their inbox and people really started listening and respecting music again.
It’s been a slow steady climb the last 10 years with a lot of give and take (mostly take) with this industry but it seems that in some ways it’s landed in a relatively comfortable place. Artist friendly streaming services like Bandcamp and Soundcloud have popped up maximizing share-ability and even allow artists to generate a little bit of income directly from fans. Other less direct services like Spotify & Rdio exist mainly offering artists exposure while giving fans the ability to listen to something prior to purchasing or simply pirating it.
I imagine this is brings me to the denouement of my brief “thesis”. In regards to Elaquent and fans lashing out and this particular bloggers response to the request I say this. The time for justifying your music theft as “exposure” is over. Any one of us can simply go to an official artist website and listen to anywhere from one song off a new record to an artists their entire catalog streaming through a multitude of streaming services.
In many cases it costs less than $10 to purchase a full length record off of iTunes even less for less well known artists directly from their Bandcamp page. My guess is most of the people who are in an uproar are also the same people who spend in excess of $25 per week on coffee or $25 or more on drinks at the bar or both!
Congratulations! You have won the internet just because you can get any digital file for free doesn’t mean it’s right or OK for you to download art from an artists without paying for it unless they say it’s OK. Stop being a cheap ass troll, put the $8 latte down, pull out your credit card and start paying for music and respecting the artist who created it the way a REAL music fan is suppose to.