P2P - PEER TO PEER or POWER TO THE PEOPLE?
So apparently ‘illegal downloads’ are killing music, tons of high profile artists are furious over the theft of their art & livelihoods, governments are legislating against it; there have been raids, court cases, company closures, massive settlements & a huge media campaign to warn the public of the dangers of sharing – filesharing has even been linked to organised crime & terrorism. It has become a major concern for many industries & the notion that filesharing is ‘killing music’ has become something of an accepted truth. So how much truth is there in all this hysteria?
Despite the horror stories, guilt treatment & threats, there still exists a large global network of shadowy cultural traitors that continue to indulge in & proliferate this cultural & economic menace & supposed threat to our national security. They are called music lovers & musicians. I guiltily fall into both camps & as a lover of music & a creator of it I am completely in favour of filesharing. As an avid listener of many types of music, filesharing has enabled me to discover many incredible artists that I never knew existed & I have, as a result, actually bought more music than ever before. As an independent artist, filesharing has introduced my band Kyshera to tens of 1000’s of people around the world through a digital ‘word of mouth’, without me having to do anything. With the Internet, no longer does the world only get to hear that music that the mainstream media & PR industry are paid to promote by their big record company owners. No longer do we have to rely on chain record stores that are on the life support of big distributers, again owned by record companies, to get access to music. The ‘music world’ has been dominated & controlled by the ‘music industry’ for far too long with its stranglehold on supplying only the music that conforms to its sales formula. The industry’s current crisis is entirely of its own doing, as genuine music lovers have had to look elsewhere for new, original & different music. ‘Music’ is doing just fine, there’s more of it than ever, it is only the ‘industry’ that is suffering.
So, how has the industry reacted to this change? By pursuing ever more aggressively, the very same course of action that started its demise in the 1st place. Not mentioning the completely unrealistic & unenforceable measures we are seeing in terms of ‘digital copy protection’ & court cases etc, the industry has now put its sole focus into only promoting quick, cheap, mass market, disposable music that they are guaranteed to make a quick, short term profit on before moving onto the next act – thereby, eliminating any chance of signing a new, innovative or pioneering artist. To promote a genuinely original artist involves risk, time, money & good faith & this is why there is such a saturation of these short lived, XFactor style manufactured ‘artists’ on the market at the moment; its the industry going for the quick, easy buck to try & save themselves from drowning. The music industry isn’t, never has & never will be interested in music, its only purpose is to make money, so if its more profitable to flood the world with these cheap, throw away acts that have no talent or passion & will be dropped & forgotten within a year, then thats what we’re all going to get. This reaction from the industry to a mess that they only made for themselves has only served to create more & more distance between genuine musicians & music lovers on the one hand & the industry in the other – it has also probably encouraged the growth of filesharing as people are ever desperately crying out for something different & they know that they will have to look elsewhere to what the Radio, retail & record company monopoly has to offer.
There is obviously a logical limitation on how far filesharing can go though. Musicians need to eat & buy the equipment that makes the music possible in the first place & if they never make any money from their art, they will inevitably either starve or have to surrender to some job at a bank or something. I’m not in favour of full scale musical freeloading. Music is loved by everyone, it enriches all of our lives & it should be supported. My personal policy is – if I like something, I will buy it, especially if its by an independant or new artist. The only way that decent, genuine music is ever going to survive amongst the flood of this heavily marketed, disposable, pop rubbish that the industry is peddling ever faster, is if WE support it. Once the industry then realises where people’s musical allegiance really lies, it will be forced to change. Sadly, there are a lot of people who are full scale musical freeloaders & these people are just as guilty as the record industry of destroying the chances for good quality, genuine, original music to survive. These people place no ‘value’ on the music they enjoy & have no respect for the artists that create it. They are selfishly out to get as much as they can for themselves without ever giving anything in return & these people, along with the record industry, are the problem.
However, why should the rest of us be denied the ability to discover new music, to discuss & share music with others & to create a platform for new or independent artists to reach larger audiences just because some people abuse the sysytem? Some people will always abuse any system & ‘big businesses’ are normally the first in line. As with any form of change, we have to take the ‘rough with the smooth’ & with this, we have to accept that filesharing is here to stay & that while some people take advantage of it, it has indirectly created a kind of musical ‘people power’. Music fans now have a direct influence over the style & quality of music that exists in their lives. We now have a choice – we can download pretty much anything we want, check it out properly & if we like it, we can buy it & directly support the artist & enable them to continue. No need for record companies, distribution or big chain stores, WE now have the power to determine the quality of music that survives in our culture, we just need to start using it. This I think, is probably closer to the record industries real concerns about filesharing. The idea that they could no longer be needed, that the world doesn't have to just accept what they decide we want to hear, that we can pay far less of our money for an album bought directly from the artist, that they might soon lose their stranglehold over Radio, distribution & retailing scares the hell out of the industry & its about time it did.
The process of music production & consumption has drastically changed & it could be used to completely remove the archaic grip of the industry & generate a massive flood of new music for everyone but it is up to US to make it happen. We need to stop now merely just ‘enjoying’ the free sharing of music & start actively supporting the artists that create it. We’re all too used to the idea of music now being some free, ‘valueless’ little gimmick that can be downloaded at the simple click of a button, that we are not seeing the full picture of whats at stake. Filesharing is a great way to discover new music, but lets not kill off new music in the process. ‘Share, buy & share again’. I think its really that simple & it could have a profound affect on the future of music with the fans & the artists working together for the benefit of everyone. So don't be a skanky, freeloading, music killing little demon – download till your hearts content but then put your money where your mouth is & if you like an artist, buy their f**king music! Music will triumph, XFactor will die & then we’ll all be happy.
**Since writing this, online streaming has made the arguments about downloading pretty much redundant ;) **