Mulve - a musician's response

the 'piracy' issue often attracts lots of comments on sites around the web... far too much of which boils down to "oh yeah?", followed "yeah!", provoking yet another "oh yeah?", and so on ad infinitum...

here's one of the more intelligent responses i've come across, by a working musician...

Oct 09, 2010 at 05:37 by dg100

    Hi. I’m from a family of UK musicians. Some of you might be vaguely interested in how the “average” musician actually views all this and I have insomnia, so here’s another short novel. :)

    I’m basing this info on what I know of around 100 or so people’s views (mostly family and friends). Most of this isn’t from any formal polling or anything, just general recollection from the last few years of conversations.

    In case thinks this is the politics of envy, I should point out that – barring a few proper nutters convinced that rich people or the law can never be wrong – the consensus view of piracy is shared by almost everyone I know in the industry, including performing artists, studio professionals and a number of our music publishers’ own workers. This also includes some who have gained real money and fame from the current status quo.


    Very few musicians make any money worth the name from the studios, so it doesn’t make the slightest difference to most of us. So long as it’s not for profit, hardly anyone cares. On the other hand, we think pirates who do make money out of our work without paying us deserve to have their legs broken. Note the complete absence of a smiley at the end of that sentence.

    Most of us grew up copying tapes and have no problem with the idea. Most have no knowledge of bit-torrent, but those of us who are aware of it divide neatly into those who unquestioningly believe what the PRS, the newspapers, etc, have told them and those of us who use bit-torrent ourselves to keep up-to-date with the music scene.

    The division is (very roughly):
    60% don’t know and don’t care;
    30% think it’s a great idea;
    10% think the sky is falling.

    The few people I know who aren’t mental and do really object (about half a dozen in all) are all staunch right-wingers who resent piracy as a matter of moral principle, rather than because they believe it’s actually causing any financial harm.

    The studios and radio stations

    No-one thinks much of the studios, not even the people who work for them. Claims of studios being the cornerstone of music have no real basis in reality – it’s just PR puff. They’ve been saying the same things for years and it’s complete rubbish.

    The industry’s profits fill the pockets of it’s shareholders and of a few artists lucky and/or talented enough to reach the top and stay there. Everyone else gets shafted and everyone knows it.

    For all their self-promotion, their “investment” consists of loans made to artists which have to be paid back – and even then, it’s only if you fit the type they want to make money from – it’s very rare to find a label that has any interest in anything other than the latest formulaic tat.

    What they do want is the next-big-hit-that-sounds-exactly-like-the-last-big-hit and don’t care whether it’s any good or not. Support for whoever fits neatly into the most profitable niches (boybands, for example) is fantastic (if brief), but everyone else can sod off.

    It’s no accident that the top-rated radio-programmes in the UK are for “golden-oldies”. The studios learned a long time ago that they can and do make a lot of profit from talentless-but-marketable newcomers who can be given the worst deals and then instantly kicked to the curb when the novelty wears off.

    There’s much less profit to be had from talented performers who can become successful and then go on to make unreasonable demands, such as sleep or royalties or having some artistic input into their own music.

    It’s not a coincidence that the UK’s studios and industry bodies are so heavily in favour of a deliberately overpriced copyright-licensing regime that has forced vast numbers of live music venues to close their doors.

    All independent music, all talent is seen as a competitive threat.

    It’s only a matter of time before they look to stop public libraries from lending CDs, either by changing the law or going to download-only – and probably pay-per-play DRM’d downloads at that.

    They hope to make even more from piracy. If they can make it fly, they won’t even have to have any artists at all, they can just sell lawsuit-rights to the likes of ACS: Law, over and over, in perpetuity.

    No expenditure, just pure profit. The perfect publishing company for the people who own and run it. If they can do it, then they will do it. You just watch.


    The general consensus is that the studios and radio stations are mostly crap and have been killing music themselves for many decades, by swamping every outlet with over-hyped garbage aimed at increasingly undiscriminating audiences – that’s where the easiest, laziest money is, so that’s where they all go, to the detriment of any other consideration.

    What should be our country’s most thriving and diverse art-form is increasingly marginalised and irrelevant to everyone who isn’t fourteen years old. We don’t have a music scene, we have a small set of narrow, unchallenging music ghettos, all too often dominated by Britain’s least talented artists.

    There’s no consensus on what should be done to resolve music’s collective problems. But no-one I know with a trace of sanity thinks that stopping piracy has anything at all to do with it.

    Last word

    Regarding the post @118 by Anonymous:

    My family have been musicians for decades. Between us, we have over 150 years of experience, variously as studio- and independent-artists. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any musician anywhere actually quitting because of piracy.

    Making music is a calling and a pleasure and a human need. You quit because of family commitments, because you need a regular full-time mortgage-paying job, because of health or because your heart’s just not in it any more. None of these things have been changed by file-sharing.

    As listener’s, we don’t buy CDs or official DLs because we can’t “steal” them, we buy them because we want to support the artist – that hasn’t changed since the invention of home audio tapes and it’s not changing now.

    Home taping did not kill music and bit-torrent is not killing music.

pretty much covers the bases... one can only wish that thoughtful, experienced voices like this were more a part of the discussions, especially when it comes to creating legislation.

i wish i'd kept the link to this- if i can find it again, i'll post it...

and the beat goes on...

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