Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Song: Oversleeping
Artist: I'm From Barcelona
Album: Let Me Introduce My Friends

The internet has had such an impact on the record business with changes happening it seems almost every day. First we had Napster, now we have MySpace. People are using the internet to obtain music legally and illegally, and like it or not, the times are changing, sales are dropping, and the question on everyone’s mind is “What’s next?”

I have given much thought to downloading music, the ethics of this, and what it means for the artists making and performing music. I do download music (both legally and illegally) and feel okay about this. I love that I can read about a band or new artist, download a few songs, have them live on my iPod for a while and then decide if I want to buy the album. See, in the past, a record label could introduce a band or artist with a great single, and load the rest of the record with mediocre to awful filler. They would get tons of album sales, but the consumer ends up being disappointed in the end. Is downloading a good way to help the consumer sift the gold from the crap?

Hands down sharing music hurts record sales and the record business. And with the way technology is now, sharing music is as easy as it can possibly get. Buy a CD, rip and burn it for all your friends so they don’t have to. Can’t wait for the new album from your favorite band to come out? Good chance it has leaked to a peer-to-peer site, or a leaked album website. At this point, if it exists it’s probably out there. (Recently the highly awaited new Shins album got leaked… and it is not set to be released until January!)

I can understand how maddening this must be for an artist, especially after doing so much work and prep to release something new, to work towards a specific date, only to have the entire thing blown because everyone you expect to buy your record already has it downloaded. It seems quite impossible for release dates to stick anymore, especially in our new iPod culture where a CD isn’t even played anymore, just ripped to iTunes and therefore available as a file that can easily be copied and distributed.

But what about the upside of internet music sharing? Bands such as the Artic Monkey’s were literally able to become huge overnight through a site like MySpace. By simply writing catchy songs that people liked they went from teenagers who play in a band to touring the world. No need to hustle yourself to a record label who probably won’t listen to your demo anyhow, or will make judgments (by committee) that they wouldn’t know how to market you. With the internet you can literally write songs, upload, and try to get a buzz happening… which can sometimes take on a life of its own. Soon you could go from writing songs in your basement to playing for an audience, skipping the middle man and red tape of corporate (or indie) record labels.

I’m From Barcelona (who are from Sweden, btw) are an example of just this. According to their MySpace page, lead Emanuel Lundgren simply wrote some pop songs, gathered his friends and recorded an album. He then organized all of these friends to get together and perform the songs live as a one time only affair, only to have the word grow, the songs downloaded from the internet, and suddenly he had a record deal and an album climbing the charts. This is how I heard of the band, and have been really enjoying the songs I have been able to find, “Oversleeping” being my favorite. I plan on purchasing the album next chance I get.

So what is wrong with that? Because of the internet I am able to discover something new and different that someone is doing and wouldn’t have without it. I have always been a mix tape guy, giving them as gifts or presents from when I was in my teens. And I know for a fact that based on these mixes, people have gone out and bought the album from a band or artist they hadn’t heard of. Shouldn’t that be what music is all about? Thanks to blogs (fortunately or unfortunately more popular than wecastmusic) new bands, some completely unsigned, are getting exposure simply because they are being talked about and offering up a free download.

The internet is the new radio. FM has been high jacked by corporations that are being paid to play certain music and determine what you listen to. Because of this, satellite, podcasts, and internet radio stations have popped up because people do not want to be told what to listen to by someone in marketing; they want to do things their way. The internet is putting music back in the hands of the people.

As someone that understands art and what it is to be an artist and try to make a living from it, I do realize that if you make a product, you don’t want it stolen. But how much of a product is music supposed to be? If I was an upstart musician I would first and foremost want people to hear my music, and build a fan base from there. But everyone wants to make money, and nobody wants to be cheated. Though I think that as a musician you should be playing live and working for your audience. Artists that tour make their money there, vs. record sales. It is really the record label people shaking in their boots from you stealing music because that is how they make their money, yet I know for a fact that record label people don’t buy a lot of records, they um… share them with each other, their friends at other labels. (the original peer-to-peer service.)

In the end, when I hear superstar musicians complain about loosing record sales from downloading, my argument comes down to this; the lifestyle difference is so unbelievably different how does someone like me that needs to budget my record and concert going, care if your annual income is $2 Million instead of $3 Million, or $35 Million instead of $40 Million, or $100 Million instead of $150 Million? We get to watch you re-enact a devil-may-care spendthrift lifestyle in music videos while we work fifty hours a week to buy your latest product. This is of course is a generalization, but the truth is that working musicians, once they have the audience are making so much more money than the people that support them it does not seem quite right. Sure, there will always be the rich and there will always be the poor. But when you rely on those poor people to spend their hard earned money on your concerts etc, doesn’t it seem like you should cut them a bit of a break? And who makes the decision that being a musician who gets to tour the world, see new cultures and places, and live a pretty cushy lifestyle is more important than the bus driver that gets your kids to school, or the butcher that cuts your meat? They’re the ones making your career happen; shouldn’t they get some free music too?


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