13 January 2011


File-Sharing and the Free-for-All Debate

According to an article on the BBC News website this week (January 11) the anti-fraud firm MarkMonitor examined 'illegal traffic levels on 43 file-sharing sites and found that they generated more than 53 billion visits per year'.

Wow"¦that's quite some traffic. They say 'any publicity is good publicity'"¦right?

Well"¦in this case, some people wouldn't agree. Illegal file sharers are quite often perceived as being law-breaking anarchists hell-bent on stealing music, but to me they are just enthusiastic music fans celebrating an art form that should be freely available to everyone. And in the end everybody's a winner, even the musicians. File-sharing not only increases their profiles but it in turn boosts live gig sales - one of their biggest earners.

Downloading is big business, whether die-hard devotees pay for the tunes or not. Mega bands like Radiohead questioned the value of music in 2007 when they asked their fans to decide on the price they paid for their album In Rainbows in a highly publicised promotion.

The In Rainbows experiment received mixed responses; some crediting it as groundbreaking, others criticising it as a gimmick. Many hailed it a triumphant revolution that pioneered new territory; but success or scam, it certainly attracted plenty of media attention.

In Rainbows entered the UK Album Chart and the US Billboard 200 at number one and by October 2008 it had sold more than three million copies, earning widespread critical acclaim and then two Grammy Awards.

Numerous acts have jumped on the free downloads bandwagon, including The Charlatans, Beastie Boys and Coldplay, but does all of this charitable behaviour spell the end for the industry?

Well, no. As far as the live music experience goes, it's been proven that ticket prices for many A-list artists' gigs have soared as the price of CDs has tumbled. And with HMV recently announcing that it is closing 60 stores because of slumped sales, it's about time we embraced technology and the digital revolution, realised its potential to provide music for all and not let the monolithic corporations control the industry by criminalising music lovers.


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