The UK’s creative industries and artists have been discussing file-sharing in public recently. Ever since business secretary Lord Mandelson outlined his plan to bring in legislation similar to the Eircom/IRMA agreement here to boot off file-sharers after three warnings, musicians have been writing letters and blog posts about the issue. The problem though is that no-one can agree on anything.
As part of the FAC (Featured Artists Coalition), a team of musicians including Billy Bragg, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Blur’s Dave Rowntree have criticised Mandelson’s plans with Mason quoted as saying “The last thing we want to be doing is going to war with our fanbase. File-sharing means a new generation of fans for us”.
As pointed out though by Lily Allen on her myspace blog , that’s all well and good for established artists like Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Blur but what about emerging artists? Allen’s thoughts are perhaps more realistic as they reflect a more recent successful artist who knows she’s lucky to have paid off her record company advance. Ms. Allen also quite rightly reasons that as record company bosses “start to lose big from piracy, they’re not slashing their salaries – they’re pulling what they invest in A&R,” meaning less room for development and less room for new acts. Her blog sparked replies from both Matt Bellamy of Muse and James Blunt, neither who agreed with her point of view entirely. Allen has since set up a blog at http://idontwanttochangetheworld.blogspot.com to post her fellow artists reactions to her post (which she’s now deleted due to insulting comments).
Ultimately, the problem as I see it, is that the youth of today have been using file-sharing sites and programs adeptly for nigh-on ten years with reprimand. When you’ve been downloading music for free since you were 12 years old, why would you suddenly start paying for it now?
Services like Spotify are brilliant and all but young people largely aren’t willing to use their parent’s credit card to pay for a subscription when they can get the ad-supported version for free or download the MP3 for nothing. Most young people don’t care about copyright or how artists make a living. How can musicians change listening habits when they spend more time bickering amongst themselves?
Deep down, we all know artists have to be paid for their creativity but how continues to be a perplexing and wildly divisive issue. The seeds of free have already been sown but the younger generations will not give it up easily.