Opinions and Rants #23: Music Sharing (Part Two): A Reality Check

I understand the protest agains music sharing. It deprives musicians of their rightful earnings. It's like painting a picture, putting in a gallery for sale, and having it stolen. We can't expect them to be happy about it.

However, there comes a point where you need to just face reality.  It's a sad, it's ugly and it's unjust.... but it's a reality that is not going to go away. They estimate that 1.4 billion people have Internet access - that's 21% of the world's population with the capability to hijack music with ease! At some point you need to face reality and look for other opportunities to allow your music to make money.

I don't pretend to have the solution, but then, it's not my problem. Ultimately it will come down to one of two possibilities: (1) Some innovative band will develop a novel way to cash in on quality music or (2) musicians simply will not make zillions of dollars anymore; instead of earning twenty times the gross domestic product of most countries, musicians will be more like they were in the 1960s where only a select few (Elvis, The Beatles, etc.) can make obscene amounts of dough.

Tell me how I'm wrong. Or, better yet, let me know just how right I am.


  1. In actuality, musicians have always made more money off live performances because the record industry has been scamming them since the "Cadillac Records" era and beyond. I buy CDs rarely, at the concert so the money goes right in their pockets, or I buy vinyl. I consider mp3s like radio, it's promotion. When I like something enough I buy it.

  2. While I feel for the "poor" musician, I can't help but wonder why someone today can make ONE record and have enough money to live on the rest of their lives.

    If I can take one dollar away from Britney Spears, it is worth it to me.

  3. I still hold my portable tape recorder up to my transistor radio. Is that what you're talking about?

  4. Unfortunately, you are wrong. Only 5% of musicians that sign with big labels actually see their profits. Most of the money that they make ends up paying for representation, touring and up-front costs of recording that the label "loans" them to make a cd, then recoups through sales. It's a total racket that musicians are trying to break, but it's hard.

    A musician would have to sell millions of records to actually make any money from cds. Much of the money is made from grueling tours. If no one knows who they are (which is accomplished by big label marketing) then no one comes to their shows.

    As far as the whole idea of "that's the way it is, just accept it" I consider it a cop-out. As a musician, yes- it sucks that I will never make a lot of money. In fact, I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars in training to learn my craft well and become a great performer, since people have such high standards for their music.

    The thing that hurts the most is that people think nothing of stealing my creative works and not compensate me for the time and effort I put into them. You wouldn't expect a scientist to do it, or even a factory worker. In fact, most people tell me to "get real" and find another way to make money. However, I am not in this to get rich, the money is purely so I will have the time to create more music so people can have their daily soundtracks that they take so much for granted, yet are so much a part of their daily lives.

    Ever try to watch a movie without music? Or even try to clean your house or take a long ride without music? The world would be a much sadder place without the musicians who take their craft seriously and make damn good music.

    I read your blog not because I want to "steal" music, but because I enjoyed the context in which you presented it. I felt you were supporting musicians and helping to get their stuff out there. I do believe that there is worth in exchanging a sample of someone's work to turn people on to their music and I support the mix tape idea since I have often gotten a mix tape and then gone out to buy a person's music.

    After this blog post though I may have to change my opinion. Too bad...

  5. I'm learning how to play guitar and one thing that I'm running into lately is that chord and tab charts are copyrighted and not supposed to be distributed. Some guitar tab sites out there have had to take their content down as a result of lawsuit, and a teacher that I follow online had to remove all of the tabs/chords for the songs he includes in his online lesson plan because he was slapped with a lawsuit (he's also a songwriter who just released his first album.) Then I paid $5 the other day to get access to an online lesson that teaches you to play the Beatles' Yesterday, and while you can save the PDFs of their chord and lyric charts to your computer, the security settings won't allow you to print them. Stupid. Like you said, there's hundreds of these sites out there...are they going to try to shut down each one?

  6. tart deco - I'll say it again - 1.4 BILLION people have internet access and the easy ability to swipe mp3s..... that doesn't make it right (I'm certainly not going to argue that), but it does make it a reality.

  7. I love how Rapidshare tells me that your link is gone because material is copyrighted, and so diverts me to a Rapidshare page that will allow me to watch downloaded movies for free.

  8. Gilligan,

    You're right, it sucks. I do think though that the more people know how it affects other people just like them (not superstars or big business) that it may affect how they act. You have a popular blog and could influence a ton of people. Perhaps I am naive, but I will keep trying...

  9. "not your problem" ? only if you're not a music fan - if you don't think the dearth of good new talent has anything to do with the illegal file-sharing, I assure you that's not correct.
    if there's no $ to be made spending weeks and thousands of $ in a studio, paying a good producer $15K -$40 and marketing, many of the new talents cannot afford GREAT record-making - only GOOD records - everyone wants to hate on the major record labels , but everyone's music collection is made by these companies.

  10. lostcause - When I said "not my problem", I didn't mean to be unsympathetic - it really is an awful situation for up and coming musician.

    What I meant (alas, you are unable to read my thoughts) is that it's not my place to come up with solutions. I'm not in the business, so for me to even speculate what could serve as a replacement for record sales is ludicrous.

    That being said, I still stand by my position that it is still a lost cause.

  11. Gilligan, I agree with you.
    Plus if no one's ever heard of you I doubt very much your song will be stolen or downloaded off the internet....you have nothing to worry about in that case. Honestly some people can't even *give* their stuff away it's so bad... so for everyone that's getting their knickers in a twist over the unjust world of the internet downloads I ask you this: did you ever borrow a cd and burn it onto your computer or copy a movie or record a song from the radio with your tape recorder. If so, you are guilty of doing the exact same thing you profess is so wrong.

  12. Music can be shared on the internet?

    Rotten, filthy stinking thieves.

    If we had stuck to LPs like I said we should, none of this would have been an issue.

    Yours in Love,
    Denny DelVecchio

  13. No, I haven't done any of those things.

  14. And to think that many of the U.S.'s Founding Fathers (like Franklin) called for an end to copyright as they felt that knowledge had to be shared and built on. Here we're doing everything to protect the interests of the well off who offer us a nice diversion but nothing that truly improves lives. Rather than accept the reality that Gilligan describes, they expect us to live by outdated rules to protect a system which is increasingly unsustainable.