Not everyone is easing into the digital age without a fight. Downloading music has been going on for years, some of it legitimate (think iTunes), but the bulk of it most likely not. Between torrents, file sharing sites and peer-to-peer, networks, one can presume that just about any album or track you can think of can be located and downloaded for free on the internet.
Whether or not this is a good thing is something that seems to have carved out a sharp divide between music makers themselves. There are those like Metallica that are not cool with the idea of fans downloading their music for free. There are probably countless other big names who feel similarly, and they do have a point. Who wants to work for free? Yes, in this case, that may be a bit overstated, since we know that the guys from Metallica are probably not hurting for money. However, it is their music.
On the other hand, we have people like Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame who believes that allowing fans to download music is a good thing for artists.
“The last thing we want to be doing is going to war with our fan base. File sharing means a new generation of fans for us. It’s a great thing to have another generation discovering your music and thinking you’re rather good. File sharing plays a part in that, because that generation don’t do it any other way,” Mason is quoted as saying.
Reflecting a moment on that statement, it seems that those who favor the downloaders have a point as well. I have observed the kind of scenario that Mason eludes to myself, and Pink Floyd, ironically, is actually the group in question! A young relative I saw recently was wearing a Pink Floyd T-shirt, which naturally aroused my curiosity.
When asked about the shirt, he told me that he had downloaded some Pink Floyd music from the internet from a file-sharing site and realized “how cool” their music is. As far as I know the Pink Floyd T-shirt was purchased from a legitimate retailer, which I presume cuts the blokes from the band in on some of the action. Does is net as much as the sale of an album? I don’t know, but it was probably a sale that would have never been made at all if the young man had not downloaded some of their music.
Pink Floyd is no longer together as a group, as we all know. However, if they were, and they happened to be performing in the area, do I think there is a chance that this young fellow would be there? Absolutely. He considers their music revolutionary, and can’t say enough about it.
As for the future of free music downloads, it appears things may be heating up a bit on this front in the U.K. There is a new law being proposed there that would terminate internet service for those that are caught downloading music without paying for it. This is the issue that prompted the comments from Nick Mason and others who share his view on the subject like Ed O’Brien from Radiohead and Dave Rowntree of Blur.
It’s not too difficult to understand the opposition some artists harbor regarding the sharing of their music, especially those that grew up during a time when buying your music was the only way to get it. Sure, lots of people carted their cassette recorders to friends’ houses to make “bootleg” copies of albums for their own use, but there was a lot more time and work involved in that process when compared to clicking a mouse button a few times.
For now, there seems to be no way to stop file sharing. With many file-sharing sites located in other countries, it can be difficult for authorities to shut them down. It appears that lawmakers in the U.K. are considering the alternative approach of shutting down the downloaders. Whether or not measures like that are beneficial to artists will likely be the subject of debate for the foreseeable future.
The Times has more on this subject.