The record labels would have you believe that Napster and now BitTorrent are ushering in the Dark Age of music, but really it’s just the Dark Age of the music industry; music as an art form is on the brink of a new renaissance.
Here’s a countdown of the top six reasons why consumers and artists alike are embracing this brave new world where music can be freely shared.
6. The internet is a great way to reach out to fans
99% of artists are starving artists (hey, it’s a tough gig), but artists who are really good will always make money. Radiohead’s album “In Rainbows” was given away for free and yet still managed to hit the #1 spot on both UK and US music charts and sold 3 million copies. The fans didn’t buy the album because the law compelled them to or because DRM forced them to, they bought the album to show their love and support for the band — and think how many millions more fans Radiohead now has. Talk about filesharing karma.
5. A live performance cannot be downloaded
Music is better live, and that’s how artists have always made their living: live shows. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising, and there’s no better way to get the word out than to share music online. Rather than cracking down on filesharing, savvy artists know that when their fans share their music with their [millions of online] friends, more of those friends will show up at concerts. Torrented MP3s lead directly to more sold out concerts.
4. Big industry stifles creativity
100 songs by 100 independent artists is better than 100 songs by a single mega-band like U2 or a teeny-bopper like Miley Cyrus. Many aspiring musicians never had a chance because they were pushed aside by the latest hit that the record companies decided to bring out. The decline of the music industry, and the rise of filesharing, means there are opportunities for independent artists who can now share their music with the world without ever signing a contract.
3. BitTorrent is just better
Joe Customer wants to listen to Mumford & Sons on his way to work. Joe carefully weighs his options: he can hop in his car, drive 15 minutes to the nearest Best Buy, wander around the store for a bit looking for the album, wait in line for 10 minutes, drive all the way back home, spend an hour ripping the CD to his computer and syncing it to his iPod, and then finally be able to listen to it on the subway on his way to work the next day — or he can just download the album in five minutes. Tough choice. Consumers don’t pirate music to be evil, they do it because it’s easy, which brings us to our next point…
2. iTunes is a billion-dollar business
Billion with a B! Maybe the industry isn’t dead after all. People are willing to pay lots of money to download music, and rather than doing what the record companies did — sue their own customers and then cry themselves to sleep — Apple saw a golden opportunity and made buying songs as quick and easy as a single click. Plus, iTunes now has 90 second song previews and DRM-free music, and iTunes Match which is virtually legalized sharing. What Apple figured out that the record companies didn’t is that music as a culture is one of sharing and socializing, not lawyers and threats.
And the number one reason why filesharing will go down in history as the greatest thing ever to happen to music…
1. It already is
This article isn’t about the future, it’s about the present. Music has been freely shared for years, ever since Napster, and there’s enough data now to definitively say that music is not dead. In fact, it’s thriving. Thanks to piracy, there’s more music than ever. People walk around with thousands of songs in their pockets and new bands and artists can gather up new fans with ease. The freedom of sharing is the future of music. Why is anyone still trying to stop it?
This is a guest post by the brilliant Philip Brocoum of Rhyme and Reason, who’s famous for his blog post ‘Anybody else waiting for the old generation to die so that we can legalize filesharing, marijuana, gay marriage, etc. and then get on with our lives?‘