Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fans ahoy!

As Ebare claims in his article on digital music and subculture, the “cassette recorder is one of the audience’s most effective ‘weapons’ against the version of culture capital imposed” on society. Today of course the cassette recorder has been replaced by MP3s, i pods and filesharing programs such as Soulseek and torrents, as I described in my previous post. Ebare claims that these mixtapes and pirated copies are “counter-hegemonic practices by an active, politically-charged audience.” In this respect the term ‘pirate’ can be seen as apt. Back in the day, the pirate ship was one of the best examples of a direct democracy. They were anti-authoritarian, existed in their own stateless world and shared their bounty evenly between the crew. There was of course a captain, but he (or in some cases she) was under no illusions of job security. If the crew didn’t think the captain was acting in everyone’s best interest, there would be a mutiny. Similarly, the ‘plunder’ obtained from a money hungry mainstream music industry is shared amongst fans over the internet. Administrators or blog owners can be seen as the captain and if people don’t like the job they’re doing, they can simply start their own blog.

As Ebare’s article points out, it is subcultures who have made best use of file sharing technologies to create their own communities and new way of interacting with each other. He is correct to claim that there are active users (what he calls citizens) who are more than happy to share music as this boosts their ‘status’ and passive users such as leeches. The reason I’m so fond of the Soulseek program is that it is very subculture based. There are many different ‘rooms’ you can go into (ordered by subculture) such as black metal, hardcore punk, thrash, reggae and so on and talk to and share music with other like minded people. However another great avenue for sharing music I’ve begun to utilise more recently is the blog. A number of blogs have been set up recently as forums for old punks with huge, obscure vinyl collections to archive and share their rare records with others. One of the best examples is set up by a guy from Hamilton. The interesting thing is that he also owns his own punk record store which makes claims from giants such as Real Groovy that music piracy is hurting business seem laughable.

I see the free sharing of music as a great form of promotion for artists. As far as I’m concerned their prime motivation for making music should be to expose it to as many people as possible, rather than simply make a profit. I also believe that if the first goal is achieved, the second will follow. Free downloads are basically an effective means of free advertising. Having been in many bands myself, I make a point of making our material downloadable on sites such as myspace and make sure its accessible on Soulseek. File sharing simply means you are exposed to a greater variety of music. It keeps up a healthy level of interest in music and since I began downloading albums, the money I’ve spent on physical copies has increased because lets face it, a double gatefold LP on slime green vinyl complete with poster is infinitely cooler than a bunch of MP3s and copied cover.

Like the pirate captain who becomes too power hungry and is forced to walk the plank, artists who speak out against music piracy, such as Metallica, Che Fu or Brad Guerwitz from Bad Religion, also suffer a backlash from their ‘crew’, losing credibility and hence record sales.


Blogger Polifonix said...

I like how you've kept reference to pirates in this post.. I have only just really realised that one of my most commonly accessed websites is a page called ThePirateBay. Aptly enough, it is a torrent tracking website. Although I'm sure today's definition of a pirate (i.e. pimply 15 year-old who happens to work at the movies) would have blackbeard turning in his grave. (or in Davy Jones' Locker, or wherever pirates go...)

September 23, 2007 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Andrew Flaws said... is also one of my favourites! At the moment i'm downloading a doco called Steal This Film which I think is about them getting raided and receiving legal threats. Will post something about it after I've watched it.

September 24, 2007 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Hugh said...

This is completely off-topic; I found Steal This Film to be interesting but almost unwatchably amateurish... Good Copy/Bad Copy, while not specifically about the raids in Sweden, is a far superior film on the notions of copyright and the impact of DMCA-like legislation.

September 24, 2007 at 5:45 PM  

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