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Facing the Music, but not Literally

Photography by Matt Rust

The image above has nothing to do with the following article. This is just a good time to post it. Fun fact, this picture was used in a similiar way back in 2011, good luck finding it cause I’m sure not gonna try. 2011 is an insurmountable pile of flotsam and jetsam.
I wrote another article to throw into the moxy site. Check it out in it’s properly formated glory. I still need to add hyperlinked references though. Woops. Please remember that I’m not a journalist and if you’re going to take anything from this it should be from the linked references and not from my slap dashery crashing together of ideasness.

Facing the Music

The emerging culture of music and file sharing.


In 1999 Napster was founded. In 2001 it got shut down along with a bunch of clone sites. This seemingly innocuous blip in peer to peer file sharing changed the face of the music industry forever. Since then bittorrents and peer to peer file sharing has skyrocketed. Record numbers of music is stolen each year. In 2010 it was estimated that $12.5 billion is lost each year due to music piracy. Strangely music makes for the second lowest thing pirated online, sitting at 2.9% beaten only by Ebooks at 0.2%. Currently at 35.8% porn is the most pirated item on the internet

The figures paint a scary picture for the music business. But is it entirely grim? Other than copyright crackdowns on people, how is the industry adapting to the encroaching tide of digital media? More specifically, how are the artists themselves reacting, and are we facing a new breed of musician?

Mainstream artists have been feeling the burden of labels and producers for years and the internet has begun to open the way for independent publishing. “Going to a major label these days will 99 out of 100 times mean signing a 360 deal which means they take a piece of EVERYTHING.” Buddy Schaub from Less Than Jake says.
The band has been together for twenty years now and has started branching out in terms of releasing albums.

Peter Wasilewski, saxophonist from Less Than Jake, “I think releasing full records these days is kind of retarded. We just come up with different ways to release a record… Kids get it for free anyway. We’re trying to find new ways to put things out.”
In 2011 the band sold cigarette rolling papers which included a link to a free EP of their music. On this Schaub comments, “These days people expect to get the songs for free so it’s become really important to make the physical record be worth something to the fans whether it be a cool packaging concept, some sweet colored vinyl or a specialty item that comes with a download.”
Less Than Jake has found ways to evolve with the system, taking control of the sales of their own music through their own digital store. Digital distribution has also allowed them to do tasks that used to be deemed impossible, such as recording and then releasing an EP in less than two months.

Bands who are less fortunate and are still signed with labels almost see no profit from their CDs. Streetlight Manifesto went to the drastic action of boycotting itself. Tomas Kalnoky, lead singer of Streetlight wrote on his blog “In regards to getting the music we make, you can buy directly from us, or, alternately, we’re sure you can find a way to get the tunes onto your computer that may not be, ahem, traditional… Speaking a Bit metaphorically, there is a Torrent of methods to accomplish this, and Google is your always loyal friend…”
He goes on to tell people if they really want to support the band, fans should go see them live and buy merch directly off them. If there’s one thing that cannot and will not ever be pirated it’s t-shirts and live shows.


‘Speaking a Bit metaphorically, there is a Torrent of methods to accomplish this, and Google is your always loyal friend.’

New bands have found huge audiences with the online community. Local New Zealand band Avalanche City started out as a solo project by Dave Baxter. He released a few songs for free on Soundcloud.
“I just wanted people to have it, I’d worked so hard making this album and if I’d sold it, it would have only reached a few hundred people. I just cared so much more about people having it, listening to it, sharing it with their friends and hopefully identifying with the songs.”
The song went viral until it was picked up by a TV2 executive who heard it in a store and wanted to use it in the promo ads. In no time the song had hit number one in the New Zealand charts.

The concept of giving something away up front and monetizing afterwards is a foreign concept to conventional business, but is integral to small online projects. Most indie bands, as well as other mediums online like webcomics are able to grow rapidly due to the ability viewers have to share their content. Most people are willing to give something a listen if it’s free. But the risk of buying a product and finding out afterwards it wasn’t as great as they thought is too big a risk for an average consumer. Especially on untested new bands.

Purity Ring first started out as a fun project between Megan James and Corin Roddick, who sent each other tracks online and recorded independently of each other, a similar process employed by The Postal Service. They then released their songs via Soundcloud and Tumblr.
“We just put it up on the Internet, like most bands do. Within a week it had circled around to a few different publications and gotten some attention … By the end of that week we were really surprised by the response.” Roddick says.

The ability to quickly publish and get a large audience to check out tracks and comment on them is becoming a litmus test for emerging styles of music. Labels hold less sway over bands now, and genres like chiptunes that were unlikely to ever be heard on the radio can now be shared between thousands of people.

An attitude of sharing has become the order of the day. Sweden has officially recognized file sharing as a religion, dubbed Kopimism. and while it sounds ridiculous, one of the central tenets of Kopimism is focusing “on the open distribution of knowledge to all.”
These ideals can be found spread throughout the web, culminating in projects like Wikipedia.
In the same set of figures that finds that millions are lost each year to file sharing, only 30% find this sharing wrong. If the music industry as we used to know it collapses, would it be the end of music? Definitely not.

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