Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I never really paid a whole lot of attention to Pirate Bay. I have a torrenting application, but have only ever used it to download one band’s concerts from their fan board (where they are posted with the band’s tacit consent). But I was totally taken in during the trial, particularly with the Twitter spectacle of it all– both the posts of defendent @brokep with his mastery of twitterspeak and with the #spectrial tagging that included real time moment-by-moment translation of the trial and ongoing commentary. If you were following me during that time you might have noticed I was bordering on obsessed.
So now the verdict is in, at least in phase one, and they’ve been found guilty with jail time and massive fines to pay if the verdict is upheld.
As someone who’s spent much of the last few years paying way too much attention to the independent music scene in Sweden, and who chanced to meet @brokep when I was going to meet some independent label guys for lunch in Malmö last fall, my feelings are very mixed. He had a sweet smile and was instantly likable. More importantly though, he was hanging out in an office with people running two of my favorite Swedish music labels: Songs I Wish I Had Written and Hybris. Both labels are associated with The Swedish Model, a collective seeking to foster a new future-oriented dialogue about the music industry.
When I interviewed independent Swedish label heads and musicians, every single one of them spoke of downloading as a good thing. They viewed it as an opportunity to reach broader and more international audiences, to increase the number of people into their kind of music, as a chance to build a whole new culture around music. Martin Thörnkvist, head of Songs I Wish, most vocal spokesperson for The Swedish Model (and guy who introduced me to Peter from Pirate Bay), told me he uploads their whole catalogue to Pirate Bay so he can have control over the quality of the recordings people download of their songs. Each spring Labrador Records uploads a sampler full of their singles to Pirate Bay.
It isn’t that these people don’t want to make any money from the music, it’s that they recognize that file sharing is not a choice, but a given. The question is how to use it, not how to stop it.
On the Digital Renaissance blog, Thörnkvist wrote:
Today’s ruling has only one positive aspect. I look forward to the music business investment in new services that were promised when the “copyright issue” is resolved. Up to evidence, out with you on the dance floor and show what you can do. Release control of your catalouges and let the service developers that are the best test their wings, instead of the one that currently can give you the biggest advance.
Of course this is not the end of the juridical process. The appeal will come as fast as it takes to download a torrent. But in my dream world the record, film and computer games companies withdrew their claims and instead spend all their money and creative energy to develop what they are actually best in the world at. Until then, Peter, Fredrik and Gottfrid have my full support in their dreams of a free internet.
Thank you, The Pirate Bay for putting a blowtorch in the ass of those who own 80% of all music ever released. Your work will ultimately lead to the re-recognize value of its core business and the will to sanction better services to restore music as the best provider of emotions.
It hurts when old business models to burst, but in this case the grass is really greener on the other side – not least for musicians and music lovers.
Or as Mike Masnick put it:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think that most file sharing is legal or right (and I don’t participate in any of it). But, millions of people who know that it’s illegal have absolutely no problem taking part in it, and no “education” campaign or shutting down of a particular site or service is going to stop that. Continuing to pretend it will doesn’t help the industry at all. What helps the industry is to stop denying that this is something that can be stopped legally, and finally moving on to experimenting with business models that work
I don’t think all music should be uploaded and downloaded freely. I am all for investment in music and return on investment in music, and I realize that money is inevitably part of that equation. I also think, though, that the pursuit of money, and sometimes very large amounts of it, has colored the music business in some weird ways so that money is too often taken to be the only kind of investment or reward that can motivate good music. Ultimately, I want the music business to survive, but, like Martin, Mike, and the people I’ve interviewed, that’s only going to happen when everyone accepts that whether they like it or not, whether it’s morally and legally right or not, file sharing is not going to stop.
I love the idea of embracing it. Of seeding the music yourself. I have heard the arguments, but I am not at all convinced that in the end it means fewer copies will sell.
I want more ways for us to pay artists in addition to buying the CD or the downloads. I want scarce goods like fabulous packaging and great bags, shirts, posters, and so on. I want a way to pay every artist what we think their music is worth directly (let them work out the payback for songwriters, producers, financers and other behind-the-scenes people).
Some past posts about Swedish labels and file sharing: