"About 95 percent of music downloads in 2010 were unlicensed and illegal, with no money flowing back to artists, songwriters or record producers, according to Alex Jacob, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry."I have to admit to being completely bummed out after I came across that paragraph in The Times. How can bands and labels--particularly those on the underground scene--ever hope to survive (let alone thrive) if they can't expect to even cover their expenses? Why should they ever bother to go through the huge effort to put out recorded music if they're just going to be ripped off by the "fans"? (As many of you know, I'm old school and believe that people should actually purchase recorded music--and have written extensively about the evils of illegal file sharing here, here, and here.)
But then I came across the picture below today and it makes me think that everything will be alright! The music fanatics like Jason Lawless (and many others) will always find a way to keep things going!
This photo is from the pressing plant where the first Moondust Records release is being readied from the late and absolutely great Laurel Aitken: "Reggae 69" b/w "Big Fight in Hell Stadium." I'm a member of Reggae 69 Fan Club, which funded this project through Kickstarter--yes, a whole bunch of us ska and reggae fanatics got together and put up our money in order to make a whole series of 7" releases happen. So, I'll be receiving one of these sweet babies in the mail soon! (Get in touch with Jason to find out how you can join, too!)
Perhaps this is really the only feasible way forward for the independent side of the music industry--the new (and somewhat awkward and unorthodox) model for selling recorded music: the fans have to become investors in a project before it can be put into production and fully realized. It may be the only means for recorded music to re-acquire value and significance in the digital era. Collectively, we have to pay in advance, in terms of both cold hard cash and an unshakable trust that the band will make the most of our faith in them and create some amazing music. It's sort of a Darwinian way approach to making records and CDs--only the strong will survive to reproduce. But I suppose it's much more preferable than the slow slide into oblivion. (Really, the future is now: I've already helped to sponsor Portland, OR's new ska/rocksteady act The Sentiments in their effort to record and release two 7" singles...)
Is this the only way back from the brink for all of us?