Well-known struggling artist Lily Allen, who spent years living hand-to-mouth in rat-infested digs on her no doubt long and arduous route to the top, has spoken out against copyright-infringement by file-sharing. Rich enough from someone who has probably never had problems finding the readies to buy CDs and DVDs, this outburst has the delicious added touch of Allen herself committing these cardinal sins by reproducing copyrighted content on her own website.
So hypocrite she may be, but is she right? A group of leading musicians called the ‘Featured Artists’ Coalition‘ thinks not. They realise that file-sharing has changed everything, and seek to ensure that artists get a fair income, while opposing any efforts to victimise music fans for downloading music.
I made the case in an early post for radical changes to the way music is disseminated, and while this new group doesn’t share all my views, it does seem to be a genuine attempt at a new way of doing things. They contend that “[f]or those of us who don’t get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media – artists established and emerging – peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion.” Anyone familiar with the sterile and homogenous output of most music-oriented media will sympathise with this argument.
The FAC are opposed to those who “reap commercial benefit” from their music by operating file-sharing sites, demanding that “the industry and Government to come down on those thieving rascals with all the weight of the law.” Now, these “thieving rascals” are clearly as bad as the recording industry themselves, who have turned living off the talent of others into an art form. But I think this is largely a red-herring. Most file-sharing sites only raise enough money to cover their costs, and those who run them seem to do it out of a sense of service or even moral obligation. Cheeky members of Fagin’s gang rather than Bill Sykes, who is either the recording industry or Lily Allen. M’Lord Mandelson is the drunken judge or the Beadle in this example. I don’t know who Nancy Sykes is in all this, but Oliver Twist gave some sperm to Michael Jackson apparently.
Dickension diversions aside, although the FAC’s prescriptions are far from perfect, and are based on some straw-man assertions, their hearts appear to be in the right place, particularly in their opposition to the record industry and harsh penalties for music fans who download illegally. They have some interesting ideas and a strange coalition of members (from Billy Bragg to Robbie Williams and Annie Lennox), and are worth keeping an eye on in the debates ahead.