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Industry Question: Are Music Downloads Hurting or Supporting Artist?

The question was …

It is incredibly effective for labels to work with blogs and provide the public with an exclusive first listen to new tracks off of upcoming albums. As a consumer, what exactly are you looking for when searching for and receiving this content? Where do you draw the line on what supports the artist and what could be hurting the artist when music downloads are made available to the public?

My thoughts are…

I agree that it is effective, or rather CAN BE effective for Labels, as well as Artists and DJ’s to work directly with blogs and bloggers to share new content and create a world-wide awareness digitally with a grassroots method. I have been learning through experience just how effective certain blog posts can be. I always check certain blogs for news, information, gossip, and other visual or audio content. With the growth of microblogging this information spreads like wildfire and can certainly be a beautiful thing. The news and information I read can be re-posted or used for my own knowledge. The visual content (music videos, webisodes, vlogs, commercials, etc) are never more than viewed and maybe shared, but music, well this is another story.

As a music fan and regular consumer, I personally prefer an audio stream. With all of the virus issues I have been through in my life, the last thing I want to do is download something that puts me at risk for losing everything on my hard drive. Also, with all of the music I own and run through my computer and both ipods, I choose not to download any music that I don’t truly want in my collection. As a music fan, regular consumer, and good-hearted person, I listen to the audio stream and if I like it, I buy it. I enjoy supporting the Writers, Producers, Performers, Engineers, Labels, and Designers who make physical and digital products available. I choose to support the Artists and I choose to encourage others to do the same. Alternatively, if the Artist or Label offers some type of promotional EP, Pre-Album, Mixtape, or other safe (legal) download, I will gladly take that. I understand that not all music fans are consumers and not all bloggers are true music fans so in my GM position for a Record Label, I have to view this situation from another angle.

I understand that this wonderful, constantly advancing digital age is making all types of content extremely accessible and where some are benefiting, others are in a scary downward spiral where they, I mean we, are backed into a corner scatterbrained thinking, ‘Is it possible, and if so, how do we possibly stop people from stealing our emotionally charged, life changing product’? I understand fully that once songs are made available to the public, someone somewhere is going to share it with their friends, family, and strangers through email, blogs, and other digital vehicles. I also know there is only so much you can do and so much time in a day to be spent on removing usershare, mediafire, megaupload, and kissmyassfreedownload sites that will remove your content due to copyright infringement, but refuse to hold themselves accountable because the content was posted by them… they only host it. The potential, possible, but unlikely solution to this problem will be discussed on another day, because right now, my issue isn’t with the advance in technology or the industry. My problem is the greedy bloggers who abuse their position and lack the understanding that a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. If certain bloggers were true music fans who cared about their credibility, they would open their eyes to the big picture and actually support Artists and stop hurting them.

Let me paint a picture for you. A well known blog posts an image of an Artist’s forthcoming single (obtained by the Record Label), an audio stream of the Artist’s first official single (that is tracked for plays and commented on), and paragraph of information about the song, as well as links to where the Artist can be contacted. Sounds like a great effort that any Artist or Label would appreciate, right? Well now let me refer to the actual blog and give you reality. I see an edited image of the Artist’s forthcoming album cover, probably taken from the internet and modified; a poorly written paragraph with incorrect information; an audio stream (this is actually good); and yes, a download link to the forthcoming single that by the way, when posted was not yet available to the public for sale or otherwise. My first thought was how did they get the song (I knew it wasn’t sent from the Artist, Label, or Publicist) and what are they doing giving it away for free?

So I did what any diligent person in my position with a strong opinion would do. I wrote to them and requested that that they remove the download link. They could drive traffic to iTunes when the song was available and I would gladly drive traffic to their site. Instead of editing their content and being grateful that I requested without a Cease and Desist, they shamed me and said I was ruining the Artist’s career AND then on the blogsite claimed the Artist’s “people don’t want him to succeed either as they are asking for this to be taken down. When will labels, etc realize that once a song is “out” there is no turning back. And all that they accomplish when they threaten for things to be removed is that they lose (free) promotion.”

Damn right I asked for the download link to be removed. I also went to usershare.net and had the DL link removed. If the blogger was going to put the streaming audio link anyway, why did they need to have the download link posted as well? Isn’t it the best thing you could do for the Artist to provide an audio sample, a visual, and some written content to generate additional interest and maybe get the Artist new fans or feedback on the record? Isn’t it more effective to create a positive, long-standing relationship with an Artist or Label to receive exclusives in the future so your posts are legit and early? Whether the music is or isn’t available for sale, if you are giving away someone else’s product for free, you are WRONG. You are hurting and ruining an Artists career. You are limiting the Artist’s success.

When will (certain) music blogger’s realize without other people’s news, content, and artistry- they would have NOTHING to write about, no fanbase, and no legs to stand on. When will (certain) music bloggers realize that by giving away music for free without permission or instruction from the Artist/Label, they are a huge part of the problem facing the music industry?

Please do not think that ALL bloggers are wrong, greedy, self-righteous douchebags. There are plenty of genuine fans, advocates, and writers who want nothing more than to share their passion with others and promote good music. There are lots of wonderful bloggers who offer and provide assistance to me, to the Label, and to the Artists daily and for these fans and proliferators, I am extremely grateful. However, the few recent negative experiences just refresh my memory that you should not trust everything you see, hear, and read online. For this, I am also grateful. Just because a well-known site is offering a free download, does not mean you should download it. Please support music and all of the people that make music possible.

Just to clarify… the music on the blog site was not yet ‘available’ and the link is still live with an image and the streaming audio link, so no ‘free promotion’ was actually lost. Duh.

What are your thoughts?

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