“Ninety five per cent of music downloads are unauthorised, with no payment to artists and producers,” according to a recent report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
It’s not a new story, but it is one that has a direct effect on my life and income. My career as a musician and composer has included collaborations with major acts such as The Orb, and my own project “Another Fine Day” has had a fifteen year run of performances at The Big Chill. Now, I’m beginning to wonder how long I can go on. Fans at my gigs offer home-copied CDRs of my albums for me to sign, not real ones, and think nothing of it. MySpace “friends” send me emails praising my music to the skies, and then say that they’ve sent multiple copies of it to all their friends, and then they expect me to thank them for this unsolicited “promotional activity.”
I shouldn’t complain, I’m told: the more music of mine there is floating around the planet—legal or illegal—the more chance there is of people hearing it and enjoying it. In my other career as a composer for film and TV, there will be more chance of it getting heard by the right producer or director, and generating income either by licence or commission. All of which is—possibly—true. Yet a ratio of 95 per cent illegal to 5 cent legal does seem just a trifle excessive.
Like most of my generation (closer to 50 than 40) I too made my own illegal cassette copies in my youth, but that activity required a certain amount of recording ability, and the copies were made in real-time, each iteration getting worse in sound quality. These days copies can be made at a click of a mouse with no loss of quality.
Yes, we have iTunes, and yes, there are various moves afoot to generate income streams via deals with mobile phone companies and webstreaming from websites, but almost all these deals are between the major record companies and the service provider, leaving the independent sector out in the cold. Major artists who’ve already made their name via the old industry model (spend millions on promoting a few artists, get more millions back from record sales) can afford to offer their music for…