Musicians vs Industry in UK Sharing Debate (and some free music too)

Depending on your outlook, the internet as a distribution mechanism for information could be seen as one of the greatest revolutions of the 20th century, or as the bitter end of a long profitable business model.

And an interesting place to watch this debate play out is in the music industry, where musicians themselves can’t always seem to agree with the managers and lawyers who are supposedely representing their professional interests.  Many musicians have come out as big fans of sharing and even free music – just take a look at how Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have embraced digital sharing and free downloads.  On the other hand, you’ve got performers like Metallica and Lily Allen who feel that file sharing threatens their livelihood and degrades the quality of available art.

In the United Kingdom, some heavy hitters in government and private industry have been getting together in an attempt to crush file sharing for once and for all – including proposals to completely cut off an individual’s access to the net after a certain number of infractions.  The tracking and banning systems would legally require ISPs and hosting providers to cooperate with and deliver information about any illegal activities to the proper legal authorities.  After a few warnings, said user would become ineligible to purchase any internet access.

Except Those Musicians Who Don’t Agree

A prominent group of musicians, including members of Blur, Pink Floyd, and (of course) Radiohead, are publicly standing up against the proposal, calling it disproportionately harsh and all-around counter-productive.  And as a musician (who isn’t very active) I can say why they might feel that way.

I think anyone who is really passionate about their music would be glad to see it shared and glad to know that people have had a chance to hear it and consider it.  If you wrote a blog post about a topic you’re passionate about, would you promote it to everyone you know or would you keep it behind a wall of paid access?  Yeah, you’d probably want to share it just as much as I want to share my own recorded songs.

And Speaking of Sharing, Here are some Free and Legal Songs

In 1999 and 2000, I was in a really good band.  We called ourselves Recoil and we played some music in the heavy metal tradition we were raised on.  We played a few shows and got a good reception, but the police would often show up to our concerts and put an end to our fun.  No, we didn’t charge for tickets and admission, and we certainly didn’t charge anyone to get a copy of our demo CD.  For whatever reason though, we couldn’t hold the strong personalities in the band together for much longer than it took to get in to the studio and record these tracks.

12 Year Sentence – Probably the heaviest song.  Really fast and brutish.  The lyrics are actually about public education – the high schools we were stuck in all day when we really wanted to be at home playing with our guitars.

Apocalypse – The other extreme, the song that actually has a melodic approach and a lot less speed-crunch.  This one is about propaganda and the effect of video on redefining the power structures in society.  “The camera is stronger than the sword.”  Be sure to check out the solo, its an incredible piece of teamwork from one of my best friends since childhood and a great guitarist who has sadly passed beyond this world since the time of recording.

Part of Your Team – What, another political song?  Of course.  Despite the upbeat tempo, the message in this song is cynical to the extreme.  “Tired of thinking, wondering what to do / Tired of listening to people like you … And I hate all of your values, despise your American Dream / I will never fight for you, never ever part of your team”

These songs are a rough cut, we spent about $300 at a local studio and had just a few hours to record and polish everything.  Go figure the singer had the flu that day but when you’ve pre-paid you do what you can with the time you’ve bought.

Shout outs and credits

Steve Bunnel – Lyrics and vocals.  Steve is doing some cool and very metal stuff in Jacksonville area graphic design.

Mike Thompson – The solid rythm and riff-maker.  Now he puts this attention to detail & reliability into making sure motorcycles & jetskis work right.

John Burch – Lead guitar & solos.  If it was crazy, John would bring it.  Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago because he lived every moment of his life as intensely as he shredded the guitar.

“Rex” Kirkland – Drums that any band would be happy to have.  Rex was always the toughest and most determined kid I knew.  Now he’s a sheriff’s deputy!

John McDonald – That’s me, plucking at the bass and keeping an eye out for cops.  I spent a lot of time trying to defuse conflicts & raise money for recording.  At the time our band broke up, I was looking into setting up a website.

Frankly, I don’t have any sympathy for the bands who don’t want to be heard until they’re paid.  And now I’m not just saying it, I’m putting the music I helped pay to get recorded out there, too.  I do understand that some people approach the arts as “paid entertainment,” but this is a model that has always produced something slick and flimsy for mass consumption.

If you care about the actual content, though… you should be glad to share your work.

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