I look at the internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone. [...] Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around. — Neil Young
Neil Young is right when he refers to piracy as the new radio.
Neil Young calls piracy “the new radio” because it’s “how music gets around”.
Hard to believe but the music industry used to pay radio stations to play their music. They paid so we could hear their music for free. It was a discredited system called payola. They also used to go and buy records in record shops known to be sampled to produce the Top 20.
We like to share. Though I wish the brain-dead morons would not share their bad taste as they drive around town with what laughingly is called music blasting out, or disturb me when travelling by public transport.
As children we used to stick a mike in front of the radio and record to tape. Then a pair of crocodile clips were affixed to the speaker cables. Eventually out came the soldering iron, holes drilled in the cabinet and little terminals to connect to.
The music industry, and more lately Hollywood, likes to equate pirate copies to lost sales. Pure nonsense of course.
We like to share.
I rarely listen to the radio. Or rather I listen to speech radio with occasionally music programmes. I hate music stations and the garbage they play. An exception was the late Charlie Gillett and his excellent World Music slot on BBC World Service. And guess what, the BBC in an act of crass stupidity, axed his programme to save money.
I used to help run a pirate radio station. Occasionally there were raids by the police, but we were in a labyrinth, we knew our way around, they did not. On rare occasions, I had the late night slot. Sharing with the world, or at least our handful of listeners, my immaculate taste in music.
What was I doing playing music on my late slot? I was sharing with those who cared to listen in. Maybe they even liked what I liked.
I have always shared. That is how I first came across Neil Young, listening to a friend’s albums at university. It still gives me the shivers when I hear those early Neil Young albums.
Another friend had a vast collection of music, from Neil Young to early music groups and everything in between, he had even written a book on music Popular music. He would always give me music to take away to listen to. Try this, he would say. Would I have come across Gotan Project or Astor Piazzolla? Well actually yes, but only because I was at a concert by Zum.
A couple of years ago I was in Brighton and found Brighton Books open (not usually open on a Sunday). I asked what was the music playing. That is how I came across Jacob’s Stories. You will only find it in Resident Records, I was told. I walked down the street and wandered around the shop. Not able to find what I was looking for, I asked. The helpful assistant laid his hand on what I was after.
I walked back to Iydea to examine my purchase. It is vinyl, I discovered, then on closer examination, saw it was a jet black CD made to look like vinyl, it even had grooves! Worried it would not play, I asked the bookshop would they play it. Yes, it played.
Unlimited Art is a limited edition CD. The cover made from hand-woven grass. Inside, a unique piece of art. I ran off copies and passed to friends. They liked so much that I was asked to buy copies next time I was in Brighton. I liked so much I bought copies to give as presents.
Resident Records is a rarity, an independent record shop. An independent record shop with a good selection of music, staff who know and love music.
Last year I asked was there anything new out Jacob’s Stories? That was Easter. No, they said, try later in the year, as we are expecting a new release. September I picked up The Ordeal by Stuart Warwick. Stuart Warwick was the founder of Jacob’s Stories.
I do not know if it is still there but around the back of Waterloo Station there used to be a fantastic independent record shop. You did not walk out with a couple of CDs, you would walk out with an armful. Such was the turnover of this shop, that if you visited in the morning (I do not think he opened until lunchtime) then again in the evening, you would find a whole new stock to browse.
If you want to look at at falling record sales, look no further than the death of independent record shops. We are now seeing the same with independent bookshops, a quarter have gone in the last few years. Killed by the music and publishing industries.
Musicians were paid, ie commissioned, to perform, or were travelling minstrels who played and hoped we liked what we heard and gave them some money, or at least something to eat and drink and a bed for the night
Sheet music helped spread the fame of a musician. No photocopiers and scanners but you can guarantee scribes were hard at work running off copies for their friends.
When Mozart toured Europe, would his fame have spread before him were it not for sheet music?
Records, wind-up gramophones, the wireless, helped spread the fame of musicians far beyond the concert hall and music hall.
Last October I saw The Sixteen in Concert at Guildford Cathedral. A little stall selling their music. Are you on youtube, I asked? No, not officially, but yes, you will find us there. The reason I asked was that I could share with others what I had heard.
Shadowboxer show a way forward. Their live sessions at Surrey University are fantastic. Not only excellent musically, but excellent arrangement, production and excellent filming of the sessions. You can download their EP Two Cities and you decide the price. At times very reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac when I saw them in the early 1970s. Their cover versions are vastly superior to the originals. Shadowboxer have no record label. Who needs a record label? What could a record label offer them when they have achieved so much without? They produce and perform their excellent music, then make use of the net and word-of-mouth.
One author I know, she will remain nameless to save her from embarrassment, hates second-hand books. To her, every second-hand book sold, is a lost sale. How short sighted can you get! The second-hand book sales are helping to spread the word of an otherwise unknown author.
Last year I heard a woman complain that people had the gall to reproduce her poetry on the net. I had never heard of her or her poetry. You stupid woman, I thought. If people like your poetry sufficient that they will take the trouble to reproduce and share with others, be grateful, they are doing you a favour.
If I find poetry I like, I reproduce it. I say who it is by, where it can be found if in a published collection. I get thanked!
Artists thank me when I reproduce their work. For them it is a free global exhibition, a window to the world.
Every day I have been out this week I have picked up books by Paulo Coelho and a couple of other writers. These I will give away. Sometimes I leave as BookCrossing books.
Paulo Coelho is only too happy to see his books pirated. He knows it will lead to more people reading his books.
Little known author Neil Gaiman was opposed to piracy, until he woke up one day to the fact that it led to exposure, exposure leads to more readers.
At a recent music-industry conference in Europe, the CEO of superstar game company Rovio (creator of Angry Birds) said that piracy “may not be a bad thing” because it increases demand for the official version of the company’s products.
The ones who bleat about piracy are not the artists, it is the industry. The same industry that has killed music and seems to be determined to do the same to books.
With Amazon offering to publish unknown authors, the publishing industry is going to wake up one day and find it no longer exists.
Information flows, that is what information does. At the height of the Soviet Gulags, Solzhenitsyn was able to smuggle out his writing on little scraps of paper. The might of the Stalin police state could not stop the flow of information, so what hope the greed-driven Hollywood movie moguls of stopping the flow of information on the internet, a system designed purely to facilitate the flow of information? They tried with Sopa and Pipa and look where it got them. They are now trying again with Acta, an international treaty to control the net.
I do not download music, and no way would I pay to download music. The reason is simple and nothing to do with piracy. The quality is so poor. But having said that, check out bandcamp, quality audio files (large size) and they link bands directly with their fans.