How as an artist do you protect you work in an age of record leaks and film leaks, and illegal rips? Bjork answered by releasing her album ahead of schedule. This is the downside to what should be a system that actually empowers the artist rather than ripping them off.
It’s not a new problem – it is one that has gone through various iterations since the advent of home-taping … probably even before then when someone could copy onto their reel-to-reel or eight track. People spend all day copying each other libraries, and it is unlikely that there are many people who haven’t, at some time or other wanted to get a track or a book before it was released and just illegally ripped it.
How do you justify it? Well, you’re sticking it to the man, right? Screwing over corporate America? Rage against the machine, and all that. It’s not that you have a sense of entitlement and act like a demand feed baby throwing its rattle out of the pram when someone actually suggest you should exchange your labor, time and money for the things that you want to own. You know you can’t walk into the supermarket and walk out with a loaf of bread and not pay for it, but music and books and anything else you can gank from some fileshare site is fine.
No one believes in the idea of the starving artist anymore – everything is free, right? It’s an electronic utopia where when you want something you can have it. How do you make a living when your product gets devalued by bootlegged, pirated copies everywhere? Not every artist is Madonna. Not every artist is rolling around on their bed laughing because it is all about the Benjamins for them. Some are trying to edge up out of the morass of minimum wage jobs they have had to work in order to be able to fund their art.
The industry hasn’t necessarily sold it in the best way – the idea of being honest about where you get your media from and how you pay for it, but artists are now starting to get more vocal. Thom Yorke and David Byrne of Talking Heads have both talked about services like Spotify which they claim don’t adequately recompense the artist for their music. Metallica sued Napster. And now Bjork. But they don’t get that much love for their complaints – people are happy to cast them as the dilettante rock star belly aching about someone chipping away at their monolithic bank accounts.
How do you spin it? Should it need spinning? Why does an artist have to beg for the money that they have earned where the baker and grocer doesn’t? If you can’t make it yourself and you want it, and you get years of enjoyment out of it, why won’t you part with your dollars to pay for it?
With artist-centric marketing, meaning the whole PR machine that rolls out when a film, book, or movie is released, word is starting to get out of the way the pay structure breaks down for these guys, and it isn’t all wine and roses. Are they doing better than Mr Minimum Wage? Maybe. Do they get paid the same as, for instance, sports personalities? Most definitely not.
Spotify, napster, Itunes, they all take their cut, and they are marketing to people who are happy not to pay for what they receive. They are in agreement, it seems, with this whole situation. Artists are taking control back – they have access to the press, they have access to their own communications lines in social media the same as the rest of us, and they are talking about it.