Hands up who enjoys illegally downloading music?
Just because I run an independent record label doesn't mean I don't swerve from the righteous path every now and again and dip my greedy little paws into the fountain of torrents. Me, my landlord and my fried chicken habbit all rely on the continuation of the music industry, but a little time killing it won't harm. I mean, is Fred Durst really going to know that I didn't pay for his Greatest Hitz record? (Soz Fred, if you're reading). Is one less CD sale really going to be the difference between him buying a new Ferrari or an old Fiat? I don't believe that we do it through a hunger to break the law, however. It's convenience. Look at how many people downloaded In Rainbows illegally when they could get it for the same price from the band. Torrent websites are a one-stop shop for your every musical whim. In the 21st century people don't have time to stop and think. It's a wham-bam-thank-you-mam frenzy of right clicking and iPod synching.
The internets biggest asset for the music industry could eventually prove to be it's downfall. The complete abundance of choice and access to information, the fact that nothing is private or unavailable anymore is brilliant. Can you even remember the days of reading about a band and only being able to guess at what they might sound like based purely upon the words on the page infront of you? If they were based in a few mile radius of your town you'd hopefully have a chance to find out for real, if they're anywhere else in the world you probably wouldn't have even got so far as seeing their name in print. Myspace put paid to that, there's no guessing left to make. Pretty much every song by every band you could ever dream of is out there to listen to if you look hard enough. And if you look a little bit harder still it's probably available to download for free. From a music lovers point of view it's incredible. From a record labels point of view it's slightly frightening.
I don't strictly buy into the opinion that CDs are going to die and physical music products will lose all value. I believe there'll always be a market, albeit a smaller one, for people who like to hold something in their hands. A booklet to flick through with beautiful imagery and lyrics to learn. A limited edition, hand numbered 12" version of your favourite album. You don't even own a record player, but boy does that dusty piece of vinyl look good in the corner of your room. I'm one of those people. It's the reason I first fell in love with music and the fact that similar folk are now buying the music I release is what keeps me going. It certainly isn't for the money. It's coming up to a year since I last bought myself a new item of clothing and I've long forgotten the last time I went for a night out and didn't, even for a second think "can I afford this?" Music isn't about getting rich, it's about passion, excitement and being cooler than your friends!
I must admit I do get a slightly sick sense of enjoyment out of reading articles about major labels panicing about the downturn in sales. Their businesses are outdated and based on casual consumers, the people who hear Chris Moyles play a song on their way to work in the morning and they've purchased it by the end of their lunch break. CD singles were replaced by iTunes MP3s and they will one day be replaced as well... But by what? That's the brilliant part. Everyone is running around like headless chickens taking stabs in the dark and dropping their eggs into baskets trying to figure out how the hell they can save this sinking ship. But all this wasting time is just allowing more and more water to seap in. The brilliant position us independent labels find ourselves in is we don't need to care. We don't have millions of pounds of overheads or boards of investors breathing down our necks. We work in small circles of music enthusiasts who love music and are happy to support the bands who bring them so much joy. We sell enough records to fund the next and just keep on trucking. That's our job, we service the excited minority who share our taste and we all get together to bask in their brilliance. When or if the majors find a way to excite their audience again, us independents simply make the choice: stick or twist. Do we stay with what we know or do we jump ship and follow suit? At the end of the day it doesn't even really matter. We'll do what we want, when we want, cos we're fucking DIY!
The BSM Autumn Collection digital sampler is available to download (for free) from www.bsmrocks.com. It's also available from the following illegal file sharing websites (with our blessing): Mininova, The Pirate Bay and Vuze. Chose your poison.