Photo: WadeB. Caution: piracy can make you … queasy / vomit-y.

Discussions about music distribution, sales, and piracy often return to that time-worn theme of “supporting artists.” Of course, what usually gets left out is what actually supports the artists. Sure, it’s lovely that the industry likes this theme — maybe you imagine an ingenious, talented songwriter lighting candles in her studio — and she’s super cute, too. And you’re stealing money from her. Or worse, you’re actually ripping the livelihood from a toothless guy with his guitar, who sleeps in the mud in rainstorms. (I’m only half joking … fair number of musicians who do actually fit just that description.) But, is the money even getting to them?

Well, artists/writers are increasingly taking matters into their own hands. Why not get that album up on the tracker sites, and be upfront with your listeners about how to have a real relationship that actually gets money directly from listener to audience, without getting hung up on the middleman? The idea’s anything but new, but it is gathering momentum.

This story from Releaselog exaggerates a little with the headline:

The Flashbulb Promotes Piracy

… in fact, the artist in question would still appreciate getting some funding; he (Benn Jordan) just argues that you should pay what you think is appropriate to the artist directly, not Apple, Amazon, or Best Buy. He also happens to be CEO of his label, Alphabasic Records, and wants the same treatment for all of them.

Oh, yeah, and The Flashbulb isn’t “pro-piracy” so much as he is anti-CD (as purchased from big retailers) and anti-iTunes — good reason, seeing as he’s not getting paid.

Die, CDs, die! Photo: Ben Millett. Don’t worry, this isn’t becoming lolcats on CDM. It’s Friday.

Short excerpt:

Hello listener…downloader…pirate…pseudo-criminal…

If you can read this, then you’ve more than likely downloaded this album from a peer to peer network or torrent.

You probably expect the rest of this message to tell you that you’re hurting musicians and breaking just about every copyright law in the book. Well, it won’t tell you that…

Want to show your support?
Go here and browse our library of lossless, DRM-free downloads.
Already have that?
Then feel free to donate whatever you want to your favorite artist. 100% will go directly to them.
Hell, you can even donate a penny just to thank the artist.

It’s well worth reading the full letter for the whole argument, including why CD retailers and Apple’s iTunes really aren’t saving the world. I personally still think there’s room for online retailers, but not necessarily with the hegemony Apple commands. And as readers pointed out when elite tracker Oink was raided, many labels use just this tactic: use trackers as promotional tools.

How is it working out so far? Benn answers on his blog:

So after a 5 hour nap, I awake to see that the viral effect of “infringing my own label’s copyrights” has probably surpassed that of a $20,000 promotion budget.

Now it is time to spread the word outside of that torrent network. I want this positive attention to be a smack across the face to those in the recording industry that waste their time harassing people for ripping CDs.

And go give Alphabasic a good listen — Friends of the Site Justin McGrath (yeah, the trash_audio blog completely rocks) and Richard Devine are represented:


Now, if only we knew WWASD? (What Would Adam Smith Do? Kidding. I heart capitalism.)

  • Adrian Anders

    <blockquote cite="Peter Kirn">It’s Friday.

    And tomorrow's Caturday!

  • Stephen Wood

    This is wonderful. Down with CDs! Now if only we could make internet access cheaper and computers (or similar devices) affordable to everyone…we can really banish music cds forever to the dustbin of history. Hopefully iTunes music store will perish someday soon as well.

  • dead_red_eyes

    I'm a big vinyl fan, BIG. But if I have to, I'll buy the CD version any day of the week over a digital download because of the quality. iTunes is not offering a lossless format, and Amazon comes close … but it's still not fully lossless.

    It really bums me out that more and more people these days are okay with listening to albums at a shitty bitrate with a format that's not close to being lossless. When you compress to these widely used digital formats you loose something in the process, the crispness and the dynamics just aren't there. I understand how nice it is to download something off of iTunes (or whatever) because it's quick and the rewards are instant, but it's not going to sound as good as the CD. I'd hate to see the CD die because I love coming up with artwork for my albums and there's no DRM so you can just rip the CD on whatever you like.

  • Cloud

    Regarding iTunes and Amazon, etc.

    Best way I've seen to get in the pipeline is-

    In my mind, nothing is wrong with the retailer – iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy, etc., per se – it's THE MIDDLEMAN that steals your loot.

    The record companies, agents, labels all take a piece of THE PIE to get your product in front of the buying public. More often than not they leave the artist crumbs or, through some mob math, force the artist to buy a whole NEW PIE to pay for the services rendered.

    BTW didn't "The Flashbulb's" label Sublight go bankrupt? If he's looking for his royalty money, shouldn't he sue Aaron Rintoul the owner of his label instead of Apple?

    That whole section of his letter just seemed kinda weird…

  • Paul

    " I’d hate to see the CD die because I love coming up with artwork for my albums"

    don't stop making cds

    don't stop dubbing tapes

    don't stop cutting vinyls

  • dead_red_eyes

    Also, that's a bad kitteh!!! No kitteh!

  • Hello, good article and good comments too. 🙂

    There is this site that goes into the "open music" concept allowing artists to upload their "albuns" and users to pay whatever they want to the artists, its, sorry for the publicity, but i really like it, and i think it fits along the line of the article.

    Die CD's DIE! ahahaha



    -Sound Beast Digital Music


  • dead_red_eyes


  • Downpressor

    Somehow I dont see small labels and musicians shaking the begging bowl as progress for either.

    I'm not all that motivated by Ben Jordan's letter or the claim that this is better than an actual promotional budget. Theres nothing to support the claim of "why CD retailers and Apple’s iTunes really aren’t saving the world". This just looks like more whining and lashing out at whatever is close by. iTunes pays out to the label I'm with, sure the aggregator takes a cut but they did what we asked em to so they should get paid. If we were big enough to deal with Apple directly then we wouldnt have to worry about that. Until then I regard em as doing the same job as the distributor who is between us and retail outlets. They do their job, they get a cut, simple as that.

    Personally I'll sell my music to the customer in whatever format they want, even 8 track tape if I could find a recorder for it. Blaming the customer for not choosing the format of your choice just doesnt make any sense.

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