Oh Look, You Can Make Money Giving Away Music

from the shocker dept

A few years ago I wrote up a short piece explaining one (of many) ways that musicians could still make money while giving away their music via file sharing. The system I proposed could help a musician get more fans, and even make more money than going the traditional route. We were told it would never work, but it appears that ArtistShare is taking an approach similar to what we suggested -- and succeeding with it. The basic concept (which we discussed when it first launched) is that the musician should use their music for promotional purposes, and sell something else. In the past, this has mostly been concert tickets or merchandise -- but it's possible to sell much more. And that's exactly what ArtistShare does. It lets musicians sell whatever they want: early access to new songs, signed copies of albums, writing a song specifically for someone or even a co-producer credit -- and use that to finance the creation of new music (I still like the idea of selling a personal backyard concert). The first artist who used the system, Maria Schneider, won a Grammy last year with her album produced this way -- and says that it turned out to be a lot more profitable than earlier albums produced the traditional way. It's good to see some people getting how they can actually embrace what fans want, and still make money. It's about time the recording industry recognized that it's not about them against people who want to listen to music, but working out business models that benefit everyone. It's a basic recognition that you should get paid to do something, rather than paid for what you've done in the past. However, what you've done in the past helps promote what you can do in the future, and can enhance how much people are willing to spend on those future endeavors.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:01am

    No Subject Given

    when Metallica started, they were giving away their tapes and encouraging their fans to duplicate and distribute amongst themselves... then they went on the rampage against music-sharing as soon as Napster became large enough to attack.

    I like the 'back to the basics' or 'grassroots' approach to getting paid for what you do. kudos to the musicians that use this method to make a name for themselves.

     

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    Ben McNelly, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:03am

    nice...

    the bubble is BEGGING for an open source aproach to music. Take an itunes aproach, but free and you have got somthing. Base you profit target on the comunity aspect and you can make it work...

     

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  3.  
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    Jon, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:14am

    A little one sided...

    Let's keep in mind that this is a good idea, and it may work for small artists just starting up, it will never catch on with big name artists. There's no way that they will be able to make the same kind of money that they do through CD and MP3/iTunes sales.

     

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  4.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:20am

    Re: A little one sided...

    Let's keep in mind that this is a good idea, and it may work for small artists just starting up, it will never catch on with big name artists. There's no way that they will be able to make the same kind of money that they do through CD and MP3/iTunes sales.

    This is a valid point... to some extent. For a very small number of megastars, it will be more difficult to make the same ridiculous amount of money. However, those megastar success stories are *disappearing* anyway. The economics just don't make sense.

    So, really, no one loses out using this type of system, because the old system won't support blockbusters either.

    And, I disagree with you that it's only good for "small artists just starting up." As was clear, the woman who was successful using it wasn't just starting up. And, since the artist can set the terms, a big artist could obviously do quite well. They just set a higher level before they'll do something. If they're really that big, then the fans will pay.

     

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  5.  
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    Anubhav, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:31am

    Re: A little one sided...

    The file sharing concept's main debatable flaw was that it made it harder for new artists to start growing.

    The big artists dont really get effected by file sharing seeing as they get so much money from live preformances (which is their main method income, NOT cds which gives very little as compared to live preformances).

    Once an artist or band is big, it still needs money, but not as much as the amount of money that new bands need in order to promote themselves more.

    So as far as the big bands are concerned, they really should not care about file sharing.

    Now that there is avaiblable proof that small artists can actually profit from file sharing, I dont see why these huge artist protecting enterprises still need to harass and invade into everyone's computer.

     

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  6.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:41am

    Re: A little one sided...

    I have to agree with Jon...free music is a fine way to generate interest, but not all musical entities are given to touring as a way of life. Living on the road is often exhausting, expensive, and difficult to integrate with any kind of "normal" life; the Beatles and Steely Dan were two "supergroups", for instance, who chose early on to concentrate primarily on studio work as opposed to stage work.
    Touring is not the end-all be-all of musical creation, and it should'nt have to be. While some artists might choose the P2P avenue, those who choose to release IP in the form of recorded, copyrighted media should not have to expect to have their works pirated simply because it is possible.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Re: A little one sided...

    Really? You do realize an independant artist selling a T-Shirt for $20 USD for 1 in evrey 5 song downloaders is making exactly as much as a mainstream artist selling CD's $20 each. An artist only makes a MAX of $2 per CD and usually puts 10 songs on an album. An independant only has to realease one song to get on the site for the same oppertunity.
    The big thing is conserts of course, $50 to get in and $5 a drink, $40 for the T-Shirt etc etc. But you need at least a couple thousand people to buy in advance to make this worth while.
    So maybe this will work, but real artists want their creations to be experienced by others and just that basic need cannot be fulfilled because the massive marketing for mainstream has saturated the media. If the artist can overcome this then the flood gates will open, maybe music was meant to be free after all?

     

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  8.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:01pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    You do realize an independant artist selling a T-Shirt for $20 USD for 1 in evrey (sic) 5 song downloaders is making exactly as much as a mainstream artist selling CD's $20 each. An artist only makes a MAX of $2 per CD and usually puts 10 songs on an album. An independant only has to realease (sic) one song to get on the site for the same oppertunity.
    --And where did you get your figures, exactly? A bodily orifice?
    The big thing is conserts (sic) of course, $50 to get in and $5 a drink, $40 for the T-Shirt etc etc. But you need at least a couple thousand people to buy in advance to make this worth while.
    So maybe this will work, but real artists want their creations to be experienced by others and just that basic need cannot be fulfilled because the massive marketing for mainstream has saturated the media.

    --The artist is getting paid for food concessions?
    --And what, exactly, gives you the right to determine what a "real artist" is?
    If the artist can overcome this then the flood gates will open, maybe music was meant to be free after all?
    --"meant to be free" by whom? You? God? Buddha? The Great Pumpkin? Your fellow Junior High students?
    Just because you prefer to get it for free doesn't make it global policy. Tough shit.

     

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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:03pm

    Oops, missed one...

    It is "independent", not "independant".

     

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  10.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Oops, missed another one...

    "oppertunity" = "opportunity".
    You might have more credibility if you wuz lernt 2 spel kerrekly.

     

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  11.  
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    random, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:20pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    --And what, exactly, gives you the right to determine what a "real artist" is?
    A real Artist does what they do for the art. A painter doesnt only paint to make money. They paint becasue they enjoy painting and use it to express themselves. Same is for Music. The real music artists are people who do it for the sake of Music itself. They deserve the credit and money. Many big "Super Star artists" who make millions are only in it for the money and lose the whole reason behind music. They shouldn't even be called artists.
    So my question to you is, what doesn't give them the right to determine what an artist is?

     

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  12.  
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    Evan, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:21pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    Man, I've never seen concerts selling t-shirts for 40 dollars... good lord.

     

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  13.  
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    ultraobscene01, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:35pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    I went to a bjork show a couple years ago. Paid 70 for the ticket. 5 for bottle water. Gasped when i seen t-shirts for $35. I ended up getting bootlegg shirts outside the venue for $10.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:36pm

    No Subject Given

    This is extremely old news. Ever heard of the Grateful Dead? Phish? The String Cheese Incident? All of these bands became huge without commercial advertising but largely due to fact that they encouraged trading of their live shows to increase their fan base and make money through concerts and merchandise.

    The difference between these bands and the typical popular band? These bands actually have enough talent that they can sell themselves based on the music rather than being forced onto people through radio, MTV, VH1 etc.

     

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  15.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:41pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    A real Artist does what they do for the art. A painter doesnt only paint to make money.

    If you will do some research, you may be surprised to find that the majority of the well-known "great" artists throughout history managed to survive by benefit of the patronage system, i.e. art for money. Certainly not the only reason to produce creative works, nor the most immediate, but generally considered a desirable by-product of the process. The list of artists - literary, visual, musical - that were paid to produce is very long and very distinguished. You have defined the term "real artist" according to your personal opinion. That is certainly your right, but a minimal study of art history might enlighten you.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:52pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    Actually there is no policy for attaining money for items, you can charge as much to whomever you want. So the policy of music for money is not a policy it is a prefrence or a decision. Artists can charge, not charge for some songs, all songs, no songs or get compensated by selling clothing, stickers, pins, Buddah statues, Great Pumkins etc, etc.
    The corelation that this shows is that people want to pay the artist not for the song but for their talent.

     

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  17.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    They what? They want to pay for the artist's talent, not the songs? What in the hell does that mean?

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    Touring is not the end-all be-all of musical creation, and it should'nt have to be.

    Er... that's the whole point of this post. ArtistShare shows that there are a LOT of non-touring related ways of making money that still embrace file sharing.

    Which part of the post says they have to tour?

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:01pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    Huh? You start saying a person does not have the 'right' to determine a 'real artist'. Well if free speech determines this then evreyone gets to determine a real artist as long as speech remains free. Then you say what doesn't give *them* the right to determine what an artist is? Who? The artist will say they are an artist so will their fans and publicist if there is one.
    The best part is that most of the "Super star artists" are not artists because ... they don't write or perform any thing themselves. Meaning they are the equivalent of paid actors mainly chosen for their body types and lack of inhibitions. Do you really think Britany is sitting at home right now writing lyrics and the notes to her music? Shit no one there even holds an instrument. They are not really even performing music they are preforming a play. That is what I would say "Not a real artist".

     

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  20.  
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    All_One_Mind, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:11pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    You do realize an independant artist selling a T-Shirt for $20 USD for 1 in evrey (sic) 5 song downloaders is making exactly as much as a mainstream artist selling CD's $20 each. An artist only makes a MAX of $2 per CD and usually puts 10 songs on an album. An independant only has to realease (sic) one song to get on the site for the same oppertunity. --And where did you get your figures, exactly? A bodily orifice? While his figures may not be quoted from an exact source, the point that he is making is valid. Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle has stated in several interviews that the band makes very little money from CD sales, and that most of the revenue is generated through touring and merchandise sales. I have read a few other artists expressing the same sentiment as well.

     

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  21.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    The best part is that most of the "Super star artists" are not artists because ... they don't write or perform any thing themselves. Meaning they are the equivalent of paid actors mainly chosen for their body types and lack of inhibitions. Do you really think Britany is sitting at home right now writing lyrics and the notes to her music? Shit no one there even holds an instrument. They are not really even performing music they are preforming a play. That is what I would say "Not a real artist".
    Yeah - I totally agree. But we are simply agreeing on what our opinions are.
    On that note, I prefer Alice In Chains, Tool, Pearl Jam (Ten anyway), NIN, and Nirvana - but does that mean they are the only "real artists"? Just because I might think they are?

     

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  22.  
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    Matt Bennett, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:36pm

    Arctic Monkeys

    You may be interested to hear about the 'Arctic Monkeys' who are currently taking the UK by storm. They played gigs around the country distributing demo CDs, and made everything they had available via their website.

    After developing an enormous cult following through word-of-mouth and available downloads, they released their first album at the end of January. It sold over 100,000 copies in the first day, and is the fastest selling album of all time in the UK charts.

     

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  23.  
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    malhombre, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Arctic Monkeys

    In a previous post, I said "While some artists might choose the P2P avenue, those who choose to release IP in the form of recorded, copyrighted media should not have to expect to have their works pirated simply because it is possible." I am in favor of choice. If a band utilizes free distribution as a CHOICE, that is their perogative and has nothing to do with IP protection. And Mike, so what if there are other ways for bands to make money? Is that to say that selling recordings is somehow less virtuous than the means you have outlined? If a group CHOOSES to sign with an agency that will prosecute piracy, is that some sort of societal sin? Just because you have the means to pirate, and you desire to, does not make it legal. I did not write the law. I am not a member of the legal community. People say "well, the band doesn't make enough money from CD sales, so it is ok for me to download" or "the RIAA is a bunch of greedy bastards so it is ok for me to download". It is all just a form of sour grapes justification for doing what the hell you want to without regard but bottom line is that the law is on their side, and all of this lofty rationalization will do you no good should the RIAA or MPAA come a 'knockin. That's not my choice, I hate them too. But it is what will likely happen.

     

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  24.  
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    Andy, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 1:54pm

    Re: A little one sided...

    Actually, most of the big artists dont make a lot from CD sales. Where they make their real money is when their music is used in movies, tv show, commercials, etc. Thats where the real money is, not from the pidling amount that the recording companies dish out for each CD.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 8th, 2006 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Arctic Monkeys

    malhombre,

    Again, I think you're putting words in my mouth. I have NEVER advocating copying unauthorized music. I have NEVER suggested there's a defense for people who illegally download or share music. If you think I did, you are mistaken. I don't participate in it, and I don't advocate it.

    My point is for the business people who say that there's no business model based on greed. There obviously is. Not only that, but it can be quite beneficial, while their existing business model is going away.

    So, PLEASE, understand the difference -- and stop putting false words in my mouth.

     

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  26.  
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    Chad Stone, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 3:01pm

    Its all about the music

    I am an independent artist, and I make music through inspiration. I dont want to be a millionare, but I want my music to reach people. I have to be able to support my family, and pay my bills. I dont have any other things like merch, besides my CD. I want my music out there so that it could be heared and hopefuly purchased. I dont think that some music downloading is really hurting the business that much, mainstream artists are making millions still; not only in contracts, and endorsements, but in royalties.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 3:03pm

    No Subject Given

    BANDS DONT MAKE MONEY OFF OF CD SALES OR ITUNES!!!!!!

     

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  28.  
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    Ziggy, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 3:25pm

    P2P options

    From the perspective of a musician who has Toured, Merchandised, Sold LP's and made varied amounts doing all the above, I applaud yet another venue to expose my music.
    It seems reasonable to me that the exposure will lead to the $$$ if the market will allow.
    For all those wonderful people who conjecture on artist validity or not, it is irrelavent(sp)here. A virtual peeing contest at best.
    As a new artist, an opportunity to get people into your camp is far more valuable to your bottom line of success than DRM or Publishing profits will be for some time to come.
    Once you have a fan base (Reference the Greatful Dead comment in a previous post) that is supportive and substantial, the record companies and publishing companies will flock to you. In the process they will likely offer your group the lowest amount and most restrictive contract they can get away with. With a "write you own ticket" service as ArtistShare (which I will soon look into, so this is MHO) an artist has the ability to, not only aquire the fan base and power that base brings to the negotiating table, but also opt to avoid the negotiations with corporate money grabbers altogether.(also MHO)
    I personally would rather be heard, than under a contract that could restrict my audience to "potential profit margins".
    Hell, if I can make a profit of any kind without a record deal, or at least recoupe some of my expenses on recordings/rehearsals/gas/food/hotel etc... while I increase my fanbase, I consider it a win/win situation. Support Local Artists (even if they do have a record deal)

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 3:48pm

    Just a point...

    These comments start to look more and more like the ones on Slashdot every day... This comment feature is not here for chatting, or arguing as malhombre seems to think it's for, it's for commenting the article. I think it's OK if someone comments on the article then also comments on someone else's opinion or something at the end of the comment, and if someone is totally wrong... So be it, be happy you know better yourself.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 5:48pm

    Re: Just a point...

    thanks for going directly against your own advice by posting off-topic shite. you are indeed a role model for hypocrites everywhere.

     

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  31.  
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    Troop, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Just a point...

    No kidding! Sometimes it's hard to read /. because a large percentage of the posters think they are cat's ass and are jaded as hell. How about when someone asks for help with a programming project and the group immediately belittles the guy saying he doesn't know what he wants, and 'you couldn't afford me'. Anyone who tries to help is immediately flamed and gets their resume critiqued by group, which I've never seen done in a postive way.
    ok- rant over.
    T

     

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  32.  
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    IanT, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 6:25pm

    Just a point of my own

    It's rather illogical to say that bands that made it big through word of mouth and trading of their music are more talented than bands that go the primarily commercial route - assume you have to pay for an album of live tracks rather than borrow it from a friend; the fact that you do indicates you're that much more willing to listen to the music.

    At the end of the day while bands can and should be able to promote themselves however they want, they should not have to have their music pirated all over the place simply because technology allows it and thus people assume it's "supposed" to be that way.

     

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  33.  
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    cyberlockdown, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 8:23pm

    sony/ RIAA sucks

    Artists are forced to go through the big-5 to get their music out to every store. Stores are forced to buy from the big-5 because thats the only way to get those artist's songs. Prices are high, artists get jack, everyone gets screwed except the companies theirselves.

    What really infuriates me is that SONY isnt even an American company. They stick their nose in America screwing over both consumers and musicians and we DONT need them we would still have the same music without them at much lower prices. Billions are siphoned out of our economy for songs they didnt even write. Why do we allow a foreign corporation to do business here this way charging 20 bucks for a cd that costs 20 cents to produce?
    Oh sure, I own a Toyota, but at least this Japanese company actually CREATED the product I am using.. rather than reselling something at monopolistically-induced high prices.

    And how could someone be such a moron to mindlessly repeat the propaganda about how bad "piracy" is.

     

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  34.  
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    David Forbes, Feb 8th, 2006 @ 10:59pm

    Jane Siberry

    See: Jane Siberry's website. She creates a new simple harmony between commerce and the gift of music.

     

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  35.  
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    melancolico catrin, Feb 9th, 2006 @ 8:32am

    Just DON'T do it...

    The only way to win the game is not to play it.
    You treat the music industry exactly the same way, ignore them. Nobody needs them, anyone can do anything by themself.
    Saying that you "have" to go through this or you "have" to do that is placing an unnecessary limitation on yourself.
    "Lone Ranger" artists will multiply until it becomes a new paradigm and we will have both commercial and non-commercial industries. Somehow I see commercial artists making the switch to non-commercial or "free music" because it will be more "L337" or "kewl".

     

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