More Research Showing How Musicians Are Better Off With File Sharing

from the keep-the-studies-coming dept

There has been plenty of research over the years that suggested musicians are not made worse off by file sharing — with many made better off. Over at Torrentfreak, there’s a slightly uneven look at some of the research, showing that most artists end up better off. They take some stabs at why this might be, but the basic reasoning isn’t that hard to figure out. As we recently discussed, the growing digitization of the business has done away with some of the scarcity, and that’s opened up a tremendous amount of opportunity for those who used to be unable to get anywhere with their music. Since the music industry no longer needs to just focus on a few hits at the top, the curve spreads out. The musicians who in years past would be in a huge lump of failures on the distant right side of the curve, now get spread out along the entire curve, serving their various niches with the ability to be moderately successful. In other words, the lack of scarcity, combined with the tools of promotion online make it so the large number of musicians who would have made nothing out of their music, now have a much greater chance of making something. This may result in some decreased money among the big hit makers, but the overall opportunity increases. Part of the reason the record labels are so against this, of course, is that they’re used to their traditional hit-driven business, where they only make money off of a few big hits. They don’t bother to realize that there’s a tremendous opportunity further down the curve in helping many more musicians make themselves into modest successes. So, the next time anyone suggests that file sharing is somehow harming musicians, you might want to point out the large number of musicians whose music careers are now only possible because the costs of production, distribution and promotion (through file sharing) have become cheap enough that they can take part. It’s opened up a whole new world of ways for musicians to be successful.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “More Research Showing How Musicians Are Better Off With File Sharing”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
franticindustries (user link) says:

Which musicians?

There’s a problem with the perception of what ‘a musician’ really is. In the simplest of terms, you have the guys and girls that are actually making music. On the other hand, you have the guys and girls who are trying to become a part of an industry.

So, it’s really hard to prove that a band like Sugarbabes, which can exchange all its members 10 times and noone would notice, and most of whose hits are covers with new arrangements slapped on by producers, would benefit from file-sharing. They wouldn’t – because they SUCK.

On the other hand, a guy like Sufjan Stevens can afford to release his stuff for free (he did that recently, Google him) because his fans will go to shows, buy the merch and the records, and it’s all regardless of what the music industry does.

But sometimes the line between these two is thin. What about U2, or Metallica, or similar dinosaurs? Who knows how well they would fare if the record industry ceased to exist? Who cares, anyway (:.

I still think that this fight must be first and foremost fought from the perspective of an individual’s privacy. If I choose to download stuff of the internet, that’s my choice, leave me alone. You don’t agree? OK, then wait for the record icompanies to start charging you for humming their tunes, or visually imagining a cover of an album in your mind. Where’s the limit, when the currency is greed?

THe infamous Joe says:

Re: Which musicians?

My my, Fran — I can call you Fran, right? I think you’re missing the point of how the music industry works. I suppose first we should define musician: For me, in this sense, it’s anyone who attempts to make money off of writing or performing music.

These so-call musicians don’t make their green from selling CDs, they get it from people going to shows– so it is reasonable to say that any band or musician can ‘afford’ to put their songs out in the internets, because they’re not getting a whole lot from selling music anyway– but if I find them in my adventures online, and I like what I hear, I’m likely to go to a show, and that requires me buying a ticket or paying an admission– which is how they make their money. and minus the cost of actually recording the stuff– it was free. They didn’t have to pay anyone to put it on mysapce or limewire or whatnot.

Also being discussed is how, because of this, the Recording industry doesn’t have to put all it eggs in one basket– by promoting one or two bands into Ultra Mega Superhero Musician status– they can instead spread the wealth– making a little money off of lots of bands.

The end result is a more even curve, so yes, Snoop will make less money and won’t be able to buy that gold-plated shark tank he wanted– but musicians that would have ended up working at Kinkos to feed Themselves will now be moderately successful.

I know it is backwards from the way the US works now, but if accepted, this model would ause the rich musicians to get poorer, and the poor ones to get richer.

As a side note, wether or not you, Fran, think a band sucks or not has nothing to do with it– someone is bound to like it– and with the internet tubes at their side, they’ll get their 15 minutes too.

As for being left alone when downloading– I doubt anyone has knocked in your door and told you to stop, but the current system makes it copyright infringement– which puts you squrely on the business end of the law (with the rest of us)– and that law doesn’t stop you from humming songs, or imagining covers– so put your mind at ease. Unless, I suppose, you hummed professionally.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Which musicians?

So your saying that the musicians that suck won’t get the publicity they need and thus won’t get the money where as the musicians that are good and deserve our money will. Whats wrong with that?

I don’t need some old guy that has dollar signs on the brain telling me whats good. I can think for myself. (That’s the same gripe I have with GAP)

Ronnie Norman says:

Re: Which musicians?

If music had to be defined,what context would clearly be acceptable to generate a buzz as to your identity in the business?Since sound is natural and all around us. One simply needs to gather the elements that funnel thier imagination. Having said that,I would like to associate myself with being an international artist of universal depth. My sound is unique with commercial appeal. I fuse many genres together. Jazz,house,hiphop,club,classical,movie soundtracks,alternative,easy listening,inspirational,etc…..
Once you hear my music,you’ll find that you could hear a lot of artistic similarities. That some would argue as mimicing. But to know fault of mine, I am original. It’s not my fault we share the same ingredients. Well their you have it. Etched in stone. Now let the music do what it does….

ts.atomic (profile) says:

The market decides

It seems to me like the market always decides. Once the RIAA/MPAA loses enough money AND more artists decide to drop their RIAA/MPAA affiliation, then nature (in the marketplace) will take it’s course.

It just hasn’t reached critical mass yet. Unfortunately, we who detest the RIAA/MPAA practices find the wait intolerable.

We just need to keep supporting non-affiliated artists as much as we can, avoiding affiliated artists as much as we can and boldly speaking up as sincerely as we can wherever the subject arises.

The market will do the rest.

topbop! (user link) says:

File Sharing is the Future

This comment is the opinion of an undiscovered musician laboring out in the wilderness to get better known and build a fan base.

The ability to freely publish something is the wave of the future. While musicians are a specific subset, this is a microcosm of what prompted the choice of Person of the Year for Time. An artist can create the work, and through viral peer-peer sharing of that sample of their work, gain exposure that they would never enjoy otherwise. This is what will, over time, actually improve the situation for the vast majority of talented musicians. Without the internet and its open level playing field, the typical musician would still be stuck where the organized big business traditional music industry had us trapped: noses pressed against the windows of their insider space that the A&R executives owned access to.

Now, anyone can release music and promote it through an ever-growing array of open communities (myspace, youtube, google videos, etc…) get the “word” out that you exist and “find” your individual audience. Through these mechanisms, including file sharing, you can leverage a very powerful virtual “marketing department”. Over time, if you have something good to offer, the trail will lead back to you, and you will be afforded opportunities to actually sell tracks, CDs, merchandise to the fan base that you can build. This is all still sorting itself out, but the only ones that will not ultimately benefit from this is the old school music “industry” that have questionable motives when it comes to the rights of musicians the far and away eclipse any dangers represented by file sharing for all but that top tier of mega stars “allowed” (or should I say, exploited?) by the juggernaut of the establishment music industry of yesteryear…


Paul Turrell (often a.k.a. Boris Jacobsen) (user link) says:

Not all musicians play live

Not all musicians can make money by playing live. I’m a multi-instrumentalist and create music on my own (, since you ask) which I could not possibly recreate live without a bunch of talented musicians to help me. And since my music is often complicated, diverse and frankly uncommercial, I can’t see me finding a bunch of sufficient talents to help me do that for what I can afford to pay them (i.e. nothing).

Thanks to the internet and downloading, I may build up enough interest to sell a few CDs or even decide that it’s financially viable putting together a band to play live. So I’m all for it. And if I manage to take $20 out of Lars Ulrich’s vast pockets, so much the better.

malhombre says:

Umm, I'm confused

This article seems to say nothing more than this: musicians who choose to release some or all of thier music through free online channels may experience greater exposure, leading to greater ticket sales for live shows and/or increased recorded music sales down the line.

Which is so utterly obvious, it isn’t worth mentioning. All of this fancy “spread the curve” bs is unnecessary to the discussion. (Nearly) free advertising and promotion can reasonably be expected to lead to increased exposure. Duh.

The real issue in this day in age is not those who choose to release thier works for free – as is thier right – but the ongoing **AA fight to control every aspect of music and video material that has been created for the past 40 – 50 years, is past it’s sales prime, and should, according to much public opinion, be released to the public domain.

Instead, we have extortion ($750.00 per downloaded song – may be unconstitutional), inferior 128k mp3s at a ridiculous $0.99 per song, “John Doe” subpeonas, laws proposed by purchased politicians, laws enforced by non-technically savvy legal personnel, and ever more restrictive DRM schemes limiting the fair use rights primarily of those who actually ponied up and paid for the media.

This article, however, says nothing but that which is blatantly obvious to just about everyone – it creates a straw man argument and then knocks it down without providing any worthwhile insight into the real issues at hand.


The infamous Joe says:

Re: Umm, I'm confused

The article just states that against psudo-popular opinion, filesharing helps, not hurts, musicians. Go ahead and talk to the **AA about this, and they’ll gladly tell you otherwise. Since not everyone can agree on it, I don’t think it classifies as ‘obvious’– perhaps ‘common sense’ would be better?

As much as I’d love to agree with you, the **AA didn’t make up $750 per song– that happens to be the max allowed by law. Insane– surely. Extorition– maybe. Unconstitutional– Not according to copyright laws.

The real issue at hand is that no musician ever sets off to me mediocre– they all dream of being the next Metallica. So, telling them to forget about a label, use the resources at hand and give up the shot at the multi-million dollar advertising a label can give you isn’t what they want to hear. The fact is, the labels exists for the artists, not vice versa. If musicians didn’t want them around, they wouldn’t be (for long). So the change shouldn’t start with us, the consumer.. but instead with the artists.. but the end equation is still greed. (Not that I can place blame at wanting to make it big)

FW2 says:

Re: Re: Umm, I'm confused

Sounds like your saying that if a band comes close to making it big via the internet/file sharing, that the major labels WON’T sign them. I really doubt that if the labels see the $$$ a band can genrate, they’ll attempt to sign them, period. No matter how they were “discovered”, and I’m equally sure that that internet disovered band will sign in a heartbeat.

I would guess that the musicians that use the net do so to get discovered, not just by an audience, but also by a label. I see nothing wrong with that scenario, for certain.

Once the record producers see that the net can do their “foot-work” for them in finding new talent, they’ll change their “tune”, so’s to speak.

There aren’t many “labeled” artist like, say Meat Loaf, for example, that have what at face value seems to be a moderate follwing, but they are rabid! They will snatch up ANYTHING they can find. Putting a song or two “out there”, for any one to grab, not may, but will help find a new audience for a labeled artist to go back and purchase earier works, and buy concert tickets.

Putting EVERYTHING that is already recorded by the name artists isn’t a smart business model. Giving the people a sampling is. Putting everything up for grabs by an undiscovered artist just may be, in order to get the following the labels will pay attention to, and give that unknown a contract and a bigger share of the pie he/she/they deserve.

Wizard Prang (user link) says:

Re: Re: Umm, I'm confused

The article just states that against pseudo-popular opinion, file sharing helps, not hurts, musicians. Go ahead and talk to the **AA about this, and they’ll gladly tell you otherwise.

Two words. Arctic Monkeys.

As much as I’d love to agree with you, the **AA didn’t make up $750 per song– that happens to be the max allowed by law.

Laws drafted by whom? That’s right – our friends at the **AA.

I suppose that the question turns on whether people use file sharing/downloading to sample music before buying or as a substitute for buying. Additionally, the law actually allows you to share a modest amount of music IIRC.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: Re: Umm, I'm confused

I must admit ignorance on these arctic monkey fellas… filesharing has hurt them?

I checked out their page and even searched the forums.. no word about how much filesharing has hurt them– those quite about against the ipod. 🙂

I download songs I wouldn’t bother buying– only because they’re free.

If they cost even a penny, I’d do without. That’s just me.

Wizard Prang (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The point...


“Arctic Monkeys built up their fan base on the internet, after demo CDs they handed out at gigs in 2003 were put on the web for other people to hear.”

They used giveaways and filesharing to make a name for themselves. After making their music available to download for two years their debut album “has become the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history”

Kind of destroys the “file sharing is killing music” and “all downloaders are thieves” lies trotted out by the **AA, doesn’t it?

The article just states that against psudo-popular opinion, filesharing helps, not hurts, musicians. Go ahead and talk to the **AA about this, and they’ll gladly tell you otherwise.”

The **AA can say what they want, but that does not make it so. I am not a fan of the Arctic monkeys; that is not the point. The point is that this example does a very good job of proving that file sharing can help musicians get exposure without having to go cap in hand to the **AA.

FW2 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The point...

That’s the point I was trying to make, Wizard put it into better words for me. Thank you.

It all started with CD sales going down, file sharing was blamed, kill Napster and Kazaa and the like. What happened then? Consumers got mad, found legal music on the net from bands they hadn’t heard before. Result, CD sales took a bigger nose dive, mostly from the negative PR the labels got. They made their own bed . . .

nope says:

The only problem...

With your point is that while there exists a greater chance for exsposure, simply having your music available on the file sharing services does not in anyway guarantee that anyone will ever know of it or download it.

Most people, in my opinion, search by an artist they know radio or heard of from peers.

That they are likely to download a song from an unknown artist is very unlikely. It’s great in theory but I cannot envision it working in the real world, regardless what the research shows.

566 says:

notions of intellectual property are trashing art.

too many “artists” in it for the money (i’m looking at you leroy neiman and insync).

just as information technology is – will – transform government – so too let it transform art.

if an artist can’t make a living doing his or her craft and is depends on ip law for a paycheck, screw ’em. life’s tough. the cream will always rise to the top. and perhaps a more sophisticated aesthetic enabled by a lack of record companies shoving gangsters and sluts down our throats (pun intended) will help make the world a better place.

uncle john once said something to the effect – once the notes leave my guitar, the fans can have ’em. and certainly free trading of music never hurt grateful dead.

let the conglomerates get off their fat lazy asses and devise a contemporary way to make some coin to promote their “arts.” or let ’em die. why should government protect the killer of real interaction and good tastes?

in the end – support live music.

The infamous Joe says:

Ah, but that's the point!

If a band makes it big via the internet, why do they need a label? The label is supposed to help you get exposure and (presuamably) big.

By your logic, a band that becomes popular online would gladly sign with a label who will then begin to take the band’s money.. to make them popular. (?) I don’t quite follow this logic.

You are correct in assume that bands put out their art to be discovered, but the label doesn’t ‘discover’ it ‘exposes’ We, the fans, ‘discover’.

Filesharing and the internets cut out the middleman, aka, the labels.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I never listen to the radio– my way of discovering new music is either randomly downloading a new song from a new artist, having a new band reccomended to me, or some sites will say “other users downloaded this, too”. Social netowrking sites like myspace also help local bands get exposure– if a friend of mine has them on their page, I’ll at least check them out.

There are other ways of discovering new artists (, I’m looking at you)

franticindustries (user link) says:

Which musicians?

First, it’s almost pointless to answer to the 3rd and 4th post if the comments are not threaded, but let’s try it anyway:

@Chronno S. Trigger: well, that’s exactly what I meant, and we agree. I don’t know what else did you see in my comment, but we’re on the same side here.

@The infamous Joe: actually, the moniker is frantic, but nevermind. Well, aside from the jovial wittiness in your reply, I don’t really see the point of it. I’m not from the US. I agree that there’s nothing wrong with Snoop getting less money while some lesser known musicians gets more publicity – that’s exactly what I’ve said, remember? I don’t think that my opinion on a band matters here; Sugarbabes are for me just an example of a megapopular band that wouldn’t be megapopular or even semipopular were it not for the record industry money.

Finally, my hyperbole about the law coming to get you if you hum tunes stems from the fact that they can already sue you for putting lyrics and album covers on the net, even chords for songs. They are trying to stop you from burning songs that you’ve LEGALLY purchased on an online stora to a blank CD that you bought. I’m saying they’re going too far.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Which musicians?

The fact that you aren’t from the US explains why I’d never heard of those two bands– so now your post makes a little more sense to me…

..though I would like to point out that you never purchase the music in an online store, you purchase certain rights to said music– I never have, so I don’t know about the rules as far as CD burning- I do know that my friends have burned CDs from itunes-bought music.

Nevertheless, I’m sure we all agree it’s getting silly.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...