A Song For Lily Allen… And A Little Conversation
from the but-no-abuse dept
All weekend, I’ve been inundated via email, Twitter, the submission page and more, from people all pointing me to musician Dan Bull’s brilliant musical “open letter” to Lily Allen in response to the whole kerfuffle last week concerning Lily Allen’s decision to speak out against musicians who said they disagreed with plans to kick file sharers off the internet. I wasn’t sure if it was worth posting, because I began to feel like some might view it as piling on — and the purpose here was never to drag anyone down or abuse anyone. I thought I had been clear about that in each and every one of my posts — and, for the most part, all of the conversations and discussions I’d seen on the topic were quite reasonable and fair. My posts never attacked Ms. Allen, but tried to raise the level of discourse, asking her to respond to certain questions — and at the same time highlight how her position was, in fact, a bit hypocritical, seeing as she had been doing many of the same things that she said were destroying the industry.
And yet, with Ms. Allen shutting down the blog, and claiming it was because of “abuse,” some people have started accusing me of “bullying” Ms. Allen. An IP lawyer in our comments insists that I am somehow bullying her in simply asking questions. One recording industry lawyer accused me of “leading” my “internet army” of “hackers” to “attack” any artist who agreed with Allen (what?!?). Then there was the major publication that claimed that Techdirt was upset about Allen copying our blog post and that we had “suddenly discovered the power of copyright.” Apparently reading comprehension isn’t a strong point there, seeing as we made no copyright claim at all, were happy that she copied our post, and merely used it as a teaching moment to show why everything wasn’t nearly as clear cut as Ms. Allen believed. Suddenly, just because Ms. Allen cried “abuse,” despite no evidence of any actual abuse, her supporters started assuming that it must be me who was doing the “abusing.”
The whole thing has become rather insane, frankly. But I’m not afraid to respond to folks who raise reasonable questions. I don’t shut down and hide when someone brings up points that weren’t addressed. Ms. Allen kicked this whole thing off and claimed she was just trying to start a discussion. And we responded, by pointing out the inconsistencies in her position. That wasn’t an attack. Plenty of people who first jump into a debate on copyright or file sharing don’t fully understand the issues — and the best way to help them get past those initial misconceptions is to ask important questions, and highlight how the issue is a lot more complex than it may appear at first blush. The fact that Ms. Allen was distributing others’ copyrighted music on her own, and used that to help build her popularity — while now claiming that the same activity by others was destroying the opportunity for new artists made little sense — and the double standard seemed worth calling out. And, despite her deleting her blog, some actually saved many of the comments on her blog. And, again, they don’t show “abuse,” but thoughtful, reasoned argument along these lines — none of which Ms. Allen has responded to as of yet. That post, by the way, also highlights numerous factual errors in Ms. Allen’s earlier responses.
So, yes, I’m going to post this video, because I think it’s great (and catchy) and because I think it does further the conversation, just not in the direction that Ms. Allen intended. It’s from a fan of Ms. Allen’s work, and is endearing, not attacking. It’s entertaining. It’s free… and it got me to go and buy Dan Bull’s first album, even though he’s offering it up for free, too. Ms. Allen wanted a conversation and she claims she wanted more new music. Well, here’s both in one shot:
While lots of people have picked up on various aspects of the song, the two points that I think are most relevant are pointing out that downloads don’t equal sales, so stopping downloads (or kicking people off the internet) doesn’t make people pay up. This is a point we’ve been raising for ages, and no one ever responds. The industry seems to think that magically people will start paying. And yet, there’s no evidence of that whatsoever.
The second point is sarcastic, but is really a good one. Dan Bull jokes that using the same logic of people who think that stopping piracy (as if that’s possible) will make people buy more music, perhaps we should ban CDs, because (according to this logic) “then people would have to pay to see bands for real.” There’s a huge disconnect here. The people who think that blocking activity online (and, remember, study after study after study has shown that “pirates” end up spending a lot more on music) will drive more of some other buying activity have no sense of economic history.
Taking away what fans want to do doesn’t drive them to paying you more money. It drives them towards others who actually treat fans right. Like Dan Bull.