I realize that we live in the digital age of technology, that downloading music is easy and convenient for most people. With digital music outlets like iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby leading the pack in popularity, along with the portability of MP3 playing devices, the temptation to download music is quite high. Back in the day, if you wanted to listen to an artist, you had to go out to the record stores and buy the entire album, or one could sit by the radio and hope to hear it there. Today, just turn on your computer and head to your favorite websites. Some require payment before you can download, others give you free-reign to download and not pay, otherwise known as “piracy”, but those sites call it “sharing”. But, what about those of us, in order to maintain our own financial well-being in today’s economy, who depend on the financial success of the artists we promote? Instead of looking at what piracy does to the artist, primarily, let’s take a look at what it does to some of us who work behind-the-scenes for those artists.
I am an online promoter of musicians and I don’t mean that in the broad sense that you might think I do. I realize, anyone can call themselves a ‘music promoter’, simply by sharing YouTube videos on Facebook, but that is not the kind of promotion I primarily do. This is an actual career, for myself and thousands of other people. We take the time to educate ourselves and, we have to learn how to hustle, to get the best gigs we can. If we’re lucky, one or two or our clients will gain substantial success and so will we. It is really nonsense, however, to think that one highly successful artist would be able to make the career of the promoter. Professional promoters MUST have a decent sized, rotating roster of artists they’re working with at all times, just to financially stay above water. When an album is made, promoters are among the last to be paid, with the artist, record label, management, and venues making the first of the revenue cuts on album and concert ticket sales.
Let’s get down to the bottom line here. Without promotion of some kind, information cannot be made available to the public. Sure, you can have something for sale, but how would anyone know about it if you didn’t tell them? Just speaking the words, “I have something to sell”, is a form of promotion. That being said, how do you (pro-piracy people) think you were able to find out about being able to pirate music? Someone promoted the fact that they had illegal downloads available and you decided to take part in it. That’s the nature of everything. Something gets promoted, so that “something” gets sold, shared, made popular or famous, or gets stolen. Those who make illegal downloads available to the public, apparently, aren’t really in it for a career. If they were, they’d be charging you for those downloads. So, why do they do it? The answer is simple…because, they can. That being said, while the US government is bouncing around proposed legislation to fight piracy, people who would rather get something for nothing, will always find a way to do just that, even at the expense of the very people who helped make the product available in the first place – the promoters.
In my line of work, promoters tend to work with indie artists, more than artists with signed recording contracts. Indie artists, usually, don’t make much money because they are not signed by a major record label. They’re not getting the major cash advancements that the signed artists get. Now, I’m not saying that piracy doesn’t hurt the signed artists, too. I’m just saying that piracy tends to hurt the lesser known artists, more than the bigger names, but everyone in the industry loses out when someone pirates the music. Indie artists are not always working in the top-of-the-line studio, nor, are they getting all of the free perks that come easier to big name artists. Generally, all of their expenses come out of their own pockets and many indie artists hold down other jobs to pay for it all. All artists need to create promotion materials, or hire a promoter to handle all of that. If one is a serious musician, looking for major success, one knows they have to get their name and music out there, otherwise, their career is dead in the water. The promoter and a solid promotion campaign is their only salvation. Unfortunately, many indie artists have no idea how run a promotional campaign, or how to protect their music from piracy. Again, if they’re serious about success, they really don’t have the time to stop and try to figure it all out, what with songwriting, recording, trying to find gigs, and just trying to create the product to sell in the first place. So, in the spirit of trying to get their name out there, they end up giving their songs away, as MP3 singles. Many are beginning to release music videos, available for purchase on their own websites by the artists themselves, just to make a buck. This leads to piracy, and lost revenues for that artist. Because the artists don’t make enough money to pay for strong promotion, they lean on those who are willing to promote them for free, which usually only amounts to a bunch of links being posted on the social networks, not that effective for long-range success for too many.
From another perspective, let’s look at today’s economy a bit more. Right now, people are out of work and wondering how they will make it from paycheck to paycheck. A musician can be seen as a job creator. Without the musician making music, the music promoters have nothing to promote, therefore, no job to do. But, promoters aren’t the only ones who suffer. Here’s a list of several careers that are financially impacted by piracy, and these are just the ones that involve the day-to-day production of music:
Some of the jobs created by artists in the music industry include:
- the artist’s manager
- the artist’s agents
- the artist’s band
- the sound check crew
- the record producers
- the publicists
- the journalists
- the art designers
Let’s not forget the retail industry. If sales are down, so are the number of people needed to work in retail music stores, resulting in jobs losses for thousands, not something any of us needs or wants to have happen to anyone. A study done by The Institute for Policy Innovation stated that the annual harm caused by piracy on the US economy includes $12.5 billion dollars in losses to the U.S. economy, and more than 70,000 lost jobs and $2 billion in lost wages to American workers. On a personal level, I am physically disabled, unable to stand or sit for long periods of time. I can, however, promote musicians from my computer at home, but have yet to meet an indie artist who could afford to pay me. If the artist could afford to pay me, I could make a full time salary and not worry about whether or not I’ll have to suck it up and wreak further havoc on my body, by trying to get some restaurant or cubicle office job somewhere. Many of my financial and physical worries would be solved and, I know I speak for billions when I say, we could all use a lot less worry in our lives.
Before you go and pirate that song or album that you’ve convinced yourself you cannot live without, at least not until you can drum up the few bucks it takes to buy it, remember those of us who are average folks like you, who work in this industry and are trying to earn a living, too. Forget about the thoughts that musicians are all wealthy, because they’re not. What you see in the mainstream is NOT what goes on for most of us who work in the music industry. We are not out driving fancy cars, living in million dollar homes, going to major parties and awards shows, or living any kind of glamorous life. For most of us, it’s a daily grind, a rat race like all others, with many of us working more than one job to make ends meet, and we all deserve to be paid for the work that we do. When you pirate music, you are preventing that from happening. Please, stop stealing and taking that away from us.