On Piracy – From The Perspective of ‘Blue Collar’ Music Industry Workers
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.
Getting Away From Corporate Sponsored News & Back To Truth
In the age of technology, more and more people are making names for themselves, mainly because of how easy it has become to mix media with modern technology, in order to reach the masses. You see, while I may be an online music promoter, I also studied sociology, economics, and political science in college. After having studied these things, I prefer working with musicians. I take a musician who has major talent, spread their work to as many places online as I can find, with the goal of propelling that musician’s career with all of the publicity he/she receives from it. Anybody who uses the Internet to spread a message, showcase a performer/artist, or simply to share a picture or website link, knows the impact this kind of promoting can have, if done right, and how expensive it can be, depending on the level of exposure they’re trying to achieve. But, today’s blog is not about promoting musicians. Today, the focus is aimed at corporate news media, their role in shaping the opinions and viewpoints of society, and how people, like Rush Limbaugh, are given a level of attention that distracts people from real issues.
First of all, let’s take a look at the estimated number of people who actually use the Internet. According to the website internetworldstats.com, it is estimated that there are over 730 million users, just in the US and China, with a world estimate sitting around 2 trillion people, all using the Internet on some level, whether just for checking email, or running an entire company, and new users are logging on every day. Aside from that, anybody who wants to get a story out there, would always use the Internet. With major powerhouse platforms, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, or MSN search engines, news portals, and social media, it would be hard to miss a lot of major news stories, especially those involving wealthy celebrities, politicians, business people, essentially, anybody with enough PR money to spend on marketing and advertising campaigns with giant marketing and PR firms.
At this point, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with you. Well, I’ll tell you. If you ask yourself what social/economic/political issue(s) are directly affecting your life, then ask yourself if your issues are being made into headline news, you will see that your issues are generally put in the background, leaving the global platforms open for the Rush Limbaughs of the world to take center stage, and create total non-issues for all of us to focus on, instead. I, for one, could do without hearing about the Rush Limbaughs of the world, preferring to focus on the core of the issue, or other issues of more importance.
Briefly, let’s touch on the Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke parade. Sandra, an aspiring law student out of Georgetown University, testified to Democrats in Congress about her support of the US government’s national health care policy because it would provide her with, birth control, paid for by your tax dollars, and mine. Rush Limbaugh decided to publicly attack Sandra, simply to propel his uber-conservative views against the health care policy, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his radio show, claiming she must be a prostitute if she is trying to be paid to have sex. Paid to have sex? You see, in Limbaugh’s small mind, he decided to twist the policy’s guidelines, which cover the cost of birth control. Since the government would be paying for her birth control, they are also paying for her to have sex, therefore, she’s a prostitute, according to Limbaugh. He also went on to say that her sex life should be online, for all to see, including any sex she might have, since our tax dollars would be paying for her to have sex.
I don’t think I need to explain to too many folks about how ridiculous this concept of Limbaugh’s is. However, it hasn’t stopped him from dominating every news station in America for the last week and I, for one, have had enough. You see, while Limbaugh and the media do their little dance of propelling each other’s careers, there are real issues that are not getting enough media attention. For example, when you go to your Google search engine and you see what topics are “trending” that day, you’re going to find Rush, Whitney Houston, Lindsey Lohan’s return to SNL, and many other non-important topics near the top of the list. There was a school shooting in Ohio this week, but Rush Limbaugh dominated the news channels. There was a major tornado in Indiana, but Rush is in your face, spewing his vile hatred everywhere, with very little information about the victims of the tornadoes. Troops lost their lives in Afghanistan, but Rush Limbaugh was at the very top of my Yahoo news for most of the week. The point is, there are trillions of people in this world, but only one Rush Limbaugh, so how is it that he gets so much attention when there are far more of us than there are of him? I’ll tell you how. Money. The more money one has, the more likely they are to dominate what the rest of us sees and hears about in the news. The same holds true for our government. If they don’t want the masses to know something, a lot of money goes into covering up a story, putting out a “doctored-up” story, or a corporation will align with that politician and that corporations advertising keeps the network from giving us the real story, the truth.
Now, I’m not going to dumb down my readers, by assuming that they don’t understand how money can dominate the news and what the vast majority are allowed to see and hear about. I am positive that most of you understand how American government, American politics, American news, and American corporate sponsorship works. I’m also convinced that my readers recognize how mixing money, the news, and anything pertaining to the Federal government leads to mass confusion and misinformation, a distraction from real and pressing issues, only propelling the careers of those who spread hate and lies, promote greed, and pass judgement on the rest of us, while leaving the struggling, taxpaying, non-wealthy American citizen without any real hope, or help, for their own aggravating circumstances. In a nutshell, corporations lobby politicians to protect their own interests, thereby giving the politician plenty of money to push their own agenda, provided it goes along with the corporation’s interests. Since many corporations own the news networks, they get to muddy up our news and feed us what they want us to hear.
At this point, you may be wondering how you can avoid the distracting media onslaughts of three-ring circus acts and get the focus back to issues that truly matter. This is a question that most of us has, simply because, while Rush Limbaugh is out making millions for behaving like a hate-monger and getting all up in the business of womens’ reproductive systems, you are still worrying about keeping the roof over your heads, the food on the tables, and you’re probably one paycheck away from living on the streets, provided you’re fortunate enough to have a paycheck. Am I right? I thought so. Most of us are faced with the fact that we lost our jobs, sometime in the last five years, and most of us have had to settle for minimum wage positions, just to get from week to week, or day to day. Many of us are lined up at the food banks, getting food stamps from the local human services department, unable to take care of our health due to having no medical insurance, and college bound kids are heading to the workforce, instead of getting their education, just to help support their parents and siblings because the parents are out of options. In the meantime, our American politicians are calling America the “strongest nation in the world”. If that’s the case, I’d hate to live anywhere else! America has a national unemployment rate sitting around 9%, which is based on figures provided by the US Dept of Labor Statistics, and is usually a very low estimate because it doesn’t include those citizens who’ve not been accounted for, such as, the homeless and those who don’t apply for unemployment benefits. Trying to get a job that would bring one out of the national poverty level anywhere else, would be near-impossible, if you believed your government. There really is only one way to get away from the corporate-owned news media circuses and the lies of the government, to not encourage the Rush Limbaughs of today, and to keep the focus on the issues that really matter. Are you ready? Here comes the answer.
STOP FOLLOWING CORPORATE SPONSORED NEWS
That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Stop sharing the links that the likes of CNN or MSNBC news channels are trying to bombard you with. Stop sharing their stories. Stop watching their TV channels. Stop giving their corporate sponsors your money. Stop interacting on their blogs. Stop paying for cable and satellite TV services, which charge you a fortune, just to show you re-runs, movies you’ve seen a million times, and to get you to watch the corporate sponsored news, complete with all of their corporate sponsored ads, which are designed to make those corporations a lot of money. You see, if the news reports make their corporate sponsors look good, then the news network makes a lot of money from that corporation in the form of monetary sponsorship or endorsements (for those very few who might not get this idea yet). The set up that the corporations and the news entities currently have, allows the corporations to hide their unethical practices, by paying off the news media to sugar coat/hide the truth, disguised as paid advertising in the form of TV commercials, and helped along by expensive PR firms. In fact, many corporations actually own those major news networks, so they’re allowed to be selective of the information that news channel allows it’s followers to receive.
So, basically, the once trusted freedom of press, the idea that a true journalist would really tell us the truth because he/she has true journalism integrity, appears to have died a long time ago, at least on a nationally visible scale. I assure you, my readers, there are still ways to get the truth, simply by getting your news from non-biased, non-corporate sponsored, news entities. You can begin with your local public broadcasting (PBS) channel. If you’re inclined to get your news online, the following is a list of websites I recommend, to name a few, but do Google the words “non-biased news sources” and you’ll get a much bigger list:
- The Real News
- Democracy Now!
- People’s World
In a nutshell, we all have the ability to educate and inform ourselves, to not be led like sheep into believing whatever some money hungry corporation, politician, or business person would like for us to believe. We have the power to not be blinded, by lies and deceit brought on by the very government we’ve elected, the corporations we’re getting our goods and services from, and the very news entities we’ve supported. Perhaps, if more people veered off the “paid-for” path, more people would wise up to what is really going on in their government and begin to make smarter choices during election times. Maybe, those politicians who make the rest of us look like uber-geniuses, wouldn’t be allowed to dominate your news feeds, wouldn’t be allowed to be in your face all of the time. Today, we live in a world of mass chaos, mass information, and mass influence coming from every direction. Don’t be a sheep. Be the shepherd and lead the way to truth. Until we do this, nothing will ever change, at least, not for long.