Many people today condemn file-sharing as “piracy,” especially those who are deeper entrenched in the media cartel (obviously Lars, among others). From a metalhead’s perspective, the glaring hypocrisy is how so many old-school metal bands made a name for themselves via the 1980’s tape-trading scene!
If you don’t remember what tape-trading was, here’s a quick rundown:
When cassette tapes became widely available in the 80’s, many bands mass-copied their EP’s or demos onto them and passed them around for fans to listen (yes, for free). It became so popular that you could find classifieds in the back of metal magazines offering to trade tapes from all over the world. A fan in the UK would send you a tape of a local band, and you would send them one from your area.
Simply put: It was the best way for underground bands to be heard worldwide before the Internet.
Today, file-sharing is the ultimate evolution of tape-trading. Why wouldn’t you want as many people as possible to hear and love your music? Make it an underground movement!
Of course, the biggest complaint about file-sharing is…
File-sharing steals money from bands
Under a traditional label deal, the artist only keeps about 10% from album sales, and that money still gets entirely siphoned away to pay off the advance from the label. Even record deals in the “good ol’ days” rarely were a smart financial decision for artists. You’re better off giving your music away for free to maximize your fan base, then selling merch and special editions of your albums to make the moolah.
But let’s play devil’s advocate and pretend that file-sharing was completely abolished (a best-case scenario for the RIAA today). Two things would happen:
1.) It would kill underground music.
Without file-sharing, the pop establishment (including the Hot Topic/Warped Tour machine) would be in greater control of what you can listen to. You hate them now? It would be a hundred times worse! With file-sharing, you create a more democratized scene of exchanging and discovering new music. That’s what tape-trading was all about — it was a collective “fuck you” to the labels, declaring “we listen to what the fuck we want!”
2.) Bands would still go broke.
With the traditional establishment in firm control of much of the music scene, bands would have to pay big money to marketers or upper-echelon publicists to get their material out among the rest of the music approved by the overruling “gate keepers.” Unless, of course, tape-trading makes a comeback. (but then that technically would be stealing!)
If you watched VH1’s recent Metal Evolution series, you might remember how a little band called Iron Maiden got their tape in the hands of British DJ Neal Kay, who played it regularly at his Soundhouse metal club in London — and the rest is history! Likewise, many non-metal artists today are blowing up by giving away their music for free and making legions of fans in the process.
So give your shit away for free, and tell your fans to share it too. It’s the best way to be heard!