File-Sharing, Not Such A New Phenomenon.

I’m sorry if I am coming across as naive, but music file-sharing isn’t a phenomenon that has cropped up in the digital age.

This post was spurred on by a conversation on Radio 5Live with Richard Bacon talking to Feargal Sharkey who is now, these days, head of UK Music, an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry (info, Wikipedia).

They were talking about people sharing music files on the Internet. But while the conversation started I was thinking “this is NOT a recent phenomenon”. We have been file sharing for many years. Okay, it might not be on the scale it is now, due to the way the Internet has allowed people around the world to interact with each other, but it has been going on for a LONG time.

I lived in an age where the vinyl record and radio ruled. Many people who bought an album preserved it by making a cassette. And if they had a friend who was into the same music, they’d make a copy for them.

The top 40 would play on the radio on Sunday afternoon and if you had a cassette recorder and a blank tape handy, you’d record your favourite hits from the top 40 off the radio.

Then the CD player and CDs came along. Copy the CD on cassette for your friend, then the PC came along, but the Internet was a bit too slow for mass file-sharing, so we exchanged CDs via mail swaps.

And then finally high-speed Internet came along and we were not only able to share files, but buy MP3s from reputable music sites like iTunes.

The law of balance has turned round. Music sold in its millions in the 1970s and into the 1980s. Songs like Do They Know Its Christmas sold millions. It wasn’t really shared by anyone. It would be utterly frowned upon to share it, it was a charity record after all. No one would have been seen DEAD trying to get a copy for nothing – still, if you were determined, you’d have taped it off the radio. I’m sure some people did.

All the millions belong to “illegal” downloading now though. It’s turned from lots of music sold and not much music sharing going on (although it WAS happening back then), to millions sharing, and not much music selling. Boo hoo!

The horse has bolted. People have a different and much lower value on music these days. The music industry just needs to be more innovative and come up with alternative ways to sell their product.

2 thoughts on “File-Sharing, Not Such A New Phenomenon.

  1. Em was making a similar point when I told her about my post. She’s spent thousands of pounds over the years, as she’s collected a lot of rare stuff. I feel sorry for artists starting out, because they need to make a living more. I can’t feel sorry for mega-bands like U2 who have amassed MILLIONS and use every trick in the book and the best lawyers money can buy to keep as much of their money as possible. As I said, it’s the newcomers starting out that I feel for, but it’s a bit of a double standard if you’re expecting to be paid for your music, when you’ve put it all up for free on Myspace. One final note is that although I’m sure it adds up if enough are sold, artists get something like 6 pence for every album sold – not exactly making them a fortune if they only sell albums in the hundreds. Say, if they’re a cult act, and not mainstream. I think Live Nation have a better structure. Their label looks after all the live rights and merchandising for bands as well.

  2. With this whole file sharing thing, I do have some sympathy for the bands and artists who say that it’s costing them in royalties BUT there is another side to this argument as well.In Australia, CD’s were over priced, like a lot of people, over the years I spent a small fortune getting my music collection together. In a sense, the music labels etc have only themselves to blame for pricing things so high. What makes me laugh though is they say you aren’t allowed to copy, distribute etc.. but they keep putting the tools in everyone’s hands – yeah that works LOL

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