If you’re a young musician, it’s a lot easier to gain some exposure thanks to the great strides in digital technology. In just over 10 years the rise in social media and the ability to stream your music to the masses has given anyone with some talent and internet access the ability to reach a world of new fans in a matter of seconds.
However, with the benefits of digital there is a downside. Writing in The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explored the death of music sales, in his research Thompson noted that “nearly every number in Nielsen’s 2014 annual review of the music industry is preceded by a negative sign, including chain store sales (-20%), total new album sales (-14%), and sales of new songs online (-10.3%). Two things are up: streaming music and vinyl album sales”. The latter Quite Great has spoken about before.
Type in the word “torrent” into any search engine and you are sure to find a plethora of links to proxies of Pirate Bay and a smorgasbord of other sites that allow you to download every single piece of entertainment out there today. Music, films, software programs, if you have some simple bittorrent software installed, it’s all for the taking.
Many of us would not shed a tear over downloading something like Photoshop for example, with the usual thoughts of taking from big soulless conglomerates like Adobe and Microsoft a good thing, but in our growing obsession with getting something for nothing, the impact is starting to show on new artists, who are feeling an added pressure.
Just prior to the great leap forward the digital world took, journalists were singing the praises of a legal download boom. In 2004, The Independent remarked that C.D sales had risen exponentially over a five year period and that legal downloads were now leading the way. Today it is a completely different story.
Marcus, an acoustic guitarist and bass player from Brighton, who has worked as a session musician for the past five years, has seen the topic of illegal downloads become an ever more prominent feature in his conversations with other musicians. “I used to use torrents a lot in the early days” he says “I got a real buzz from downloading the latest Hollywood blockbuster for free, and God forgive me, also the latest albums and such. But after a while I began to get this nagging feeling in the back of my head, I felt like I was stealing from my family, if that makes sense? The conversations with many musicians I’ve had has been the same, it all felt fantastic for them at first, but they then, after having experienced first hand the struggles of being a fulltime musician, felt like they were depriving others of some hard earned cash.”
Musicians and many ordinary music fans alike have gone through or are going through this moment of guilt in downloading artists work for nothing. Yet the issue remains, and isn’t likely to disappear anytime in the near future. However, with digital technology forever on the march, it’s hopeful that musicians will find a way of solving the problem. Finally, with more people discussing illegal downloads and how they affect the livelihood of artists who often live on the margins to achieve their dreams, the public conscience will surely shift away from the terrible torrent.