In the past couple of weeks there have been many opinions thrown about in the never-ending file-sharing debate. We’ve heard from ISPs, the BPI, UKMusic…but what about the consumers? It’s all well and good to read numerous articles from bloggers on their (soapboxeshttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8267142.stm) the past couple of weeks, but the artists who have spoken out recently have done so specifically to get their own fans’ attention. Lily’s ridicule by blogs and the music press (http://www.nme.com/news/muse/47365) shamed her into revoking her statements but how did the vilification settle with her fans? How about fans of FAC artists? Or general music-buying fans? I spent a few hours roaming the dark quarters the industry seems to heartily ignore, message boards, to get a good idea of how these events played out in the fans’ eyes.
Heading over to Lily Allen’s official message board the posts about her blog fiasco were defensive and ill-informed (“She is always getting dissed. GRRRR/She has stolen alot of music for her own songs but I don’t mind because they are quality”) (…which shows how blindly true fans will act. It’s hard not to chuckle at post titles like “That Lily Allen Blog Debate Thingy” and posts like “My friend said someone pointed out she robbed a load of music (http://forums.lilyallenmusic.com/viewtopic.php?t=13240), for an online mixtape, and not clear the royalties? I told my mate to shut up. Can anyone explain this to me?” but we have to recognize the fans will agree with the artists first and then maybe listen to what they have to say later. Her fans who have become aware of the issue mainly agreed with her, or at least have a ‘…well she’s still lovely’ view (http://forums.lilyallenmusic.com/viewtopic.php?t=13163&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=30&sid=616ccce4e6dbf5712d36d8bdaa265542).
Matt Bellamy responded to Lily and made a fair point about the internet “being the new broadcaster” (http://board.muse.mu/showthread.php?t=65548&highlight=lily+allen) and how users who simply check emails paying the same as users who download 1GB a day is unfair. He’s also been the only one to promote a solution rather than simply shuffling about moaning or praising file-sharing. However, his voice seemed to fall through the cracks, why is this? Well, he’s the quirky rock singer with a flair for the dramatic, he has a conspiracy theory/mad scientist vibe, and his answer fits almost too snuggly in his ‘space odyssey’ self.
Even after Bellamy went to Muse’s message board himself to clarify his points the sentiment was more ‘err, right yeah okay Matt’ than taking the issue seriously (I.e., “He just gets his mind set on it, and thinks it is such a brilliant idea, but then forgets the little, yet most important things. Aw at least he tried. He gets an A++ for effort.”) which shows how little the fans care about what he thinks or the current state of music affairs, but simply fawn over the music he makes.
Another artist to get involved in the melee was Ed O’Brien from Radiohead. Radiohead fan message board At Ease (http://www.ateaseweb.com/mb/index.php?showtopic=235074954&st=0)is somewhat notorious for having rabidly passionate fans, but more the type of having files on every live gig they’ve ever played within mere hours of the boys stepping off stage, rather than simply being obsessive fangirls/boys. The derision of Lily’s persona was more up for discussion than her message, but when Ed spoke on BBC’s Breakfast Show to clear up the issue and to show her solidarity, they were “disappointed on the lack of backbone” and only wanted to add fuel to the fire.
The main argument for this confusing argument/non-argument was summed up rather crudely on the At Ease message board: “How come it’s always a shitty artist that complains about downloading music?” (http://www.ateaseweb.com/mb/index.php?showtopic=235074974&st=0) Now this isn’t a personal slight on Lily but if you look at her ‘team’ of supporters they include Tinchy Stryder, Patrick Wolf (http://www.nme.com/news/patrick-wolf/47316) and James Blunt. Now compare that to Ed O’Brien, Nick Mason and Dave Rowntree.
When typical music fans think of Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Blur (team FAC) their opinions suddenly matter much more because they are “rock royalty”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/14/charlie-brooker-damien-hirst) When people think of Lily Allen she’s looked at as “celeb-spawn royalty” and not taken seriously as an artist (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/sep/14/charlie-brooker-damien-hirst)who isn’t being paid. On top of this pop acts are and always have been treated with less respect because in they’re already “a part of the machine”, and there were a fair few comment that suggested Lily was acting on behalf of the industry.
Musicians should have a voice as the industry has been consistently describing their anguish with a “it’s about protecting the artist…not us…promise!” attitude, but there needs to be a stronger point of view from these musicians. The only plausible proposal is to either get more informed artists to weigh in and to be specific. Fans pay closer attention to artists now more than ever via social media and it’s leading to more scrutiny. Music fans these days already have a few too many negative deep-rooted beliefs about the industry (such as label lethargy and “I’ll seem artists live to support them”) so it’s imperative to use artists to set the record straight.