Free? Get It Now?

So we recently discovered that the Kays record is available as an illegal download on a couple of file sharing sites, possibly more than a couple.  A month before the record is actually available to buy somehow those sites have managed to get hold of our record and it’s now free, for people who happen to stumble across it, to download.   Lets face it, it’s not really a case of somehow, it’s a case of somebody.  Somebody, who was given the record early to review or just for comment, has gone and either fired it to somebody who has uploaded it to one of these sites, or, they themselves just uploaded it.  Either way, it’s disappointing because in giving these people the record you are trusting that they will keep it to themselves, at least until it’s released.  I guess the reality is that that’s never likely to happen.  They may burn their friend a copy because they think they’ll like it, seeing no harm in this, and really there is none.   However, they in turn may do something similar, and then their friend do something similar and all of a sudden it’s on a file sharing site as a free download.  There is not a lot we can do about it to be honest.  And I have accepted, after my initial disappointment, that as long as people are downloading it and listening to it then we may make a whole load of new fans out of it.  I am also not so hypocritical to have a major rant about the issue for, whilst I have never illegally downloaded any music in my life, I have received music on a memory stick or cd that somebody has burnt for me.  It’s not quite the same thing I guess, but I am still getting the music for nothing.  I guess the difference is that personally, when I love something I will ALWAYS buy it.  No matter what.  I also don’t really receive a lot of free stuff, which is surprising for a blogger, but what I do receive, if I love it, I will always buy a copy of the cd as and when I can afford to.  And things that I do receive are offered to me by artists or their representatives.

So I’ve been thinking long and hard about this all last night and all today and I’ve decided that I’m going to take the positive stance on the matter.  The music is getting out there to people and people are obviously interested.  They must be to put it on a site like that in the first place right?  Hopefully those who do care about the band and do care about supporting musicians by buying their records will buy the record all the same once it’s released.   I guess my initial reaction was more to do with disappointment in human nature than loss of sales.   To put somebody’s work on one of these sites before the record has even arrived in their possession is fairly fucking low if you ask me.  Sure, it might make us new fans but why should these people, who are not willing to pay for the music, hear the record before all those who care and support us every single day?  It makes me want to make it free to all my friends.  A thank you to those who do care and support us in a way.  If I could afford to do that I really would.  I am sorely tempted just to stream it for free on our myspace page as a massive fuck you to these sites.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the record cost Graeme and I a lot to record and produce.  So we need record sales simply to make our money back.  We need the support of those who care. 

The last thing I want to do is sit here and sound like I am somebody who wants to just sell a piece of plastic or a piece of intellectual property.  Not one bit.  I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible.  I want people to have it and spread the word and to be part of the overall process which is creating and sharing music.  I completely understand that file sharing is a massive part of this process.  Of course I do.  I just don’t like the fact that before we’ve even received our own physical product.  Before anyone has even written about the record. Before those who matter to me have even heard the bloody thing. The record is out there for people to take for nothing.

I hope those who have or do download it for free enjoy it and if they like it enough then they do buy a physical copy and support the band.  I hope they like it and I hope they support us in future but, more than that, I hope they remember this;  We are not signed.  We do not receive financial support from a record label.  We pay for everything ourselves.  I have had to extend my overdraft and borrow from my parents to put this record out.  So please, if you are going to download it for free, at least buy a copy when the record is officially released on 17th May.  If you cannot afford a copy now, then buy one when you can.  It’s not a big ask really.

Anyways, the whole thing was really badly timed given that it was Record Store day this past weekend.  There is nothing I love doing more than spending hours browsing round record stores.  Opening a record store was actually something Graeme and I discussed doing when we were still at Uni and didn’t really know in what direction our futures lay.  So yes, I love record stores and I love the physical product.  Nothing beats having a record in your hand.  Something that has been put together with a lot of love and attention.  Take Meursault’s new record for example.  The limited edition was put together with so much love and care and thought.  Why would you download that record when you could have something so special?  I never got one of the limited editions.  Couldn’t afford it myself.  Plus, Matthew sent me the record for the blog.  However, I will be buying a copy when it’s officially released in May, because I love it and I care about them as a band.  Record stores matter to me.  Records matter to me.  Artists matter.

I’ll finish with something that an excellent blogger Peenko said to me last night to help pick up my spirits.  He quoted this at me:

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and artists than piracy”

This really did help me shape my thoughts today.  Ultimately, when someone downloads a piece of music, it’s just data until the listener puts that music back together with their own ears, their mind, their subjective experience. How they perceive the work changes the work.  And I guess for us, at this stage in our career it’s all about getting our music heard.  I accept this.  I just hope that those who like the music can lend us their support by buying the cds that we have so lovingly spent time creating.  The end.