ďThere has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.Ē
-Robert Heinlein: "Lifeline" written in 1939
There is hardly a more discussed topic for the music industry in recent years than file sharing. Napster started the debate by providing an extremely popular service that revolutionized the process of distributing music files. But even after Napster was shut down, other services have carried the torch. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the major labels claim that file sharing will destroy all life on earth. File sharers, on the other hand, are enthusiastic about being able to get most any sound recording within a few minutes. But what does it mean to an indie band?
We think that file sharing is the best thing to happen to indie bands since the invention of the Portastudio. Many people think the fact that music can be "stolen" and "traded for free" on the Internet is a bad development, but the benefits far outweigh the problems. The short reason for this is that itís a distribution method that can get your music in the hands of millions of people, and the major labels and distributors have no control over it. (Itís an unfortunate fact that indies are locked out of every area that the major labels do control.)
Hereís what weíre going to cover in this section:
- Reframing the debate. The debate about file sharing is limited. We take a broader view.
- An in-depth analysis of what file sharing is, and the underlying reasons why it works. A lot of sites that talk about file sharing skip this part, but without this, it's impossible to truly understand.
- Why file sharing is here to stay. The RIAA and major labels cannot stop it, no matter what they try. No technology will ever completely stop people from ripping tracks, nor will anything stop people from being able to share files. File sharing has changed the economics of the music industry forever.
- An explanation of why file sharing is good for indie bands. File sharing works by tapping into what people normally like to do, which is to share music that they enjoy. Using file sharing, you can get your music in the hands of potentially millions of people, and, for distribution, you are on the exact same playing field as the major labels.
- An argument of why you should share your own music on file sharing networks. While you wonít make money directly off of sharing, itís worth it for the exposure. Some bands spend money to press demo albums to hand them, for free, to people in the street. But file sharing is far easier, cheaper, more targeted, and can get your music in the hands of many more people.
- "Pirating" your own music. A short guide on the best way to share your music.