Lily Allen has proven herself once again to be adept at both putting herself in the limelight and her foot in her mouth. Entering the debate on illegal music file sharing over the internet facilitated by such notorious offenders as the Pirate Bay, she cast her influence solidly against the pirates, going so far as to launch a blog condemning the practice of file sharing (called It’s Not Alright – a little self reference to her first album). The debate proved a little hot for her, and after being the recipient of some rather vitriolic and personal abuse, she’s removed the blog, and retired seeming rather hurt.
The heated discussion continues without her – politicians, ISP’s, heavyweight industry bodies, and artist coalition groups are pitching in, as well as individuals like Allen. Opinions range between extremes; some think that sharing files helps boost artists profiles, others that it is choking the life out of the industry by draining revenue that should go to fund the success of major artists and the development of up-and-coming new acts. What is unarguably true is that people are not going to stop sharing music across the internet. If a great new band starts up next door to me I want to tell people about them, the same if I stumble across them on the web, and the most convenient way to let my friends know about them is by sharing their content online. Where there is an easy, legal way to do so, any sane person would use it – that’s one of the reasons why Myspace was so successful, there was (and still is, although their star seems to be waning) so much great music up online for people to discuss – but where there isn’t an easy way to do it, like when people refuse to allow their music to be available for free, then people will look for other, less forthright, but still convenient ways to do the same thing.
What then, is the right way forward? Filesharers (many of whom are avid music fans, gig attendees and t-shirt purchasers) won’t stop wanting to hear and distribute good and new music online. For obvious business reasons, ISP’s are extremely reluctant to bear the costs involved in filesharing, or to pass it on to their customers. Artists are undoubtedly losing revenue, since if it’s quicker and easier to steal an album than to buy it, and the likelihood of any repurcussions is tiny, then album sales will fall. Someone needs to come up with a way that music fans can share music onliine, that is legal, and that profits artists. Who could that white knight be?