Viva la Filesharing – We are NOT Killing Rock

In his constant struggle to remain on the wrong side of history, moron extraordinaire Gene Simmons said that file sharing killed rock. Nowadays, he argued, the chances of a band to make it big are very slim, since they simply won’t be able to get any money, and since it’s all about money…

“The craft is gone, and that is what technology, in part, has brought us,” […]“My sense is that file sharing started in predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle-class young people who were native-born, who felt they were entitled to have something for free, because that’s what they were used to. If you believe in capitalism — and I’m a firm believer in free-market capitalism — then that other model is chaos. It destroys the structure.”

Well, whoopty-fuckin’-doo, Gene “corporate shill” Simmons is, again, crying about how he is not making enough money. Of course, his statement is nothing new, since this is the same person that, a few years ago, urged the industry to sue and prosecute file sharers, and even to “take their houses”. If anything, declaring rock dead is very progressive of him, since he didn’t actually make any threats this time around.

Simmons’ words are far from unique, and they actually represent what the music industry has been saying for a long time, namely that piracy is killing art. Many people think that the paranoid rants about how someone is “killing music” are a new phenomenon; but they are actually quite old. As a matter of fact, there have been so many “killers” of the music industry that you’d think the fact that it’s still around is nothing short of miraculous.

Among the many (attempted) murderers we find sheet music, automatic pianos, the phonograph, the radio, the 8-track tape, cassettes, CDs, VHS tapes,  digital streaming and, of course, filesharing. The rhetoric, obviously, never changes. Take, for instance, what Jack Valenti, the former head of the Motion Picture Association of America, said about the VCR:

“We are going to bleed and bleed and hemorrhage, unless this Congress at least protects one industry that is able to retrieve a surplus balance of trade and whose total future depends on its protection from the savagery and the ravages of this machine. . . [T]he VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” 

When speaking about filesharing, Mr. Valenti upped the rhetoric, actually saying that

“It’s getting clear – alarmingly clear, I might add – that we are in the midst of the possibility of Armageddon.”

The issue about these statements is not just the level of their rhetoric. After all, if the industry is indeed dying then we can’t really criticize their representatives for being a bit too dramatic. The problem is that they’re just regurgitating industry propaganda, with an absolute disregard for facts.

For decades, the media industry has elevated bullshitting to the level of an art, crafting numbers and stats out of thin air. Take, for example, their claim that copyright infringement costs the US economy anywhere between USD 200 and 250 billion dollars per year, and that it annually kills 750 thousand jobs, and which originates from an unrelated and unsourced article from the early 90s.

Furthermore, the story about how sales have gone down as file sharing increased is just false. Although it is true that physical music does not sell as well as before, digital music is selling extremely well, at least by the Recording Industry’s own figures:

Music shipped in the United States. Graph by TorrentFreak
Music shipped in the United States. Graph by TorrentFreak

True, the industry makes less money from selling single songs than it does when it sells a whole album… but who cares? With their constant demands to reform copyright legislation in a way that curtails our digital freedoms, what industry shills like Gene Simmons are doing is not to protect creativity, but rather to protect a business model that they have been milking for long enough. They expect to be protected from change and reform, while still blabbering about the free market, so as to continue overcharging for their products and fucking both consumers and artists.

Although it is undeniable that Gene Simmons is a person that does everything solely for economic gain, and who would sell his first born child for a nickle, many artists don’t share his view. As a matter of fact, evidence suggests that even though file sharing has increased in the last few years, artistic creation has not suffered, and musicians, new and old, continue to deliver new material.

I am in no way telling you that you should not pay for your music. Artists deserve recognition and to be rewarded for what they create. The chances of a musician to devote himself to his music obviously increase as he becomes able to live off of his creations, and we should always be happy to support those whose art we enjoy. However, don’t be swayed by the alarmist, nonsensical, Chicken Little-esque stories about how the sky is falling.

As Dee Snider of Twisted Sister said in response to Simmons,

[…]It wasn’t some 15 year old kid in Saint Paul, Minnesota (to paraphrase Mr. Simmons) who killed the rock ‘n’ roll goose that laid the platinum egg…it was greedy, big city, record company moguls who made their own velvet noose to hang themselves with. It was they who took advantage of the consumer (and the artist for that matter) and drove them to use an alternative source of music presented to them.
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Considered by his mother as the brightest and prettiest boy, J’s interest in metal started in his early teens, listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica (coupled with an embarrassing period in which Marilyn Manson “totally represents me, man”) eventually moving into the realm of power, black, and death metal.
He holds a PhD in law, trains martial arts, practices law, and enjoys coming up with excuses as to why he has to miss work after going to a concert. He also dabbles as a concert photographer, you can see his sub-par work on his instagram.

  • marious

    Do you know if these figures include things like royalties from streaming services like spotify or sales on
    digital services like Bandcamp?

    • J_MetalBlast

      Hi Marious; thanks a lot for checking out the site!
      As for your question, I am not sure; however, I think that they do not include the revenue from streaming services, but rather the individual sales (i.e. itunes and things like that) since the graph shows the 2003-2008 period, when services like spotify simply didn’t exist yet or were not massively used.
      As for bandcamp, the graph refers to the Record Industry Association of America’s figures, so I don’t think they would include the revenue that was received by bands that were acting independently.

  • marious

    I know it would be a pain to put that information together, but I would be curious to see how much revenue is actually going through less centralized channels rather than being lost to file sharing. I for one often download an album to decide if I want to buy it. If it isn’t worth buying I delete. If it is, I eventually get around to buying it.