The Secret Behind Why Many Musician’s Embrace Illegal Downloads

One of the questions I often hear from smaller bands is “How do you have the time to take down all the people posting your record illegally?” and they are often shocked when the answer is “Who Cares?” Yes, I do not care whatsoever if people download the music of the groups I work with, because I have made a decision  that as a business plan I would rather have as many people hear the music I work on, than to try to curb them from stealing it and limit our audience. (note: I am presenting this argument as one aimed at those who have not had yet established themselves and become a big player in their genre, that realm of musicians sets up a whole new set of problems)

The fact is, it is rare for someone to call themselves a fan of your group if they don’t like your music and in order to like your music and become a fan they need to sit with it and injest it regularly. If you want the type of fans who go to shows and buy merch or purchase the big deluxe packages (the type of fans, who keep your musical endeavor bankrolled, and you from slinging Slurpees at 7-11) you need to first have them get into your group. In order to get people to hear your group it takes tons of back-busting work. Most musicians, pay lip service to wanting as many people to hear their music as possible, yet some get mad at the idea of people stealing it in order to hear it and become a fan. They get angered by the fact that they are not able to make money from the fans consumption, but really this is counter-intuitive since they could be making good money from other outlets and getting more fans.

The profits from most records released on an indie  for rising bands come in somewhere between $1.25 -$5 per LP (we don’t even want to get into the silliness that goes on at many of the major labels). Yet selling concert tickets and merch can be profitable from $2-on up to even $15 in some cases. If you expose your music to more people and let the piracy run wild, you stand the chance of seeing the fans you convert to buying concert tickets and merch that give the group a higher profit margin than you would make off hoarding your music.

Many will argue you, that you need the money from the sale of recording in order to have the budget to properly promote a group, and their is a lot of truth to this statement. But the fact is devoting time to keeping fans from music instead of putting it into having more of them hear it, rarely yields a result that will grow your fanbase. So embrace streaming sites like MOG, Spotify and Rdio, whoch allow you to profit (minimally) from fans consuming your music, as well as discover it legally. Don’t spend your time thinking about how you can make less people listen to your music, by taking down links and futily fighting torrents. Spend your time thinking how you can get more people to hear your music who will have the money to put it into other avenues that can fund your music.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Dave Kelly

    I agree. I listen to the groups I like all day. Most of the music I have I D/L. When I go to see them I go for the interpersonal action between performer and fan.

    I think nothing of handing them a $100 bill with the instructions of go write more music.
    Good music comes from a hunger in the heart and soul, not a hunger in the belly.