Falco on Leaks And Downloading. by Gareth
May 2, 2009, 5:25 pm
Filed under: CHAFF

If we were more careful, then Falco would be one of the popstars people listened to, and paid attention to. It’s a shame it’s never worked out like that, but the man speaks truths on the Future Of The Left blog.

It looks pretty ugly, posting the whole thing here. I tried to edit it down, but all of what he says is very well put, and, in my opinion, true. Good read:

It’s difficult to express exactly what I felt when I found out, last wednesday, that the album had made it’s way onto the internet.  22nd april – approximately eight and a half weeks before release and only three since the fucking thing was mastered and whilst members of the band don’t have shiny little embossed copies there is a promotional cd of the record on sale at ebay for twenty five quid.

I drank a bottle of Jamesons and began to lecture the cat on copyright control. To her credit, she simply fell asleep as Law and Order went about its business in the background.

Myself, Kelson and a couple of the guys at Beggars spent 72 hours or so pissing around, sending angry emails to proud bloggers (and oh, the fucking pride of the feckless thief) and, amongst others, a Russian website that was already charging people for the songs. Motherfuckers. I guess that since the bottom has fallen out of the arms trade,  any collection of notes, however obscure, is a legitimate income source.

So, anyway, the fucking thing has leaked despite our desperate delaying tactics and you may have listened to it / be dowloading it this second / have taken the position that you’d rather wait for the actual release – regardless, it feels that getting annoyed about downloading in this valueless modern age is like taking issue with water for being wet or night for gradually turning into day because ultimately the entitlement that most people feel for free music completely overshadows any moral or legal issues and conflicts that may arise in the hearts and minds of better people, people who understand that actions, on both an individual and group level, have consequences far beyond that moment of instant gratification.

There’s so much to say with so little effect on this issue, so many well-intentioned but wasted words devoted to it … but anyway, thankyou for downloading in barely a minute something that we poured a year of our lives into, attempting (successfully, I believe) with a great and furious pride to better our previous low-selling (and leaked three months early) album, a record which flew under the radar for many reasons but mostly because most of the goodwill poured on it happened and had dwindled several months before it was available to buy.

Yes, buy. Such a dirty fucking word. Currency exchanged for goods and services. Food, Clothing, Butt-plugs and fucking H2O. How far, I wonder does this entitlement for free music go? My guitars, should they be free? Petrol to get us to shows? Perhaps I should come to an arrangement with my landlord, through the musician-rent-waiver programme.

Perhaps he should pay me, for his ninth-division indie-cred through association.

You will have to excuse me, people of the internet. It turns out that I just wanted a big party with balloons and streamers to celebrate everything we put into this thing, released into the physical world with a fanfare and fuss befitting its status. I’m not angry (in fact I don’t blame you, unless you leaked it, in which case I WILL KILL YOU), just a little worried that the record we made will get lost amongst the debris and leave us playing shows like we just weathered at the laughably bad Camden Crawl this last weekend – fifteen people and a world of disillusion.*

Anyway – please be careful, or we’ll get the world we all deserve. Hobby bands who can tour once every few years if they’re lucky, and the superstars, freed from such inconvenient baggage as integrity and conscience, running the corporate sponsored marathon of £80-a-ticket arena tours and television adverts til their  loveless hearts explode in an orgy of oppressive branding and self-regard. Some of us, in all honestly, just want to make the music we love and play it around the world without living in poverty.

We’ll be announcing some deal involving pre-orders of the cd/lp with an immediate download in the next few days.

Do consult your surroundings before proceeding.


*Next time somebody tells me that i can’t drink my rider in the building I’m playing in I’m going to fuck them with their own shoes.


17 Comments so far
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I don’t wanna start a big discussion, and I do have a personal interest in artists’ fair compensation of recorded work. And I love you guys, but I gotta disagree w/ my own non-expert opinion.

The idea that only hobby bands and superstars will exist is not an impossibility, but I don’t think we’ve seen that in the last ten (!) years since Napster made free digital music accessible online. What’s happened? The internet’s created sites like pitchfork and stereogum that all the kidz read, the music is shared (or illegally downloaded, your choice in terms), then we all run off to see shows. Sure, sometimes bands that sell out in a city’s biggest indie venue one year don’t fill a space in the next tier down the following year. I don’t know if that’s a good thing (scenesters v. true fans), but the result is that there are many more artists that are getting bigger much more quickly. Music fans have so much more accessibility to ‘product’ that bands that wouldn’t have made it in past eras are making it to a good degree (so many more venues & festivals to play these days than in my [relative] youth!), and bands that have real talent are striking it bigger than they would have just 15 years ago. For example, indie artists like Sujan, the Hold Steady, or Animal Collective are what would have been relegated to being “just college bands” years ago, but now they’re on NPR here in the states. Just like alternative lost its meanings in the mid 90’s, indie no longer needs to mean small, largely b/c of the ways that free internet downloading have transformed the marketplace by making artists so much more accessible.

Enough people have written about the idea that the internet has transformed the nature of reproducible creative works in the marketplace by eliminating their scarcity, thereby driving their price to 0 for folks online. It’s a totally new system and marketplace, and it’s not necessarily people who are not willing to pay money for digitally copied music that are to blame once it’s online (I do agree that whoever leaked a master 3 days after it’s done = pretty douche. but these are facts of life in the internet, unfortunately, and buying shit like this off ebay or paying $80 for scalped tickets to sold out shows are some of the very few ways fans can still bump up their street cred/fandom quotient now that everyone can be a ‘fan’. not saying i approve of it, but it’s how people are.). The conflict of the internet, speedy, cheap-as-free democratizer-of-info it is, vs. labels/artists, is seen by many as just the 21st century version of alarms being raised when recordable tapes, then recordable CDs, were developed. Businesses and creators are the ones who will have to adapt not just business models but ideas of what can and cannot be charged. Offering pre-orders w/ immediate download: I’m willing to bet that some who would have downloaded free would now gladly pay for a pre-order w/ immediate. Future of the Left offered a product alongside what was readily available. It’s not what they wanted, but they’re adapting. Artists complain now, but lord knows what concert going will be like when 3d holograms can be beamed into your home in 50 years….

Anyway, yeah, I’m talking a little bit out of my ass, but there are definitely enough law and econ professors, even many more artists that aren’t just NIN/Radiohead, out there talking about this that I don’t feel like a total ass farting in the dark. I’ll shut up meow. Thx.

Comment by Eric

Artists need to be compensated for their creative output. Labels (or the ones that are doing their job properly) need to get a just return on their investments (although what is “just” needs to be reassessed). And ALL of this needs to happen within a new digital distribution model. There’s just no point in fighting the internet/p2p/mass web storage facilities (i.e. megaupload, rapidshare, etc.) anymore.

The solution is gonna have to be some sort of universal web service w/ unlimited downloads and monthly subscription fees or some sort of tax that goes into a pool, and artists get paid based on their download numbers.

Comment by Kappy

I think I am taking something completely different out of this blog than you two are. Who is anyone, no matter how big of a fanboy/girl they are, how many cool indie hipster points they’ve accumulated, etc., to say that they can go out and download a pre-release copy of an album, that the fucking creators of the music aren’t even legitimately privy to!? And why can’t fans just wait until the official release day to hear it? What happened to the intrigue and anticipation? I guess the problem is, in my opinion, that fans aren’t the ones downloading the leaked copies, it’s the douchebags who relish in saying “have you heard X band’s new album? it’s shit” before the general public has had a chance to hear it. And who knows if what you are downloading is what the band wants you to hear. Albums are not released like software. You cannot get version 1.0 and then upgrade to 2.0 when the band gets it down to something they’re all satisfied with. Who knows if what you’re hearing is some shitty outtake they made on a bad day when their bassist had swine flu?

This is a timely post, as lately I’ve been debating with myself about whether or not I should feel guilty about buying the majority of my old CD releases from a used music store…but that’s a whole other topic.

Comment by Julia

Julia, you can’t just categorize all filesharers as shallow douchebags who want indie cred. I myself have no problem grabbing a leaked copy of an album made by a band that i love. In actual fact, I grabbed a copy of WAB WAD when it leaked (3 months early i believe). I can tell you in all honesty i didn’t do it to piss all over it for hipster cred (not many people i know care for los camp), i did it for the convenience. Sure i know it’s coming out and don’t mind a wait, but if it’s there, i’ll take it. Also, i fell in love with los camp through a copy of their debut that i also downloaded, which at the time wasn’t available in australia. Although it doesn’t redeem me (not that i think i’m doing the wrong thing) i have both los camp albums in physical copies and am more than willing to grab another copy at a show just to get a round of autographs (if they ever make their way down here). In short, not everyone who fileshares is a douche looking for cred, nor are all fans innocent of indulging in it. Obviously i can’t speak for everyone out there (and neither can anyone else) but i fileshare for the convenience of not having to have the physical product shipped from another country. When i buy something i make sure it’s something i want.

Also, i’m interested in whether you, gareth, agree with everything falco is saying (or maybe even with some of the posts here).

Comment by Trung

I shall dig it out, but I’m quite sure there was an article the other week that suggested (with facts, and all of that) that people who download music illegally go on to buy more music than those that don’t. I know it’s certainly true for me; 90% of the records I’ve bought this year so far, I downloaded first, and wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t been able to do so. And that’s without counting in the hundreds of pounds I’ve spent travelling to see shows and all that, buying at least a t-shirt.

I know anecdotal evidence is useless, but I’d wager that at least there’s an equal ratio of people who download music and never purchase anything and people who buy so many more records because they had the chance to download the album. It’s illegal, of course, but I’d question as to whether it’s immoral.

Comment by John

I thought this bit in the comments thread following Falco’s blog post was probably worth reproducing.

“Downloads self-evidently effect physical cd/lp sales as much as any online transactions and whether a band wish to tour arenas or working mens clubs, ‘release dates’ and ‘distribution plans’ are not besides the point but crucial elements in helping to decide whether the album is a success (and yes, this term is relative) or not. Furthermore, sneering at such basic tenets of a record release either shows a great naivety on your part or a willful disregarding of the fundamental workings of the music (and indeed, any) industry.

Industry appears in this epoch as a dirty word (and we all know by this stage of counter-evolution that white, middle-class-educated bands aren’t supposed to actively desire something as crass as renumeration) but if I can spot through the fog – nobody in this band is campaigning for a fourth holiday home a la Metallica but an amount of money appropriate to the love, time and attention we put into our music, the touring part of which makes the maintenance of other full-time jobs all but impossible.

There is nothing insidious in attempting to make the best of a record release by attempting to co-ordinate the good feeling felt by fans / press / radio / sock-puppets into what may loosely be described as momentum. This, the selling of our record, is a serious business, it is our whole lives, and I reserve the right to want the best for it.

Oh, and in most cases, albums may be loved, cherished and downright feted by people who’ve downloaded them but to suggest that the actual leak was an action borne of love is demented. The story of music pirating (and how I love that term, imbued with dashes of drama and physical bravery) isn’t the tale of Robin Hood, made modern technological flesh, but something far more complex and strangulating than that.



Comment by Miles

Trung, I was generalizing. In our crazy recessionary world, I understand the importance of trying-before-buying, especially since there’s much more music out there than is possible to consume. I regularly listen to music that I haven’t exchanged money for. MySpace, Last.Fm, iMeem, Pitchfork/Lala…all of these are fine resources. I trust my own opinion well enough that if I really like what I hear, I will feel comfortable going out and buying that album. If I made a mistake, goddamn it, I will not carry that album around with me for the rest of my life, and that is okay! So, yes, John, I know exactly what study you’re referring to, and I believe its findings are accurate.

To me, sharing music is more like going to a buddy and saying “OMG have you heard the new album by ?! it’s so great, you have to listen to it!” and not setting up downloads for every hyped up album/band you’ve heard of, letting your computer run 24/7 to download them, and then maybe listening to them once before declaring them to be shite. More people need to make decisions for themselves, rather than basing everything on the number of hits Bats for Lashes gets in the previous month’s P4K’s headlines, is what I’m saying.

There are so many different examples that can be given about how one has discovered a band, and what they’ve done to support the band, etc., but it doesn’t really matter. What it comes down to is that I am an upstanding moral citizen, and possibly even more physically attractive, because of how I treat music. I’m kidding. Ok, maybe not about the last part.

For the record, my opinions are influenced by these factors: 1. don’t own a functioning MP3 player, 2. work in music store/get paid to listen to music, 3. great ease in attaining legitimate promo copies.

That’s all for now. smooches.

Comment by Julia

As Eric also said, I’m not up for a big discussion, I’m not smart enough for that, BUT, I do know that there is no way anyone can justify album LEAKS as being fair.
It’s like an enforced c-section. WAB,WAD leaked before the artwork was finished. We put so much into that entire package to create something special, and before the entire piece of art was complete, people were listening to fucked up, low bitrate versions of the record with incorrectly tagged song titles. Not. Fair.

Comment by Gareth

Gareth, when we download that crappy bitrate mistagged preborn copy of mp3s we do it because we are insatiable for your tracks, we listen to youtube live versions recorded on cellphones. Then when you deem them ready we buy the real copy and support you. Think of those of us who download from love not hate not cheapness and who would not dream of NOT supporting you.
from someone who was happy to drive 200 miles to see you in the past couple of months.

Comment by Jane

I’m gonna go ahead and say that it is due to the moment my parents decided to have sex that I find doing this more ok than some of you. Music sharing has always been considered a problem by the industry (apparently people used to tape records like cavemen did), and when napster (arguably the biggest influence on the current modes of decentralized filesharing) first came into the public eye, i’d barely got division and multiplication under my belt. It’s all i’ve known and what i don’t know is the ‘intrigue and anticipation’ of waiting for an album to come out to the same degreee as some of you do. It’s in this technological age where people want things on demand that i think it’s alright to do this (but i can’t necessarily justify it.)

P.S. I wait for a solid, high bitrate release to come out before i listen (not that it’s intended to make you feel any better about it).
P.P.S. because i know how much i can guarantee i’ll love the third record, i’ll preorder and resist digital downloading. Maybe i’ll learn the value of waiting for it.

Comment by Trung

I could easily ramble on and lead this even further off topic, but I won’t…I will say that I have no strong feelings against people who download (scene kids – totally different) and wasn’t trying to imply that I did. Trung, you’re right and this absolutely has to do with age… I lived in the time when trading cassette and VHS recordings was the norm (also, awesome) and my disposable income was spent on CDs, shows, band merch. I’m definitely not trying to sway you into changing your habits because you’re different from me. I do think everyone should support their local record store, though. ❤

Comment by Julia

I’m not gonna lie or be dishonest here, I’ve downloaded albums before illegally and leaks and the like. Mainly for the reasons people listed above in the comments, but normally I’ll give an album a couple spins, see whether or not if I like it and if I don’t, there’s no point with it taking up space, if I do, I’ll go out and buy it so I can get a good lossless copy and I’m a fan of having something tangible and nice packages (which is why I’ll actually go out and rebuy Criterions with new packaging and just sell the old ones).

I can totally understand where you guys are coming from on leaks and how much it must suck to work months or even years on an album and that have it leak months in advance before it even gets a proper release. That said most of us download these not because we are trying to be malicious but just because we really want to hear the new music from our favorite artists. I know that often these are lower quality bitrate, mistagged and often have no artwork but when the release is months away and you hear people talking about it, it’s finally just like “fuck it, let’s at least give it a spin (Yes, I realize the obvious irony in giving a digital file a spin when unlike the cd nothing is actually spinning).

That said I’ve seen other artists combat this in recent years in a very good way, I remember Stars had put up their album on iTunes shortly after it leaked and I think alot of us who download them would rather pay for them and get a higher quality bitrate if it was offered. I’m not trying to justify this or excuse it but I merely felt that as a consumer and someone who really loves your band (I’ve bought everything commercially released here and seen you guys 3 times) that I should at least give an honest explanation.

Anyway, that’s probably all a bit jumbled and I’m not really sure if it made sense this isn’t really the sort of thing I have a knack for arguing but I hope at least what I meant to say comes through

Comment by Nick

@Gareth, I am with you on that — a leaked master starts with a theft or abuse of professional privilege, which is wrong. However, once media gets online, I’m of the opinion that we really can’t blame “the internet” and “netizens.” Many are like Jane who want to hear everything they can, the (typically younger) folks fueling the indie boom of the last few years. A few are asshats who repackage leaked material and sell it on eBay (as Falco originally noted), and that’s just dick. But yeah, who can we really blame past the original transgressor? The ethics is a fun pain in the ass.

And this sort of stuff isn’t new, right? Rock history riddled with stories of lost and stolen masters, sold-and-re-sold bootlegs, or mythical, unofficial, non-band-endorsed releases, yeah? (I remember being like 11 and being horrified watching a blurry VHS copy of NIN’s Broken video []) The problem of leaks isn’t new, though I guess, yes, there is a potential lack of artistic control — though arguably that can be counteracted by, say, having a very excellent blog. But for fans (like Jane), the problem of decades and years past was finding the place to get this stuff (like, say, a 4 minute clip of a favorite band’s appearance on Soccer AM). The internet makes those good, enthusiastic people happy, w/ no detriment to their relationship to the artist. Hooray internet for that.

Comment by Eric

rock me amadeus!

Comment by karel

Just to clarify my earlier comment, I by no means think getting leaked music, or any music for that matter, for free is okay. But I think it’s getting clearer and clearer that the current MO for music distribution is causing lots of problems. We need to take the current problem (p2p, mass storage sites like rapidshare, etc.) and find a way to universalize and monetize it. Get the artists and the labels their money and get the true and insatiable fans to pay for the music they want in superb quality with the added bonus of getting it quickly.

I prefer the vinyl myself.

Comment by Kappy

Hey Eric, you just made me laugh. We are not young, I have been asked at gigs whether we are the bands parent’s (don’t do it btw makes me very mad.) I bought tons of vinyl at WAY over priced levels making me resent the record label as well I should have. Record labels have screwed the fans for years and the resentment fostered is now killing new music, horrible and ironic. I will not buy a cd in a record store, I only buy form the artist and NEVER from itunes.
My cash should support the band not visa, not itunes and not for a truck driver to be paid to drive it across the country.
note I want to pay the band, not that I wanted it for free.
On Saturday I was at a gig (Twilight Sad) and they offered me free merch for driving to see them – I told them off and said we wanted to pay to support them. I say fight beaurocracy, fight inertia and curse the original thief but cut the folks who love you some slack.

Comment by Jane

Can we please not lose sight of the important thing here, which is that Andy Falkous is fucking awesome and everyone should support the Future of the Left as much as is feasible?

Comment by Ian Mathers

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