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Lily Allen: P2P a “Disaster” for New Artists

Lashes out at big name artists like Radiohead who criticize UK govt proposals to “criminalize” music fans and disconnect file-sharers from the Internet.

UK pop singer Lily Allen is lashing out at what she calls “rich and successful” music artists from the Featured Artists Coalition for criticizing efforts by the UK govt for a “three-strikes” crackdown on illegal file-sharing.

She thinks P2P is especially harmful to new and emerging artists who don’t have “loads of albums to flog to a new audience.”

“Basically the FAC is saying ‘we’re alright, we’ve made it, so file sharing’s fine’,” she said in a MySpace celebrity blog post. which is just so unfair to new acts trying to make it in the industry.”

“They do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world. For new talent though, file sharing is a disaster as it’s making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge.”

Considering that file-sharing for many artists is the only way to get your music in the hands of fans where it belongs, Allen seems largely naive despite her insistence to the contrary.

“If this sounds like I’m siding with the record bosses, I’m not,” she adds. “They’ve been naive and complacent about new technology – and they’ve spent all the money they’ve earned on their own fat salaries, not industry development.”

Exactly, and that’s where the true problem lies, it’s not with file-sharers.

“But as they start to lose big from piracy, they’re not slashing their salaries — they’re pulling what they invest in A&R (artists and repertoire),” says Allen. “Lack of funds results in A&R people not being able to take risks and only signing acts they think will work…”

Why is this the problem of music fans and artists? I’d argue that record labels haven’t taken risks for years. Think back to CD sales heaven in the mid-1990s when music was awash in utter garbage packaged as music.

The record industry is a business like any other and risk is inherently bad. It will always choose profits over talent. That’s just the way it is.

NIN frontman Trent Reznor discussed this to a degree a while back, saying that all a record label is concerned with is profits, they only see an artist as a “means to make revenue.”

“At every fork in the road that will be what’s put first,” he said.”Not your longevity, not your vision. How can we make money from you.”

People like independent music business online expert Andrew Dubber have also tried to tell artists not to worry about illegal file-sharing for several simple reasons:

  1. Copying “just happens” and there’s no way to force people into buying music.
  2. It’s not an “impediment,” but rather a “technological advantage that you can leverage to your own ends.

The last one is what Allen should really stop to think about. For a long time artists complained that record labels were the gatekeepers to music fans, and that without them there was no way you could hope to ever put your album out there for people to listen to.

Some artists actively use BitTorrent tracker sites like Waffles.fm specifically to gain more exposure.

Most importantly, Allen doesn’t seem to understand that the FAC and she are really on the same page. The FAC isn’t pro-file-sharing, it’s just sensible enough to take a look at the experience of the US music industry and its decade long campaign of lawsuits to see that a different approach is necessary.

Suing your own customers is hardly a sensible business model and I can’t fathom that she wouldn’t agree.

When the FAC says that it’s on the “side of the audience, the consumer” it means that it wants to give them what they want, when and where they want it. Contrast that to record labels who relent on any of these choices only when declining profits force their hand.

She also alludes to the need to develop new music distribution platforms for fans to buy music from.

“I’m going to be writing (to) British artists, saying just this: File sharing’s not okay for British music,” continues Allen. “We need to find new ways to help consumers access and buy music legally, but saying file sharing’s fine is not helping anyone – and definitely not helping British music.”

That’s precisely what the FAC wants. It too wants to “find new ways” to “help”music fans. It’s main argument is only that “artists should own their own rights and they should decide when their music should be used for free, or when they should have payment.”

The music industry is evolving and nobody know for sure what it’ll look like in the end. With its own economist concluding recently that revenue is up 4.7% since 2007, and the UK’s 7 million file-sharers myth having been debunked, the need for a war against file-sharing music fans isn’t as urgent as Allen might think it is.

Stay tuned.

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UPDATE: For those that are anti-Lily Allen it seems she’s about to quit the music business for good.

“Please bear in mind this doesn’t have anything to do with me or my wealth,” she writes according to Music Week. “Just so you know, I have not renegotiated my record contract and have no plans to make another record. I do however remain a fan of new music, so this is not some selfish crusade. The days of me making money from recording music has been and gone as far as I’m concerned, so i don’t stand to profit from legislation. Except future purchases of previously recorded material.”