Artists Perspective on File Sharing



"I know for a fact that a lot of people first heard my music by downloading it from Napster or Kazaa, and for this reason I’ll always be glad that Napster and Kazaa have existed."         

– Moby, in his online journal last year


Fascinating discussion on file sharing from the artists perspective, via the the Pew Internet and American Life Project (pdf) :

A survey released last week, titled "Artists, Musicians and the Internet," combines and compares the opinions of three groups: the general public, those who identify themselves as artists of various stripes (including filmmakers, writers and digital artists) and a somewhat more self-selecting category of musicians.

Most notably, it is the first large-scale snapshot of what the people who actually produce the goods that downloaders seek (and that the industry jealously guards) think about the Internet and file-sharing.

Among the findings: artists are divided but on the whole not deeply concerned about online file-sharing. Only about half thought that sharing unauthorized copies of music and movies online should be illegal, for instance. And makers of file-sharing software like Kazaa and Grokster may be unnerved to learn that nearly two-thirds said such services should be held responsible for illegal file-swapping; only 15 percent held individual users responsible.

"This should solve the problem once and for all about whether anyone can say they speak for all artists," said Jenny Toomey, the executive director of the Future of Music Campaign, a nonprofit organization seeking to bring together the various factions in the copyright wars.

Ms. Toomey, whose group helped draft part of the survey, believes that artists are usually underrepresented in the debates about the high-tech evolution of the industry. "These decisions need to be made with artists at the table," she said, adding, "it’s not enough for both sides to reach out and get an artist who supports their position."

Very interesting discussion. Of course, the questions asked have a significant impact on the answers, a classic trial technique known as "framing the issue."  I could have put together a survey that led to very different conclusions — namely, that file sharing is a disintermediating format replacing arbitrary decisions by labels and limited exposure on consolidated radio playlists with a broader, more meritocratic free market competition.   

Expect to hear more about this in the near future . . .

click for larger graphic


Artists, Musicians and the Internet  (PDF)
Pew Internet & American Life Project
December 5, 2005

Pew File-Sharing Survey Gives a Voice to Artists
New York TImes, December 6, 2004


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  1. Tech Policy commented on Dec 6

    Artists Perspective on File Sharing

    Barry and Frank at The Big Picture and Furdlog respectively are excited by the Pew report on Artists, Music and the Internet. I have only read the summary so far, but you can count on these two to provide further updates.

  2. 网站优化 commented on Jun 19

    I was surfing along and came across your website. I really enjoyed it. Thanks! This site is very informative. I hope to see more in the near future, Wishing you all the best!

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