A thousand people walking / everybody talking

There’s a set of data that shows that file shar­ing is actu­al­ly good for artists

So says Dou­glas Mer­rill, Google’s for­mer Chief of Infor­ma­tion, who is now run­ning EMI’s dig­i­tal divi­sion.

Ahh­hh – wow – haven’t a bunch of folks been say­ing that for years. It’s hard­ly a ground­break­ing rev­e­la­tion to many of us. Com­mon sense tells us this – we don’t need research to tell us this sure­ly. Artists are all about cur­ren­cy. Sure it’s a fine bal­anc­ing act but the rea­son Michael Jack­son and The Bea­t­les and Elvis were so huge is sim­ply because they exist­ed beyond the record store. Their cur­ren­cy as artists, and as fig­ures in pop­u­lar cul­ture, and thus their rev­enue earn­ing abil­i­ty, came from the fact that they had a momen­tum that was not absolute­ly sub­ject to what­ev­er ads the record label put in the mag­a­zines or how­ev­er many copies they’d sold. They sold because of that pop­u­lar momen­tum, not the oth­er way around.

And in a sim­i­lar way, mass pick­up and expo­sure via P2p implies a valid­i­ty and a momen­tum in itself and to attempt to trans­late those down­loads to lost sales is sim­ply to miss the point.

Artists and their man­agers should be over the moon that their tracks are being shared and encour­ag­ing that.

I sug­gest­ed to a label a year back that a band should give away 10,000 copies of their hottest track – hand it out at schools on a CD. If one in ten of those makes it onto an iPod or a Zen, it worked. And then launch the sin­gle on Limewire – com­plete with ‘new sin­gle out now’ adver­tis­ing. This was a year before Radio­head. It met with blank uncom­pre­hend­ing stares.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the labels is final­ly get­ting it.

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