Sunday, September 27, 2009

Musings about Music: Lilly Allen, File Sharing, the Music Industry, NiN, Creative Commons

"But when you're between the devil and the deep blue sea, you need to stop worrying about pirates, and adjust your sails".

And so ends Dan Bull's brilliant video riposte in response to UK musician Lily Allen's support of stronger measures against illegal file sharers:

Kevin alerted me to the video via this post at (26 Sept '09), where it explains:
This week Lily Allen’s views on file-sharing have been the hot topic. While some agree with her calls to ’save’ the industry from a fate worse than death, others did not subscribe to the doomsday scenario. One of those is UK musician Dan Bull who has written a brilliant song-come-open letter to Miss Allen...

... Say what you like about Lily Allen. Agree with her. Disagree with her if you like. Whatever the position, it’s difficult to take it away from her – she has done more in the last week to raise the online debate over illicit file-sharing than any other artist in recent months.

... “After Lily’s hectic week I’ve made a pro-filesharing song and video calling her up on a few of the claims she’s made,” UK musician Dan Bull explains to TorrentFreak.

“I’ve also tried to outline some of the main moral arguments for filesharing in the lyrics. Hope you enjoy, and hope the readers do too.”

Until that video and post, I had no idea who's Lily Allen (see her Wikipedia entry and her official website).

Except for this re-post (23 Sept '09) by, I've not managed to read any of Allen's actual comments and entries (blog posts have been taken down). Though I understand the controversy has to do with her support of stronger measures against illegal file sharers and downloaders.

Lily Allen - press update (

The Times, Thur 24 Sept 09 - Lily Allen and views on File Sharing

Over at the Sydney Morning Herald, they have this article (25 Sept '09) that gives more details on the controversy. Also says Allen will reportedly quit the music business altogether because of abuse towards her (arising from her support of stricter measures against illegal downloading and file sharing). This was also covered at (24 Sept '09) two days before their Dan Bull post.

I can't say I know a lot about the music industry. Been reading articles like this, this, this one and this.

Each time I read about "the music industry" it makes me wonder, "Who makes up the Music Industry anyway?" Or rather, who stands to lose the most with the loss of music CD sales.

Musicians are just one part of the equation. Then there are the producers, session musicians, technicians. And of course the music lables -- publishers, distributors and marketing.

From what I've read, a large part of the profits go to the 'music labels', i.e. the company who signs on, grooms and markets the singer/ band. It's largely the labels who are lamenting the loss of sales, rather than the musicians. From what I've read so far anyway.

Nothing is immune against digital piracy. It's happened (and will continue to happen) to book publishing as well.

Some people seem forget that intellectual piracy isn't unique to the online platform. It's just that when content goes digital, the content is now separate from the container. The problem is exacerbated since distribution is now in the hands of the many when it once was the domain of a few.

This Guardian article (12 Jul '09) reports, they cited a survey that showed "the number of teenagers illegally sharing music has fallen dramatically in the past year". And that "legal digital sales are also seeing an unprecedented boom, although sales are far from making up from the shortfall created by the collapse of the physical market. Digital singles were up 41.5% in 2008, while physical singles sales plunged 43.5%..."

I hardly read anything about the Creative Commons in the mainstream press. Seems to me the mainstream press carry more stories on the damage of copyright violations to the music industry, while there is a relative silence on positive alternatives.

Like how Nine Inch Nails' CC-licensed Grammy-nominated album topped the 2008 Amazon MP3 sales charts (Nate Anderson covers this nicely at; see also this CC case study entry).

When a band like NIN releases an album with a CC-license (they specifically adopted the BY-NC-SA license) and also sells it at, it means:
  • The band is explicitly allowing users to copy, transmit, re-post, share and remix the work under the specified conditions as detailed in the CC license.
  • The band retains the rights to their own music; they do not give up any of their rights.
  • They also have the rights to sell their own music; releasing their work under CC does not affect their rights to sell/ release their work in other ways.

Also, I would say the band has balls.

For a big name like Nine Inch Nails, I suspect it would have taken a respectable amount of faith in their musical abilities, and the dedication of their fans, to make their CC-licensed album work. NIN probably makes more money from their live gigs and tours. But that's not the point.

By explicitly allowing their music to be copied and transmitted, I think NIN recognised that they can't stop their fans -- and would-be fans -- from doing it anyway. Might as well just give permission to people on HOW to do the RIGHT THING.

I don't blame the mainstream press for not covering much on CC. Writing about CC is just about as exciting as reporting on Copyright (which is what CC is about in that sense).

Unless there is something newsy to report, I doubt if we will hear about CC in the mainstream press. Unless they decide to run a regular column on Intellectual Property. Like how some mainstream papers have regular columns on money and investment matters.

Come to think of it, why don't they have a regular column on IP, Copyright and Creative Commons?

If mainstream papers can run columns and Q&A type of sections for romance, money and health, why not Intellectual Property? Invite readers to write in to experts, stuff like that. I bet it will answer a reader's need for information, and also serves as some form of reader education for the mainstream paper.

Afterall, IP is a way of life.

Almost everyone is a potential content creator (photographer, writer/ blogger, videographer). Or if you think negatively, almost everyone is a potential copyright abuser and digital pirate.

If we aren't already.


  1. it is only a very very small portion of the profits from music. the large majority of profits come from the sale of concert tickets and licensing the music to be used in soundtracks and advertisements. i don't know what to make of that with regards to file sharing though.

  2. Music will never be the same until the industry drops the prices and make music worth listening to again.

  3. It was all free back in the day! Maybe that day has returned and the music industry has to look at things a little differently or rather the same as the 1969 Woodstock organiser's did. No doubt the legal wand will be used like a baseball bat to beat people into submission instead. If they persist in wanting to make money from a track instead of using it as a loss leader for other products as Mark seem to suggest then their only funding source would be from the ISP's around the world, without which no free music would be possible.

  4. Anonymous10:53 pm

    Lily is a twat, who cares what she says.

    Music belongs to the people!


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