Last month I talked about counterfeiting. This month, I’m going to talk about piracy, because this, too, has many ramifications. I was prompted to write this editorial after I heard about a Melbourne rock band that was so upset about how people were ‘pirating’ their music that they released an album that couldn’t be played at all, so that no-one could copy it!
I know that this sounds like a Monty Python sketch, but it’s all true. Melbourne band Blood Duster recorded an album called KVLT on limited edition vinyl, then scratched the title of the album over the grooves, so the LP couldn’t be played. The lead singer, Jason PC, said ‘We made the album, sat down and listened to it, thought: Yep, that’s perfect, let’s wreck it.’
While I don’t doubt that the story is true, I do think it was part of a carefully conceived PR stunt, because Blood Duster does have a five track EP available that CAN be played, and the stunt certainly garnered previously virtually-unknown band lots of publicity (including here!), such that PC told the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The advance orders have been great. All these people keep contacting me saying they can’t wait not to hear it.’ I must admit that I can sympathise with the band. At last year’s Australian Hi-Fi and Audio Show, I was listening to pair of speakers in one of the rooms, and the track playing was really great.
I’d never heard it previously. At the end, the person demonstrating opened the CD player, handed back the (burnt) disc to the guy sitting alongside me and also said he’d liked the piece and would like the album details, so he could buy it. The owner of the burnt disc told him which artist it was and the name of the album, but then handed the disc back to the demonstrator and said: ‘You keep it. I’ll just burn another one.’ I was then rather horrified to see that the demonstrator didn’t hand the disc back, and tell him that he’d buy the disc, but instead just put the disc into his wallet of demo CDs, presumably to use for the rest of the show and who knows how long in the future.
I would like to think the demonstrator was being polite, and would destroy the pirate copy after the show, because this is what I’d expect of someone who is making money in the entertainment industry…but I fear my trust was probably misplaced! This small snapshot serves to show the scale of the problem though, which is that although a great many people copy CDs for friends, or download material and then copy that for their friends, they do not see themselves as ‘pirates’.
They also don’t see that every copy of a CD they make—or copy of a single track—has the potential to decrease the income of a musician. The usual rationale is for the person who made the copy to say ‘oh don’t be silly, I only made one copy for my best mate… that can’t hurt.’ Yes it can. When my daughter was very small she took to picking flowers when we walked through a park on the way to her school. When I remonstrated with her, she said the same thing to me: ‘I’m only taking one flower, and there are lots of them.’ To which I replied ‘hundreds of people walk through this park every day. If every one of them took just one flower, there’d be no flowers left at the end of the week, and then the park wouldn’t look so pretty.’ She stopped picking flowers. Will you? # greg borrowman