Since the advent of the internet, the ability to connect to one another has become easier than ever. Not only are we able to communicate with those closest to us, whenever, wherever – but we are able to reach strangers thousands of kilometers away; make friends with people in completely different countries around the world. Created as a way to share information, as the years have gone by, the information we are able to share has grown more complex and simultaneously accessible.
With this evolution, peer-to-peer file sharing (torrenting) has grown exponentially and albeit the fact that it’s illegal, an accepted and somewhat mainstream part of internet culture. With this has come many issues facing creatives around the world; whether it’s film & television or music, the illegal torrenting of these files has always posed huge financial issues for those working hard to create the media we consume.
Even though there have been efforts to crack down on illegal file sharing, the scope of the issue has proven to be too big to handle. Whether it’s torrenting new albums from artists without paying for them, or new tracks and albums being leaked illegally, companies and artists need to find new ways to approach these issues. With the understanding that cracking down on this activity is proving to be extremely difficult, if not impossible; some artists have decided to approach both torrenting of their music, as well as music leaks not meant for public consumption, with a different strategy.
Last week, it was discovered that a Reddit user had been attempting to sell hours worth of music recorded during the process of Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’, yet was never released to the public. These tracks were never intended for public consumption, and however said Reddit user was able to get their hands on the music – they attempted to sell the rare leaked tracks for thousands of dollars over the net, with the stunt being labelled as a ‘ransom‘ attempt. Radiohead simply announced that they will be putting up the 18 hours of leaked music online: available to stream for free for 18 days, or purchase for 18 pounds with all proceeds going toward environmental activist initiative Extinction Rebellion.
With the understanding that these types of leaks, as well as illegal file sharing are most likely an inevitability for many artists – especially those who have very large fan bases and are very much in the public eye – tackling these issues with legal cases are often very laborious and difficult. Sometimes even backfiring on the artists reputations – note. Metallica’s infamous lawsuit against now obsolete torrenting site Napster, which brought the band much criticism due to their already high incomes from their music – many artists have opted for a different approach. Knowing the likelihood of their albums being available for free download illegally, there are artists that have blatantly addressed the potential torrenting of their music – even by uploading their own music onto torrent sites for free, and reaching out to fans asking those who can afford it to please buy their album, or if people enjoy the album after torrenting it to pay for it. For many musicians with larger fanbases, earning a profit from live shows and merchandise is a good source of income. Leaks, however, are a bit more frustrating and difficult to deal with as obviously, finding the culprit(s) isn’t exactly an easy job.
Luckily, with the rise of easily accessible and affordable paid subscription services, listening to an artist’s new music whilst still supporting them is definitely a positive factor when it comes to tackling illegal file sharing and fraud. Although it’s very unlikely for the issue to simply go away, it’s important to find new ways to approach the ways internet culture affects the careers of those who have worked exceptionally hard to provide us with the content we consume, love and admire.
Words by Jenna Dreisenstock