I came across this blog recently online and by all accounts it has raised quite a storm. An intern at NPR by the name of Emily White wrote it about the relationship that she herself had with recorded music. She talked about her time as a DJ at a college radio station and how she obtained music through rather non conventional avenues. She admits that she never paid for any if not all the music in her collection and now wonders how to correct this wrong.

The same can apply to the many new artists that are now releasing traditional Irish albums themselves. They are in the main described rightly or wrongly as a similar generation that may never have paid for music through their college years and are now in the position of having to try and sell albums to their contemporaries who may likewise not be inclined to buy. This is a sweeping statement I understand and I raise it to establish the truth or not in it. 

One of the goals of this site is to support the artist and secure those few extra sales that enable them to go on and make the next album. In speaking to some artists after gigs it appears that the main avenue for sales is selling 10 or 15 CD's after a gig. Online sales contribute I don't know what percentage and record store sales probably even less, sometimes as low as a fiver an album..

So the question then is where are we with the online theft of music, the effect of this on the artist and the future for record production and sales for new artists coming through.


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This is a great discussion topic, and I am curious to see what responses come up.  I would like to interject a couple of thoughts.

I personally almost never buy a complete CD album.  I go to iTunes and buy individual songs.  (Unless it's the album Out On The Ocean by Nine8thsIrish.com  :)   For those of you who have albums, do you sell many singles?

When I go to concerts I am usually more interested in buying "paraphernalia".  You know... t-shirts, caps, autographs...   I would much rather buy a t-shirt that was personally signed by Jeff Moore, than to buy an album from him.  Ok I guess most of you are more familiar with John Doyle, but I have never actually met John Doyle.  However, I have actually met Jeff Moore.  I hate to say it, bet you musicians have to sell yourself.  I am much more willing to support someone that has met me, then someone that I happen to have heard about.  Mingle with your audience, and allow them to meet you.  Of-course, once you go superstar then no one expects to get near you.

This site here is a great way to get to know people and gain their support.  (Even if they don't use their photo in their avatar  :)

Does anyone agree that the most convenient way to buy music is through an online store?

Am I the only one that likes to buy singles?


I'm not concerned about it. 

The good thing for Trad musicians, is that not many people are sharing their music.  If you plug the words torrent and Seamus Ennis or Gay McKeon or Joe Kennedy into google, you will get nothing useful/downloadable - admit it, you've tried too.  But most of the trad music I have I copied or ripped from friends, which are from CDs that I would be highly unlikely to find - even at some of the artists current concerts.  So as long as I buy current merch or CDs from the artists that I see, I don't feel bad.  I should buy more music, but there hasn't been very many opportunities.

Interesting conversation here Tony.

I read the whole blog and of course am not surprised at her "honesty" and the comments that followed.  Even today there still is the pirate.

Back in the late 60's my band did an album cut of 12 "Traditional" Celtic tunes, printed off 2000 copies and actually sold 350 or so.  What was interesting,  over the next couple of years, was that there were over 3000 copies out in Toronto.  Needless to say they were pirated copies.  We found out who did it, but they were long gone.

Of course we, as a band, had no right to copyright the tunes themselves as they were on the public copyright list.  The thing that frosted me, even to this day, is those who do those things do not realize that the actual performance is copyrighted, the same as a photo of yourself can not be sold without your permission (like that would happen with the internet and cell phones).  This is why a lot of performers do not allow recording devises during the live show.  That is what the customer paid for when they bought the ticket...THE LIVE PERFORMANCE.  This is why they have tables out side the venue of the LIVE PERFORMANCE.

I think, as with Mario, that most music is online and sold individually.  If an artist wants to sell their music online, they have incorporated measures to ensure they have not been pirated as best they can.

For new artists, I think they have to embrace both venues for selling their work.   There is actually a lifetime of work going into the production of performances, and it would do well for those who do not want to be "pirated" to at least get the sales they can before people start making copies to give to their friends.

I agree with Zeal, the best way to get sales is to make yourself available to your "fans" as much as possible.

That's my 2 pennies worth....AJ

This is a very interesting talk by Steve Lawson in 2009 on the future of the music industry:


If this link doesnt work then search YouTube for "JAMES Conference - Steve Lawson Keynote"


SHEBANG!!   (That's the word I use when something is over the top perfect, and spot on.  As in "the whole shebang!)

Ian Wilson, thank you so much for that YouTube clip.  Steve Lawson presents my exact point of view, and it's from a "professionals" point of view.  I am not a professional musician, and I don't have music to sell, but I know what influences me to buy.

I used to know a youth band, that would play at different venues locally.  I would actually follow them around and support them, simply because I actually knew all the members of the band.  (The band no longer exists.)

I took some  lessons from a guy that taught a guitar class at the local community center.  I started going to his bands local gigs... because I knew him, because I took his class for a month.  During the breaks in the gig, he would make it a point to come and greet people and personally thank us for coming.  I have not been to a gig of his for some time, and I believe it's mainly because of the lack of communication.  I really didn't expect him to personally email me, but I did expect that he'd have an emailing list of some sort that he would add me to, and let me know their schedule.

I know another guitar player that has a band, and every time I see him I ask him about his band, and he never gets me any information about seeing them play.  They apparently play on a regular basis, but are looking for more venues.  I have even given him suggestions of places that the community guitar teachers band played at.  I know this guy; I know some others in his band; and I have done research to help him find gigs, and yet he never seems very interested in promoting his band.  Maybe he figures that's someone else's job?  Maybe he thinks it's not "his" band so he doesn't try to "sell" it??  I don't know, and I don't get it.  He's a professional musician.  He does playing, recording and mastering.  He needs to "get known".   This is not an uncommon response I get only from him.  He just doesn't get it, and Steve Lawson hits the nail of the head.  Most of your supporters (fans) aren't going to buy your music because they like it, they will more likely buy your music because they like you or a persona they want to be a part of and imitate or mimic.

-Zeal S.

Don't get me started on the issue of copyright and traditional music!  Too late, Lawless, you've lit the blue touchpaper!

Seriously, though, it's important to distinguish between the music and the performance.  Most of us play in venues that are licenced by the Performing Rights Society.  Now they collect in revenues for performances, but they've never asked me or any band that I have ever played in if we'd like a cut of the ill gotten gains.  I've filled in lists of material for organisers of Festivals to send off to the PRS so that the organisers can pay the fees.  That's fine, after all they are the ones who take the money.  Of course, everything that I have ever played has been arranged by me or the band, and that makes it unique.  Our fee for doing the arrangements is covered by the gig fee.  It would be invidious to start collecting additional money for doing what we would insist on doing anyway.  They pay copyright holders for use of copyright material.  And that brings me back to the issue of copyrighting old material.  The law generally ascribes copyright to the first person to publish music.  If you look through collections of folksongs, just see how many are copyright Vaughan Williams, or John Lomax, or.......  The list is apparently endless.  

Music is unique among all the arts.  It exists only when it is performed.  Dance comes close but is not quite there.  You can see the dancers after they stop.  You cannot hear the music as vibrations, only as memories in the head. So our art is different.  It cannot be transmitted unless the transmittee can receive it.  And this is the nub of the problem.  Is it wrong to sit and learn the song from a recording, and would that then become a breach of copyright if you subsequently sing it in public, free or for cash?  Clearly, sheet music is sold with the expectation that it will be used for performance.  If it's for cash, then the copyright fees have to be paid.  Likewise, anyone who has performed drama will know of the performing tights fees that have to be stumped up!  We don't seem to have the same attitude towards music.  

I think that some of the ambivalence arises out of the theft from the public domain of traditional music by those who then copyrighted it and (to my simple mind) stole it from the people's ownership.  

Now, I get paid, on occasion, for playing.  The gig fee constitutes a quittance of any obligation on the part of the organiser to pay me any more.  If I sell a recording, then this is sold on the understanding that this is for personal use only.  What is being sold is not the right to the music, but rather a licence to play it but not for profit.  A very old friend at Keele University had an enormous collection of LPs.  We all lost track of those who were grossly offended by his refusal to allow copying on to audio cassettes.  But Paddy was perfectly correct.  The guys and gals who made the recordings were entirely entitled to be paid for their work.  It's different if they choose to give a free performance.  So we have to distinguish between the ephemeral nature of music in the moment it is performed, and the physical copies of that music that is sold via recorded media.  That is why folks will pay heavy spondulicks to attend a live concert, when they could hear the same material recorded perfectly on their medium of choice.  And it's why, when punters tell you that you are not playing quite the way that that it sounds on their copy by Fred Satterthwaite and his Rio Rapscallions, musicians with sense tell the enquirer that if he wants to listen to the CD, don't bother coming to the concert. 

I feel better for that!

And if you are free on Saturday night, come to The Imperial Standard in Aldershot where the music will be all our interpretation of stuff that has been performed by others and will sound as if it had only ever been performed by us!  At least, that's our intention and we would like to be judged on that basis and not on sounding like Elvis 'cos he once performed one of the numbers that we do!

David, on behalf of indigent performers everywhere!

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