4 Reasons Why Fans Are File-Sharing Your Music

Most fans that file-share are like you and I. With the slight exception that they don't even have an idea that folks like us have invested thousands of words debating, contesting, and trying to make sense of how we feel about the notion that music fans think music, the most beloved and precious thing that we have, should be free and not be paid for.

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(That You Can Change...)

If you follow the arguments surrounding file-sharing close enough you'd assume that file-sharers are the kind of moral lacking scum of the Earth that would consider pushing their own grandma into moving traffic or, that on the weekends, they shoplift from Best Buy and are slowly working up the confidence to start robbing banks. Of course, we all know that's simply not true. Most fans that file-share are like you and I. With the slight exception that they don't even have an idea that folks like us have invested thousands of words debating, contesting, and trying to make sense of how we feel about the notion that music fans think music, the most beloved and precious thing that we have, should be free and not be paid for.

How dare they even attempt to justify not paying musicians for their music?

Songs that move us, transport us, and make us quiver with notes and words and feelings about things that we are incapable of expressing ourselves. Well, here's a look at four of the reason why fans file-share your music that you can change:

1. Unaware of Other Options

Despite our best efforts to promote the alternative music consumption system and the beautiful sites that the web has brought us, I'd argue that most people have no idea about most of them. Now, try to say this three times fast: Project Playlist, Pandora, Last.fm, HypeMachine, Grooveshark, Microsoft Zune Pass, Spotify, Rdio, iLike, TheSixtyOne, Rhapsody, MOG, Napster, Slacker Radio, WeAreHunted, and on and on again. These are all great ways to legally listen to music online and stream songs for free. But do enough fans know about them?

I seem to recall a study from last year that said most Europeans had no idea Spotify even existed, yet there was talks of stricter and harsher punishments for file-sharing. The hard thing is that humans are very habitual creatures. If a fan downloaded BitComet while they were in high school and found themselves in possession of a Demonoid account, they likely haven't bothered with legal options. It works, always has what they want, and has fast results.

Simple solution: If fans are file-sharing your music and have no idea they can stream it on Grooveshark. Then, tell them that can. On the contrary, if fans are downloading your music and it can't be streamed easily; it's your fault.

2. Hear/Like/Buy/

Andrew Dubber has been hammering this into people's heads for years now; it's worth repeating. Fans want to hear the music that you have before they are going to buy it. Since they may be unaware of the other options to stream your music throughthat, or you've sadly decided not to upload your music to themthey are going to download your album and listen to it.

Not solely because they want to own it or would've otherwise bought it.

No, they really just want to hear the songs and make sure they aren't rubbish. Only in the past would fans buy music without hearing it; they'd listen to a single or two on the radio and decide to buy the album.

Today, they want to hear every single songmaybe even live with them for awhileonly then will they consider buying the album.

Simple solution: Make it damn easy for fans to stream your music and download a few songs. If they want to hear your music; it means they are in the process of discovering if they like it. Not that they are going to buy it.

3. Don't Know You Or Trust You

Most artists these days don't have the benefit of mass marketing. The complete and utter saturation of the radio, retail, and TV. Due to years of commercial radio and MTV, most fans are fairly familiar with a number of acts. Thus, just because they've heard of them before and have a history with their music, there's a thin veil of trust; its small, but it's enough. Even the vaguest recollection of their story puts major label artists ahead of you. Fans trust Nickelback's capacity to make singles with the same faith that they trust PopTarts still taste like cardboard.

They know what they're getting themselves intoeven though they know they should've gotten Toaster Strudels instead; they still got PopTarts. Why?

It's a brand they trust to taste the same every time, just like Nickelback. If your last album wasn't up to par or you changed your sound; it's time to rebuilt trust.

Simple solution: Gradually build the trust of your fans overtime and make compelling music. If they are going to buy your music, they have to get to know you and learn to trust your music, otherwise, they're just file-share it.

4. Too Many Clicks Or Your Offer Sucked

Hit music enthusiast and author Jay Frank nailed this one. "Every additional click to the process likely decreases the number of potential people who may hear your music," he writes. "Make sure music is only one click away in as many places as possible. The fewer clicks, the more potential fans."

You have to take into consideration both current and potential fans, the experience they have when buying your music, and make sure that the process is seamless and takes as few clicks as possible. It may very well be that you can't make your album have less clicks than BitTorrent. But you have to be close. Also, what are you selling that they can't download?

Take one glance at the tiered incentives on Kickstarter or Pledge Music and you start to see that there are plenty of neat motivators to tie into your record. If they wanted to hear your music and couldn't, they already have your music.

So what are you offering that they can't download? The game changed. Fans need more incentives to buy now. Flogging music by itself isn't always enough.

Simple solution: Some fans may only want your music and have nothing to do with youthat can't be changed. But it's up to you, not them, to make buying your music as few clicks as possible and it has to be better than free.

Kyle Bylin, an Editor of Hypebot and Music Think Tank.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

    EspKiller
    Can't you guys just suck it up? i mean seriously, make money off guarantees and merch? there obviously is little money in selling an album, but who cares? i want people listen to my music and get something out of it, find other ways to make money, this "its illegal to download music" bs is pissing me off whining about its not going to change it.
    matmcd
    The people that have the least to do with making music always want the most money for that music.
    Amaseng
    Was this article written by Gene Simmons? Musicians nowadays need to learn that CD's won't sell unless you package them with T-shirts, posters, wristbands, etc. Income will come from touring and merch.
    jthm_guitarist
    Reason 2 is spot on. I'm sick of getting tricked by albums. How am I supposed to know if the thing is good without listening to it? I'm overjoyed to own CDs and support the good artists, but now I can weed out the stuff that I think might be cool for some reason but really sucks. They don't deserve my money if I bought it under false pretenses.
    KlinikaNekros
    I download all the time.Hell,I download so much that if you could go to jail for it,I'd be on death row by now.But everytime I donwload a CD I actually like,I go buy it because I am a collector.In fact,most fans prefer having actual CD's of their favorite bands than just mp3 downloads but let's face it,with the crappy economy nobody can really afford to buy CD's nonstop-people have to choose.People will always prefer going out than buying CD's or band merchandise..also artists DO make money from CD sales-not the whole sum but they get paid..it's a BS excuse,really.
    RIPHEAD911
    If I like an artist a lot, I'll download some stuff and then pay 30 to see them live. I'd rather do that than buy 5 albums and not have the money to see any band live. This is a teenagers point of view anyway...
    MegadethFan18
    To the people saying gay stuff like "oh I don't think downloads are that bad" the bottom line is that it is illegal, despite what you think.
    -Vasa-
    Megadethfan, that actually depends on the country you live in. Not every country is as silly as the US or France. (In the Netherlands it's perfectly legal to download music without paying, just uploading is not legal).
    rocker222
    Kapalen wrote: I didn't say they don't play live. Let me point out real quick that for a large portion of their career the beatles didn't tour, ANY. I just said they make MORE from record sales. It has nothing to do with why they're doing it. If you want to be a musician for a living, you have to MAKE A LIVING doing it. If people don't pay for your product you can't do that. If a car salesman said, yeah take this car, it's cool, I know you'll like it and buy another one, they'd go outta business. Its the same with every kind of business.
    thats cool. i like your opinion heres mine. i dont mind if you download my music. i want people to hear my voice ill make something off of my concerts. if you want to buy my music thats great, thanks for being a good fan. if you download my music thats cool to, but remember to show your friends. i see nothing wrong with it.
    Scourge441
    MegadethFan18 wrote: To the people saying gay stuff like "oh I don't think downloads are that bad" the bottom line is that it is illegal, despite what you think.
    There are plenty of things that have been illegal that are not necessarily morally wrong. Now, I do think there's more of an argument that illegal downloading is wrong than there is for most of those other things, but just saying "it's illegal" contributes nothing to the discussion. The ACTUAL bottom line is that filesharing is going to continue, illegal or not, and if you're an independent band, you should use it to your advantage instead of whining about it. In the long run, I think having illegal downloading around will probably make life easier for independent musicians, as they are the one who need the publicity boost. Checked.
    r0ckth3d34n
    smoking weed is decriminalized or illegal in most states, but people still do it, and we all have our reasons for it. Sure it doesn't build a better fan base, but somewhere along the line someone is making a lot of money off of it and that's essentially wrong. I think file sharing is actually a pretty good way to build a fan base. I'll admit to downloading music, but most of the time I feel pretty bad, so I end up going to see the band or buy a t-shirt. File sharing just equals more fans... Of course, getting caught gets you screwed by the band, record label, and everyone involved with the music you downloaded, which is why you shouldn't do it... Especially with newer bands that are releasing their debut albums, it's terrible that people are just downloading them, but at the same time, they're building a better fan base. The last two CD's I've purchased where bands I saw live previously and only heard some demos of on MySpace. The next band's CD I'm going to buy is a band I found out about and downloaded their EP.
    rickyj
    JRKul393 wrote: i personally dont really feel bad downloading music because the actual artist hardly receives anything from cd sales. most of it goes to the record labels, who have been jewing musicians out of money since their inception so **** em
    your still taking money from the musicians AND the label. the record companies need album sales too. if a record company isnt making money because people dont buy the records then they have no reason to release the musicians album. if no one buys an album the record company wont release another one. so by not paying the record company your really just ****ing over your favorite band, regardless of how little money they are actually getting.
    jhalterman
    lol, the only reason I do this downloading crap is because I have no money xD Honestly, though, if I had the cash, I'd buy CD's like they were going out of style (hopefully I won't live to see that day). Kids my age just don't like CD's anymore, I guess. I prefer something tangible over this "download the whole album online" bullsh*t. I NEED LINER NOTES!!! Besides, my stereo system beats out all iPod-only players 8)
    cheesecakes4
    If you call your music your business, then you're allowed to whine. If you call your music your passion, then you shouldn't even be taking money for it.
    lmpguitarist
    i love how this article attempts to ignore the debate, and just give good alternatives, but all you a$$holes on this comment board just debate downloading vs. not downloading...
    martyr1130
    JRKul393 wrote: i personally dont really feel bad downloading music because the actual artist hardly receives anything from cd sales. most of it goes to the record labels, who have been jewing musicians out of money since their inception so **** em
    Yeah but dude, without the labels making money off of the band, they have no reason to keep the band around, do they? Without us buying that CD, the band becomes expendable, and they won't be making music for very much longer once they become expendable.
    Kapalen
    I agree, that's cool. It's totally cool that you're fine with it, it just bugs me that it got out somewhere that artists make more touring, and its just not true, so I like to shed some light when I see that brought up.
    Kapalen
    Wait a second, what do you even mean really worth it? If they're not performing live, and your motivation to buy the album is its a good album, what are you trying to see their worth of? Its not like a tryout to buy tickets if there are none.
    RDSElite
    They know what they're getting themselves intoeven though they know they should've gotten Toaster Strudels instead; they still got PopTarts. Why? Nice one.
    buttcord
    lol at anyone who makes music and whines that its not paying their bills
    JRKul393
    i personally dont really feel bad downloading music because the actual artist hardly receives anything from cd sales. most of it goes to the record labels, who have been jewing musicians out of money since their inception so **** em
    BigHeadClan
    Agree with JRKul393, if anything I think downloading artist music is good I wouldn't know half the bands I do if not for people streaming music or downloading it and getting the wrong song and then liking how they sound. Although I still buy my favorite bands Cd's. The universe can end and all things would die out and pop-tarts would still taste like cardboard I'd imagine
    -Vasa-
    You forgot that people simply hate being limited. If you sell your music, don't sell a 'license' to listen to it in a predetermined format on predetermined amount of devices. If there is a European store where I can buy music at the price of iTunes, without having to install an application that spies on me and installs software I don't need, and gives me the music in the format of my choosing without trying to restrict the way I consume the music, point me to it, please. Because I can't seem to find it. And from there you get down to the convenience arguement. Sometimes when I want to do what's morally right, I'll buy the album and only after that download it, as I don't feel like ripping it and editing the tags everytime. Also, why do you assume musicians don't download music? All the real (albeit local) artists I personally know download music themselves ...
    dimlight2
    I think it has to do with accessing to music, there's a chilean Band that i love, Dorso, and i can't find music in any store, i'm sorry i had to downloaded some of their stuff, but if there's a store with Big monster adventure, i buy that record in a sec. And bands, musicians should adapt to these days, selling songs shouldn't be a major income, how can you stop something so huge as the computers and gadgets, i mean selling records today won't make you rich, seriously!! and it doesn't only affects music, it affects movies, comics, etc. But here's a little theory of mine, if the product is great, people are gonna buy it anyway, i mean i have bought RIDE THE LIGHTNING 3 times, because it got scratched or stolen, but the point is, that is a great product, and it deserves it, in other words, make it worth the cost.
    barkingcorndog
    I have another reason to add to the list: I bought the LP (vinyl) and want the mp3s to listen to on my portable music player. Some bands include download codes (Them Crooked Vultures) and some include a CD (Alice in Chains), but most seem to expect me to buy the vinyl AND the CD if I want to listen to it in my car.
    Campbell22
    one thing that I think people don't understand is that, even if label do get an high percentage of CD sales, if no one buys the CD of a band, well the band, maybe, won't get a contract extention, so they won't get paid anymore for offering to us their music. so it's a way to support the band you love so they can continue making a living off of what theyu love to do, new bands, really need those sales I say.
    humanjacket
    when it comes to downloading music the artists that will truely suffer are the small acts. with those smaller acts money is tight so by downloading and not purchasing you could really be hindering a band you like. when a smaller band has more money they can throw it right back into production thus making the product better (in some cases...). big acts on major labels dont need the money from record sales the rolling stones made 500 million on thier last tour. so, will they be seeing my money when it comes to record sales, most likely not. but this makes you look at the bigger picture has always been about the live show and in the article they speak hear it, like it, buy it. it should be more along the lines of download/listen/concert. tours are generally were they make the most profit and what the fan enjoys most. lastly, i dont think anything will stop me from downloading music and the "man" will have to just accept it.
    guitarpatrick66
    I know with my band we encourage our fans to download our music. We arnt going to get super rich if they do buy all our music our fanbase just isnt big enough to get much money off of it so we would rather just let them have the music for free and spread the word.
    Kapalen
    I didn't say they don't play live. Let me point out real quick that for a large portion of their career the beatles didn't tour, ANY. I just said they make MORE from record sales. It has nothing to do with why they're doing it. If you want to be a musician for a living, you have to MAKE A LIVING doing it. If people don't pay for your product you can't do that. If a car salesman said, yeah take this car, it's cool, I know you'll like it and buy another one, they'd go outta business. Its the same with every kind of business.
    nigeltheginger
    -Vasa- wrote: You forgot that people simply hate being limited. If you sell your music, don't sell a 'license' to listen to it in a predetermined format on predetermined amount of devices. If there is a European store where I can buy music at the price of iTunes, without having to install an application that spies on me and installs software I don't need, and gives me the music in the format of my choosing without trying to restrict the way I consume the music, point me to it, please. Because I can't seem to find it.
    Amazon fulfils most of those requirements
    -Vasa-
    nigeltheginger wrote: Amazon fulfils most of those requirements
    To quote amazon "We're sorry. We could not process your order because of geographical restrictions on the product which you were attempting to purchase. Please refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions. We apologize for the inconvenience. " It seems I can only do that from the UK. (Let me know if you know how to bypass that please) In response to some other comments, why would little bands suffer more? I've heard this all before, but I don't see this happening. Just monday I went to the EP release of one of them, and although it was only a small hall they performed in (150 or so people), almost everybody there bought the EP. And really, it seems this discussion comes to life with every new medium that comes into play: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/2010100... n-t-universal-music-let-you-see-the-20-20-report-from-1980-a bout-how-the-music-industry-is-dying.shtml
    dynamitejack
    If you're in the music industry to make money then maybe you should re-evaluate you're priorities. When a staff of music starts with a dollar sign rather than a treble clef you get music much like what is heard on MTV. Are you making music because you are passionate about it and want other people hear your work or because you want to make a buck? An artist should be after the heart and mind of a crowd, not their wallet. I know that if it hadn't been for file sharing I would be missing out on a lot of good bands, and a lot of good bands would have missed out on my ticket and merch sales (which I believe contributes a much more significant portion to an artists income).
    rocker222
    four good reasons to have people file sharing your music 1. makes you more popular 2. gets your name out 3. gains fans 4. pineapples
    Kapalen
    rocker222 wrote: four good reasons to have people file sharing your music 1. makes you more popular 2. gets your name out 3. gains fans 4. pineapples
    That's 3 ways to say one thing, +pineapples. And it annoys me when people say its ok to download because artists don't get any money from greedy labels then in the same breath talk abou thow they find obscure bands downloading, when the two don't go together. If a band is on an indie label, MOST of those aren't big evil greedy labels and actually give the artist a good chunk of the sales. Big label=big sales needed to break even for the artist smaller label=smaller number of records they need to sell to make the money. Its an artist by artist basis whether or not they make more touring or from albums, its not the same for everyone. And don't forget, 4 guys making music and not getting paid to do so isn't a band, it's 4 waiters who play music in the garage because they can't afford to record or distribute.
    rocker222
    ill tell you a secret (looks both ways) bands make most of the money at shows. the more of your music that gets around =probably the more fans you will have going to your shows. also music is about having a realy good time, making a band and playing gigs. its not about that green stuff ps pineapples are a good reason.
    Kapalen
    rocker222 wrote: ill tell you a secret (looks both ways) bands make most of the money at shows. the more of your music that gets around =probably the more fans you will have going to your shows. also music is about having a realy good time, making a band and playing gigs. its not about that green stuff ps pineapples are a good reason.
    As i just said, thats not a fact, some artist make more from album sales. and NOT just big names. I've known, personaly, as in not famous but guys who record in their bedroom, who make more from albums than touring, and more importantly, make a living out of it.
    rocker222
    Kapalen wrote: rocker222 wrote: ill tell you a secret (looks both ways) bands make most of the money at shows. the more of your music that gets around =probably the more fans you will have going to your shows. also music is about having a realy good time, making a band and playing gigs. its not about that green stuff ps pineapples are a good reason. As i just said, thats not a fact, some artist make more from album sales. and NOT just big names. I've known, personaly, as in not famous but guys who record in their bedroom, who make more from albums than touring, and more importantly, make a living out of it.
    so they are only doing it for cash? and they are not performing live so i can see if they realy are worth it?
    Damaged Roses
    Another reason you didn't say: They don't care a shit about the artist and don't feel like paying por music...