Pedro Winter talks Piracy

The French electro star convenes a ‘Global Fresh Collective’ in New York to talk musical piracy and collaboration.

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The issue of piracy in the music industry is a particularly thorny one that was tackled by the GFC Vision conference in New York which Dazed Digital was invited to attend. Miller Genuine Draft had taken the rather unusual step of asking Ed Banger Records’ (and ex Daft Punk manager) Pedro Winter to recruit a team of 10 international creatives which ranged from a Panamanian graffiti artist to a DJ from Russia. Together they were known by the name of Global Fresh Collective or GFC who assembled on a sunny June day, at the beautiful Gothic edifice of The Angel Orensanz Foundation on the Lower East Side.

The initial set up where each member of the GFC introduced themselves and what they did was an interesting exercise in ‘Lost in Translation’. Things only kicked into gear when the ever affable Winter introduced ex pirate DJ and writer Matt Mason to chair the session entitled “After The Revolution, is Free The Future?” As author of “The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Youth Culture Reinvented Capitalism” Mason begun the discussion by stating that pirates were among the greatest innovators in the world, often creating new media or new ways to access them.  The roots of piracy in the music industry started with the renegade pirate stations broadcasting rock n’ roll from outside The English Channel in the 50’s which eventually led to the creation of BBC Radio 1. Pirates, argued Mason, were effective as they harnessed the power of the audience, often creating an impact that makes big corporations sit up and pay attention to fresh ideas. We see parallels with the clothing industry with Bathing Ape appropriating Nike’s Air Dunks to their own devices, which eventually led to Nike themselves ripping off BAPE. I disagreed when a techno artist from South Korea wondered out loud whether downloading music for free made music more disposable. A good song is a good song and will stick in your head for as long as you’ll allow it, as evidenced by a quick look at my iTunes Top 25 playlist where some songs have chalked up 80 plays and counting. I’m not admitting whether it’s Britney or not…

What is clear is that the traditional model where an artist makes money from album sales is a thing of the past. There’s no doubt that times are changing for the record industry. Radiohead started reverberations when they offered ‘In Rainbows’ for free, leaving it to fans to decide how much they wanted to pay for it. More recently, Patrick Wolf left his major label, Universal and set up Bandstocks which led to him taking control of his back catalogue and let fans invest and become shareholders in his current album, “The Bachelor”. Despite initial scepticism, Wolf managed to raise over £100,000 which has enabled him to fund the follow up.

More and more, we are seeing artists take control of their own commercial fate, wrestling power back from the major record labels, which must now seem like lumbering dinosaurs, slow to respond to their own decline. The big challenge now of course, is how to harness the endless possibilities of the internet and still ensure artists get paid their due. The emergence of Spotify, where listeners can pick a playlist from 25 million songs, only enduring short commercials for the privilege, seems like a step in the right direction. Speaking to Winter after the conference, he said, “I don’t think of the kids, our fans, as thieves. I have no problem with kids downloading our music.  After all I think music was overvalued by the big record labels like EMI and SONY. As an artist, we do it because we love it and we want as many people to listen to our music. We must think of new ways now of consuming music.”
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