Artists go to war over illegal file-sharing

Lily Allen accuses established stars of holding back new talent

Deep trenches are being dug within the music industry as artists battle each other over how they might best deal with the advances in file-sharing technology.

The extent to which musicians are starkly divided was exposed in an angry salvo by Lily Allen, in which she blamed several other performers for advancing the cause of music piracy.

Allen, 24, was infuriated by the Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, 65, Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, 41, and other experienced artists who have opposed government proposals to crack down on music piracy and have publicly backed the online swapping of songs – which, when done for free away from registered vendors, means the artists receive no cut.

The singer castigated the pair, accusing them of trying to make it harder for youthful talent to emerge.

She singled out Mason and O'Brien by name but her online rant was also aimed at other popular and experienced artists such as Annie Lennox, Tom Jones, Sandy Shaw and Billy Bragg.

Allen was upset by a newspaper article the older musicians had contributed to as members of the Featured Artists Coalition (FAC) in which they demanded the government allow illicit file-sharing to continue.

The older musicians had made their stand for file-sharing after Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, proposed punishing people who file-shared repeatedly by temporarily disconnecting them from the internet as part of measures against music piracy.

After learning of the stand made by the established performers, Allen used her MySpace web page to launch an online tirade against them.

"I think music piracy is having a dangerous effect on British music, but some really rich and successful artists like Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and Ed O'Brien from Radiohead don't seem to think so," she said.

"These guys from huge bands said file sharing music is fine. It probably is fine for them. They do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world. For new talent though, file sharing is a disaster as it's making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge."

Allowing file sharing would, she said, so inhibit the emergence of fresh talent that British music would be reduced to "nothing but puppets paid for by Simon Cowell". She added: "Basically the FAC is saying 'We're alright, we've made it, so file sharing's fine,' which is just so unfair to new acts trying to make it in the industry. You don't start out in music with the Ferraris."

O'Brien had argued that file-sharing was the contemporary equivalent of his generation's practice as teenagers of "taping your mate's music" and that by sampling tracks like that they were encouraged to go out and buy much more of what they liked.

Part of the FAC's support for file-sharing is based on research which suggests the that people who do it will actually spend more on music than those who don't.

"There is evidence that repeat file-sharers of music are also repeat purchasers of music, movies, documentaries etc," they said.

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