If we expect musicians to perform for nothing, there won’t be any left

Even though it's been shown that the people who pirate the most are the people who pay the most, tickets are expensive and touring fees are a rip-off.

Share

Who would have guessed that the people of Manchester – the city that brought us The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and New Order – are such big fans of Ed Sheeran? But if the figures are to be believed, they must be. Manchester is the piracy capital of the UK, according to a survey of the nation’s illegal downloading habits. And Sheeran’s album, +, is the most pirated album so far this year.

Since I have never knowingly listened to Ed Sheeran, as he looks too baby-faced and wholesome for my raddled tastes, I can’t tell you if the pirates are making a good choice in their law-breaking. What I can tell you is that Sheeran himself seems largely unfazed: he told Radio 1 that he has found a decent balance between people pinching his music from the Net, but then paying for his concert tickets.

This seems like a wise response: plenty of studies have shown that the people who pirate the most music or films or television are also the people who pay for the most. Pursue the pirates too vigorously, and you criminalise your fans, the ones most likely to buy concert tickets, T-shirts, posters and the rest.

But even live music doesn’t pay what it used to. Ticket prices grow more stratospheric every year, but that isn’t always trickling down to the performers. A hefty chunk is taken by the venues and ticket agencies, whose booking fees are now so big that the comedian Sarah Millican has dumped one theatre group from her next tour in protest.

And while Millican performs solo, so can at least take the majority of profits from her work, other performers struggle. The US singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer has upset musicians because she is recruiting “professional-ish” string and horn players to play her tour dates for hugs and beer. And while plenty of musicians may well be willing to work with an artist they admire for pin money, doing it for hugs is a step down. Try paying the rent with beer and hugs, and see how far that gets you (obviously, don’t try this if you have a pervy landlord).

Palmer funded her last record with $1.2m of fan donations, so her audience is big, and financially committed to her work. Couldn’t she have gone back to Kickstarter (the fundraising website) and asked them to contribute another couple of bucks each for the trumpet players?

The vast majority of musicians earn very little. As listeners, we need to decide how much we want them to be able to continue. If we don’t buy their records, we can’t really complain when the charts are filled with nothing but trustafarians wearing Jimi Hendrix T-shirts. 

Note to charities: be nice to donors.

Earlier this summer, I had a first: a completely plain letter from a charity I support – no leaflets, no disposable pens, no stickers with my address on – asking for a donation. The charity admitted that it got very negative feedback when it sent out the free crap. None of us, it seems, wants a cheap calendar.

But it also pointed out that it gets more money when it sends out freebies, so this was a test run to see if it got the same return. As blackmail goes, give us your money or we pelt  you with junk is a sound move. I sent a cheque.

This week, it sent another letter with a lowest suggested donation of double what I usually give. I had to write the amount of my usual donation in the “Other Amount” box, like a cheapskate. I know charities have to make money, especially in a recession. But this one has removed some of the joy of giving – I now feel scabby instead of generous. Isn’t it a risk that if people can’t feel good about giving, they won’t give at all?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn