Weekly Web Watch: Artists Against Piracy - but all in favor of some free publicity

Music means a lot to me. If my house were on fire, I would first make sure the wife and kids were OK. Then I’d probably risk a bit of smoke inhalation to grab Exile on Main Street and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Music means a lot to me. If my house were on fire, I would first make sure the wife and kids were OK. Then I’d probably risk a bit of smoke inhalation to grab Exile on Main Street and Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Music means a lot to me. If my house were on fire, I would first

make sure the wife and kids were OK. Then I’d probably risk a bit of

smoke inhalation to grab Exile on Main Street and Darkness on the Edge

of Town.



Professionally, it just so happens that I’m able to witness a true

return to anarchy in the music business, as file-sharing technologies

and other digital delivery mechanisms are allowing new artists to get a

fair hearing through the Internet. This revolution in marketing and

artist development means a lot to me.



Apparently it means a lot to the music industry’s PR and promotional

machine as well. Two weeks ago, an artistic cyberpalooza of heavy

hitters, has-beens and their corporate sponsors banded together ’to give

recording artists a voice in determining how their music is distributed

on the Internet.’ The new consortium is called Artists Against Piracy

(AAP). It launched what it called an educational campaign with full-page

ads in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Wall

Street Journal. The ad was endorsed by 70 recording artists, such as

Aimee Mann, Alanis Morissette, Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera, DMX, Faith

Hill, Garth Brooks, Hanson and Herbie Hancock.



No disrespect meant to the cause of Artists Against Piracy. I think that

if a musician is fortunate enough to make music that people want to

spend their money on, they should be paid for that. The problem I have

is the transparent PR game the big record labels are playing. I never

knew a band called ’Kent’ even existed, nor ’Fisher’ nor ’Saliva,’ let

alone that they were Artists Against Piracy. Yet, there they were in the

same arranged breath as Queen and Herbie Hancock.



I don’t mean to exaggerate. But looking at the rest of the list, it

struck me that coming out against Napster is the next best thing to

getting played on MTV for an up-and-coming band. I’ve never heard of

’Innosence’ and a quick look at Billboard’s top sellers tells me I’m not

ignorant. But I know now that they exist, because they’ve had their name

splashed out as big as any other.



Is this clever PR? No. It’s a transparent and manipulative way to get

exposure in an industry where exposure is as rare as diamonds and just

as expensive. The bands that have ’come out’ against Napster are the

same bands that in all likelihood will profit from file sharing there.

Napster and similar sites are spreading the word about bands that

’bubble under the top 100.’ They are not harming the Sarah

McLachlans.



This AAP effort isn’t the only initiative that arouses my suspicion.



The organization launched notice of its existence and its ad campaign on

the same day that the Senate held another round of hearings on Napster

and the piracy issue. Metallica should have sent Lars Ulrich back into a

studio where he belongs instead of belaboring his stand on Capitol

Hill.



And what, pray tell, was Roger McGuinn, who hasn’t sold a record since

the Reagan Administration, doing at that hearing? Getting his mug next

to Lars Ulrich in the Times, that’s what.



So when I hear things like ’Madonna Protests As Single Appears as MP3

Download,’ I take it with a boatload of salt. I didn’t know she had a

new single coming out, but I sure do now.





John Gaffney is associate editor of Revolution. He can be contacted at

John.Gaffney@revolutionmagazine.com Stovin Hayter is on vacation.



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