I am troubled by the heaping pile of dung, in the form of Canada’s Bill C-32, that is attempting to foist an American-style DMCA on unsuspecting and distracted Canadian consumers and, frankly, have been waiting to voice my opinion on said excrement. Â Michael Geist, in his own kind and gentle manner, has today posited a truly worthy target for my rage in Loreena McKennitt.
Loreena, whom we in the mainstream don’t seem to have heard from since .. well, when did we hear from her last, exactly? has got herself all in a tither claiming that File Sharing is affecting everything from Tour Managers to Artists to Popcorn Vendors. Â We’ve heard this rhetoric before. Â Honestly I thought this line of logic so laughable when I first read it months ago that I assumed it would die… but apparently not so if you’re an obscure Canadian folk artist with high aspirations — and a soft spot for corn growers, of course.
But here’s the thing: Â She seems quick to blame file sharers for her woes. Â So I did a quick search of ThePirateBay for her music. Â I found 250 sharers, and fewer than 100 downloaders. Â These are numbers surely boosted by yesterday’s article but are not by any meansÂ earth-shattering. Â Music Sharing site What.CD has more than 1000 sharers but only 5 downloaders. Â Your results may vary, of course, but look around for a massively popular artist like Lady Gaga and you won’t have enough hours in the day to count the sources. Â You’d think Gaga would be pissed!
On the other hand, McKennitt should be sending thank-you letters to all of those downloaders. Â I happen to believe that file-sharing, as a microcosm of the broader consumer market, is an accurate measure of relevance. Â And it reveals a possibility which Loreena McKennitt might be quick to overlook: Â that she is an irrelevant artist playing largely irrelevant music, and not completely coincidentally holds irrelevant opinions on file sharing, downloading, fair use, and copyright. Â This would explain the financial woes she seems to allude to, but also the supreme disconnect she seems to have with her audience, the market in general, and the music industry as a whole.
Her industry is sufferingÂ not because of the advent of this new technology, but insteadÂ because it has failed (consistently) to adapt to every emergent consumer technology since the 1960s. Â That head-in-the-sand mentality has now caught up with them because the Interweb has brought something to the party that home taping never could before it: Â Scale. Â Within that broader failure it might just be possible that the interest and demand for the kind of music she enjoys creating and performing (some of it very good) is just not high enough to support a full-time professional career.
But then again, tell that to The Chieftains. Â Or any among the other dozen or so globally famous and practically mainstream Celtic performers. Â Irrespective of record sales, these artists make a healthy living by touring and licensing their music. Â But that’s a problem for Loreena. Â In her editorial she seems to want us to feel sorry that she has to go on tour to make a living because she will miss her kids. Â This is a sincere argument?
If so, then my advice is simple: Â get a desk job — music is clearly not for you, Loreena. Â Lady Gaga doesn’t seem to have a problem with people sharing her music. Â But then again, she’s an artist who likes to create and perform music; Gaga is lucky enough to be creating music that lots of people (excluding me) enjoy; and her fame and income are a convenient and welcome side-effect.
Loreena McKennitt’s real problem is not that people are stealing her music and thus not buying her music. Â The problem is Loreena has lost the bead on (or never knew) how to connect with her audience. Â And now, sadly, that audience is very small and rather far-flung. Â Loreena seems to think that the internet’s contribution to the music industry is limited to static web sites, tweets scribed by underlings and boring Facebook accounts — and sees ghouls and ne’er-do-wells around every digital corner rather than looking upon social web technologies, as have so many other artists, as a life preserver and (dare I say) growth tool.
So you see, Loreena… your woes cannot be attributed to the fact that your fans are stealing your music — it’s quite possible, given the evidence at hand, that there simply are not enough people in the world that are interested in your music at all to support you professionally.
Hint: if you think writing Op/Ed pieces supporting unconstitutional and unenforceable legislation is a great way to connect with and expand your audience, my guess is you’re probably wrong. Â Waiting for politicians to solve your problems, whatever they might be, is a pretty bad strategy — and your expectation that C-32 will somehow alleviate the woes affecting your industry are deeply misplaced. Â Politicians don’t solve your problems, they solve their problems.