Posted: Aug 19, 2019
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest post written by Wade Sutton of Rocket to the Stars Artist Services.
"I know what I’m about to say is going to ruffle a lot of feathers because I posted something about this on my personal Facebook page and it stirred up a proverbial hornet’s nest.
A few weeks ago it occurred to me that I had recently seen multiple posts on Facebook from artists and songwriters asking for information on how to “jailbreak” devices like the Amazon Firestick and the Google Chromecast. Those are the gadgets you plug into your television to stream video from services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Jailbreaking those devices allows users to download applications so they can watch pirated content like movies currently in theaters.
I had a big problem with this because I had seen past posts from many of these same artists expressing outrage about people not wanting to pay for their music, streaming companies like Spotify and Google undervaluing songwriters and about how their family and friends won’t support them by coming to their shows or buying their music.
So the question I posed to them on Facebook was this: If you won't respect somebody's art enough to pay for it, what makes you think you deserve the same in return?
You would have thought I had thrown a hand grenade into a room full of kittens.
Look, I knew that post was going to make some artists ... particularly those I was calling out ... feel uncomfortable. But what amazed me was how many of them ultimately attempted to justify the behavior of stealing art.
One singer-songwriter wrote several lengthy replies blaming the overpriced cost of cable television as the reason why people jailbreak the devices ... which I agree is a big part of the reason but she was completely missing the point that doing this is a matter of theft of art, which is something that every single musician and songwriter should be against. That particular string of replies became so heated, she eventually deleted her comment from the thread.
When I brought up the hypocrisy of many artists on this subject in another thread, one artist attempted to argue that some bands wouldn’t be nearly as popular now had fans not been illegally downloading their music. It melts my brain to think that one artist’s perception of the morality of stealing art sways based upon the success the victim has during their career.
And, yes, I used the word victim to describe them because that is exactly what they are. Just like the artists using these devices would be victims if somebody were stealing their music.
Imagine if one of your songs was licensed for a television series and you were supposed to get paid each time that show aired or was streamed on Netflix ... but then think about the money you would lose if tens of thousands of people were streaming it illegally.
Now it doesn’t seem so much like a victimless crime, does it?
And that is the thing. All of these people who work on television shows and movies are artists just like you. They are actors and actresses who moved to Hollywood with dreams of making it big, spending day after day being rejected in auditions while family members told them to give it up and get a “real job.”
They are directors and videographers and composers and screenwriters and novelists who have had their books adapted and ... you get the point. Those are the artists being screwed out of money they earned. Their art might not look the same as what you create but it is still art.
And allow me to point out here that, much like in the music business, the vast majority of artists working in television and film are not celebrities raking in millions. Almost all of them are scraping by just like almost all of you.
I know the number of artists and songwriters jailbreaking these devices is most certainly a minority but the rest of you, those scratching and clawing for every single penny your art puts into your pocket, have an obligation to call these people out when you see them doing this.
If Rome is going to burn because I pointed out this hypocrisy, so be it. As a community of artists, we must do better when it comes to piracy of any kind ... not just our own."
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Wade Sutton is the founder of Rocket to the Stars, an artist services record label with clients around the world. He is also the creator and host of The Six-Minute Music Business Podcast, which can be heard on all major streaming services. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for artists, he was a featured speaker during the 2018 Music Entrepreneur Conference at Harvard University. You can learn more about him by visiting www.RockettotheStars.com.