Wimpy kid on the playground: artist’s perspective on illegal downloading (opinion column)

Kevin VanAntwerpen

When the boys in Chasing the Sky and I recorded our debut EP, “The Empty Chair”, we spent hundreds of hours in the studio and dropped almost $8,000 (most of which was generously donated) in the process. That being said, if you can find our album on a torrent website – go for it. If your roommate wants you to burn him a copy, burn him four.

You might ask why.

Believe it or not, illegal downloading actually benefits the artists, especially those who operate independently. Let me explain.

With the exception of our rugged charm, we Chasing the Sky boys are most proud of our rationality. Being rational, we realize that we’re the wimpy kids on a playground full of 500-pound bullies. We have to compete for the listener’s attention against major-label acts, and if we play the game their way, we’re going to get a black eye and lose our lunch money. The big-name artists have more brawn, coming in the form of promotional companies, radio play, worldwide tours and placements in movies and Super Bowl commercials. We only have elbow grease and a small, yet dedicated group of people who believe in us.

With all these odds stacked up against us, we aim to be heard any way we can. If that means playing a show a week for six months straight, we’ll do it. If it means losing a bit of cash from CD sales in the greater interest of the band, we’ll gladly pay the price.

You see, music fans tend to share music they love with their friends. They play it on road trips. They turn up the stereo so loud that the neighbors can hear. If that allows for one of our songs to get stuck in someone’s head, all the better. The best advertisements for any musician are the ones that superglue a catchy melody to someone’s ears and make a fan to say to a friend, “Hey! Dude! Check these guys out. They’re legit.”

Additionally, there is more money to be made from ticket and T-shirt sales than there ever will be made from selling CDs. Fans who download our album are infinitely more likely to show face at a concert (where our lovely merchandise girl effectively sells everyone a T-shirt) than someone who hasn’t heard us at all. That fan probably won’t go alone either, which allows us to perform in front of a few more fresh ears.

We’re not the first artists to subscribe to this notion, either. Many other notable artists, such as 30 Seconds to Mars and Silverstein, both of whom have had successful careers, have been known to encourage their fans to find the albums online if they can’t afford to shell out the cash.

This isn’t to say we wouldn’t like it if you paid full price for our album. It’s nice to have extra cash to buy drinks for the cute girls who like our music. But we’re musicians, and we understand what it’s like to be broke. We’d rather you grab our album for free on the Internet than never hear it at all.

We just ask that if you don’t like it, you pass it along to someone you hate.

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