Posted in music on September 22, 2009

Lily Allen @ Roseland Ballroom (more by Natasha Ryan)
Lily Allen

"I havent written on here for a while but I've taken the time to write this as I think music piracy is having a dangerous effect on British music, but some really rich and successful artists like Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and Ed O'Brien from Radiohead don't seem to think so. Last week in an article in the Times these guys from huge bands said file sharing music is fine. It probably is fine for them. They do sell-out arena tours and have the biggest Ferrari collections in the world. For new talent though, file sharing is a disaster as it's making it harder and harder for new acts to emerge." [Lily Allen on MySpace, September 14, 2009]
On September 20th Lily Allen started a blog called "It's Not Alright". Her first post was a letter by James Blunt that started with the line "Lily is our Leader". Other posts include a letter from Tim Rice Oxley from Keane, one from Matt Bellamy from Muse, and, ironically, a post about 50 Cent that she lifted without credit from Techdirt. She has since, sort of, apologized. There are also posts by/about Mark Ronson, The Futureheads, Patrick Wolf, and Bat For Lashes' Natasha Khan.



Comments (58)

Nick Mason is selling out arenas?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 10:40 AM

I have no problem with Lily's stance on filing sharing. I know that an artist only get around $1 a record and most of it goes to the record company but musicians deserve to make money off their records. I think its time to put an end to all file sharing sites. However I don't have a problem with downloading audio and video bootlegs.

Why should artists work for months and months to create a masterpiece in the studio only for all to steal for free. Its just not right.

And no, this is not Lars Ulrich talking.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 10:49 AM

James Blunt is still alive?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 10:50 AM

I agree that musicians deserve to get paid, and if you like an album you should buy it. But most bands make their money off of touring.

There are many bands I would have never heard of, were it not for file sharing. Bands I have grown to love. Bands I have paid to see in concert. And bought their T-shirts, and concert prints. There are a lot of CDs I have bought, because someone gave me a "pirated" copy of their album first.

You can't hear them on the radio. You can't see them on Mtv. File sharing is the best way to get exposure for a band in this day and age. Without file sharing, the popularity of a band would be dependent upon the effectiveness of a label's marketing department, and not the quality of the actual music.

The perfect example for this is WILCO. Their label said they had no viable single for their record and dropped them. The album leaked online. Everyone listened to it. A bidding war started, and a year after the leak, it was released officially. They sold way more copies of that album than anything they had previously released.

Posted by Kurt C. | September 22, 2009 11:06 AM

no one would listen to music if it weren't for filesharing

you don't make your $ on units - but on tickets

when did making an album become about your financial compensation instead of expression? does lily allen sit down with her tracklist and crunch the numbers on how much $ each song is making her - and maybe if she worked just a little harder on this one track she could add another zero in front of its decimal point?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:12 AM

^ no need to crunch numbers when mommy and daddy are rich

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:16 AM

So what is an artist suppose to do then, give away all their music for free on the internet and hope people come to see them?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:17 AM

How quaint.

Maybe this is slightly naive of me, but is file sharing as big a problem any more? Anytime i hear of a band and want to know what they sound like i go straight to myspace/youtube to see what they are like. I spend 10 hours a day at either my work or home computers. I rarely bother to download anything since i can hear most anything i want through wearehunted/pandora/last mp3 blogs etc. Eventually if i listen to something enough I really like it, I either copy it off my mates or buy it on itunes (50/50 split).

I dont disagree, that the overall incentive system needs changing. Didnt south korea have such a problem years ago that they switched to the cable TV model (pay a monthly charge, listen to anything you want). I reckon thats whats coming.

Posted by clairepetrol | September 22, 2009 11:21 AM

Wilco was still a pretty large band when that happened, at least relatively speaking. Their already built in fan base and the fact that the record was done and paid for was a pretty sweet pick up for any label, so there is no surprise a bidding war happened. It was also 2002 back then. Things have gotten much worse since.

I just speak from experience, I put out what would be considered a pretty successful release for an artist and we're still not close to breaking even. And it's not like we completely broke the bank with promotion. We didn't come close by a lot of standards, and it'll be a while before the label or the artist sees a penny of profit and can put out another release.

People like to talk about how artists make their money on the road. That becomes true on a certain level, but while they're making their way there it helps when people buy CDs at shows instead of go home to find it free online. And who puts them on the road with tour support when they're still too small to draw an audience in the midwest? Who puts up the couple of grand needed for a couple of days of studio time and a mastering job if they don't have it saved up on their own cause they're too busy paying rent on a practice space and a van? Who pays for the promo mailing of the CDs to college radio and blogs/magazines (not many mags left since labels can't afford to buy adds)? Tiny mom and pop labels. And when tiny labels struggle to get by on really low investment for a decently successful release it doesn't help the chances of a band looking to break out to a wider audience. It means there are less people out there with the resources needed to put out an album for them and give them a shot at making it to another level.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:26 AM


Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:26 AM

Thats funny file sharing is killing new artists?? Doesnt Lily realize that she doesnt make anything off of her record sales anyways??

Maybe if more artists actually put on a show and performed without some fake ass lip syncing over iTunes backing tracks, maybe Lily could sell out shows and fill an arena like Nick Mason and Pink Floyd havent done since 1994.

Posted by Monotremata | September 22, 2009 11:27 AM

Maybe these bands aren't seeing the $$$ cause they suck?

Posted by Bob | September 22, 2009 11:27 AM

11:26, I'm curious to know who you are? I may not know much about the music business, but starting a band with little to no money is not a wise endeavour, no? Shouldn't you save or find investors to do it properly?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:33 AM

Ha, starting a band with investors? That's rich.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:37 AM

How did WILCO become a popular band? It wasn't on the radio. It wasn't on Mtv (I think 120 minutes played their only video once or twice)
Isn't all this newfangled technology enabling people to record albums without expensive studio time?
Do you still need to mail Promo CDs? All of this can be done electronically. Hell, Sirius was playing an MP3 they obviously grabbed off of an internet stream the other day.
Your carbon footprint, and money spent would be a lot less if you just emailed the radio station with a link, or an mp3/flac file attached.
i can just tell you from personal experience that I buy far more CDs than the average American does, and I download a lot of music. I go to a lot of concerts.
Studies have shown that the biggest downloaders of music are also the highest spending consumers. These people just LOVE MUSIC. They aren't trying to steal or hurt anyone. They just want to hear music. The people that the RIAA wants to prosecute because they are supposedly hurting the industry, are hte very people who are putting the most money in their pockets.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:37 AM


Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:39 AM

stop stealing from writers! they need to make a living too and crappy acts like Lilly Allen are making it harder and harder to be a freelance writer!

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:39 AM

An article from a few years back:

Empirical data on file-sharing's effect on album sales

Koleman Strumpf, a conservative, Cato-affiliated economist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has just co-authored a paper on the effects of file-sharing on album sales, based on the first-ever empirical data analysis in the field. Koleman watched the file requests on OpenNap servers (to get numbers on which albums' tracks are being downloaded) and compared them to the sales-figures for each album, correlating file-sharing popularity against sales data. His conclusion: file-sharing isn't killing record sales.

We analyze a large file sharing dataset which includes 0.01% of the world’s downloads from the last third of 2002. We focus on users located in the U.S. Their audio downloads are matched to the album they were released on, for which we have concurrent U.S. weekly sales data. This allows us to consider the relationship between downloads and sales. To establish causality, we instrument for downloads using technical features related to file sharing (such as network congestion or song length) and international school holidays, both of which are plausibly exogenous to sales. We are able to obtain relatively precise estimates because the data contain over ten thousand album-weeks...

Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale...high selling albums actually benefit from file sharing.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:42 AM


investors, as in, even a BANK LOAN

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:44 AM

Wilco had Being There, AM, and Summerteeth before Yankee. They got play on college and alt format radio, they toured around in a van and got put on good bills, got written about in the press because of promo mailings et. cetera et. cetera, and it was all paid for by Sire/Reprise/Warner.

And despite what you think you might know about the industry and the media when you're trying to get listened to and haven't been around for very long, an mp3 doesn't do you a whole hell of a lot of good when compared to something physical in the mail.

Yes, there are a lot of open minded individuals out there, but it's still really really hard to get anybodies attention if you're self-releasing something digitally.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:48 AM

Lily Allen is just as bad as the silly trust-fund kids playing dressup with Mommy and Daddy's money on Bedford who pretend to be poor.

Totally ridiculous.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:48 AM

"it's still really really hard to get anybodies attention if you're self-releasing something digitally."

you're right. you have to have a unique brand, or appeal to the genre/flavor/buzz of the month. it's hard times to be an 'average' rock band.

do something exciting or new

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:50 AM

"Lily is our Leader"

oh, this will end well.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:51 AM


How do you judge that the album you put out was successful if it didn't break even?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:58 AM

I had a friend in a band. The band was going to sign to a major label. After looking at his contract, he realized that if the album didn't sell a lot of copies (I don't recall the actual number), my friend would've owed the record label about 20,000 dollars. He quit the band. The band signed without him, got a new drummer and got a little bit of airplay on satellite radio.

The label is basically a loan shark. They get to make a risk free investment, and pray upon artists who desperately want to be on signed band.

If the labels MARKETING dept fails, the band owes the label money? Seriously?

Don't blame file sharing. Blame the pricks in the corner office.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:59 AM

What's really important is that Lily is hot, sometimes. Needed to be said. Discuss.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 12:01 PM

"when did making an album become about your financial compensation instead of expression?"

Somewhere over the last few Rolling Stones albums...

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 12:03 PM

boo frickin' hoo. work harder.

Posted by anon | September 22, 2009 12:07 PM

this chick has no clue about the positive effects file sharing and torrents have for emerging bands. what an idiot.. what an idiot. torrents and leaks are secretly exposed by record companies, lawyers and individual artists to get emerging exposure. I know this, why? I work in the industry and I have witnessed these meetings and consultations for years. .It's not just your friendly studio engineer that just so happens to click and drag the session onto the net my friends.. please refrain, lily, I'm sure you once agreed to be leaked also.. dumb ass..

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 12:14 PM

whether artists are cool with it or not, file sharing is still infringement under copyright law. I don’t see how the positive effects of file sharing are relevant if it’s done against the artist's wishes. i know that's a naive stance considering how widespread the problem is, but simply put, it's stealing. lily oviously isn't the best spokesperson for the anit-piracy/file sharing movement, which is unfortunate because her beef is legit.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 12:56 PM

Lily Allen is a tool. Compared to most people of the world she was well rich before she could even talk so as far as I care she can shove it up her ass.

Posted by portsmouth | September 22, 2009 1:19 PM

Sure it's illegal, but so is hemp. There are lot of things which are illegal which aren't bad.
Corporate interests always prevail over human interests in this world today.

When audio cassettes were released, the recording industry cried and screamed that it would kill the industry. It didn't.

When VCRs were released the motion picture industry screamed and cried that it was going to kill the movie industry. It didn't.

File sharing exists, and it isn't going to kill the music industry. It will change it. But it won't kill it, despite what the RIAA's lawyers tell you.

I welcome a world where big labels are removed from the equation and artists can have a direct relationship with the people who listen to them.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 1:30 PM

my beef is 2 legit 2 quit.

Posted by anon | September 22, 2009 1:42 PM

dear 1:30

the audio cassette/vcr argument is outdated, and flat out wrong as fuck. try harder. cuz file sharing is having those kind of effects and those effect will trickle down to things like touring. Read what the artists are saying before spouting off bullshit.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 1:53 PM

dear 1:53 : Citation needed.
Above there is an article linked with scientific evidence that file sharing is not hurting album sales.
Saying that the sky is falling does not make it so.
What evidence do you have that file sharing is hurting album sales, and hurting the overall revenue of artists?
Also, using curse words does not strengthen your argument. Also, learn to spell. Cuz is not a word cuz.
I would argue that the conglomeration of radio by companies like Clear Channel have marginalized the record industry, and made it so an even smaller number of artists has a chance to make it.

If anything, record labels are realizing that touring and merchandise is the real source of revenue that they would like to tap. That is why they are trying to sign "360" deals like they did with Paramore.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 2:21 PM

I'd like to thank Lily for giving away for free download those two hour-long mixtapes full of hers and others' recordings back when she started out.

Posted by J | September 22, 2009 2:40 PM

File sharing helps emerging artists more than it hurts. Every single time. In every case. From movies to music to books to everything. Radio is completely homogenized now, and it's virtually impossible to hear something new unless you're "stealing" it online. In the same way that artists 20 years ago understood the nature of record companies and how they would have to pay back every penny they borrowed to make an album and support it -- even if they think it's "fair" or not -- artists nowadays have to understand the nature of getting word out about your band, and how to do that you are going to have to give away your art for free to a certain (large) extent and make money elsewhere (touring, licensing, merch, etc).

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 2:59 PM

i'm no chapel hill economist, but it's hard to ignore the fact that the music industry (specifically, recorded music) has been shrinking for the last 10 years. to argue that file sharing has not played a significant part in the industry's free fall is absurd.

music has been devalued to the point where everyone expects it for free. most artists do not follow this romantic notion of just giving away their work. this is a business and their intellectual property should to be protected.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 3:02 PM

yawn. this debate was interesting 5 years ago.

who cares if lily allen decided to take a stand on a sinking ship.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 3:45 PM

The very existence of this blog completely contradicts the fact that it's "harder and harder for new acts to emerge" today vs., say, 10 years ago. What fucking world is she living in?

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 4:11 PM

Please note that all of the artists mentioned who are jumping on this I'm Not Alright bandwagon are artists who are bred by labels to produce singles:

Lily Allen, James Blunt, Muse, Keane.

Please note that the artists mentioned opposing this I'm Not Alright bullshit are artists who have put out some of the most innovative, important, amazing from start to finish records of all time.

If you expect to get paid for album sales, you should make a good album that appeals to an album-listening audience.

Posted by KATEWBUSH | September 22, 2009 4:23 PM

11:59-- According to what I've heard, any debt that a band owes its record label is forgiven if and when the label drops the band, so it's not as if a band is promising their firstborns to the label.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 5:50 PM

@3:02 PM

Network tv ratings and newspaper readership are also down. Members of those industries also blamed the internet and called for regulations to protect their bottom lines. I think the collapse of these industries along with the music industry is the consequence of failing to provide the public with what they want. The internet sped up the decline of a monoculture by allowing consumers to find exactly the information and entertainment that interests them.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 5:59 PM

Lily sucks,
Lily fuck you very much!

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 8:20 PM

Why don't we just turn over GM to the drivers. Hell, I'm in my car every day, I know how to run Chevrolet!

Or maybe cancer patients should draft the health care bill. Hell, they've been sick!

To let artists have the final say on file-sharing is like firing Derek Jeter and letting a fan play shortstop. Hell, I've watched a lot of baseball, I know what's involved!

You don't.

A great artist is just that. He couldn't design Facebook, couldn't create the iPod... His input is important, but just because he's affected by file-trading, that doesn't mean he understands it, has the right opinion on how to eradicate it, assuming that's the ultimate desire.

How long do we have to watch this movie? It's been ten years already, and one thing we've learned is the technologists are always one step ahead. Kind of like cable. When everyone was pirating pay channels by removing the filters on poles and under houses providers didn't win by suing people, but by coming up with a better mousetrap, scrambled digital transmission!

In other words, the solution to the file-trading problem is not legislative, it requires business innovation. Which I don't expect to come from Ms. Allen, I've never heard she was a good programmer.

Instead of bloviating, it's best to research. And even a casual Web-surfer, as opposed to a partier like Ms. Allen or a wannabe dad like Elton John, read TechCrunch's report on Daniel Ek's interview at the Glasshouse event at the Royal College of Physicians in London last week.

Mr. Ek, said 80% of Spotify users have stopped file-sharing.

That solves your problem right there, Ms. Allen. Why steal when you can get it on demand? Even mobile, with Spotify's iPhone app caching?

Then you have Richard Greenfield, of PaliResearch, stating last week that getting a little from a lot is better than the current model.

In other words, are you better off overcharging a few people for music, or getting everybody to pay a little?

I'm not living in a pipe dream. I realize the success of Spotify is not guaranteed. Can Ek generate enough paying customers? How much revenue will ultimately be generated? But working toward new models is a hell of a lot better than trying to keep fans in the past because you liked the twentieth century model better.

People are accustomed to having music at their fingertips. All of it. And if you don't come up with a business model that satiates them, they'll just steal it. Rather than castigate them, fulfill their desires. To think that cutting off Internet access is going to solve online theft (truly, copyright infringement), is to think that the RIAA suing downloaders will achieve the same thing. It won't and it didn't.

First, you can hide IP addresses.

Second, you can still transfer via instant messenger.

And third, of course, you can always hard drive swap.

You're just driving people further underground, you're not solving the problem.

There's a delusional fantasy that if file-trading was eradicated happy days would be here again. That suddenly, bands would sell a million copies a week. Diamond albums would return, never mind platinum. But the world has changed. There are too many diversions. And even in music, you're no longer restricted to what the machine purveys. You can surf online and check out all the acts your buddies have recommended.

And it's this ability, being able to sample, check things out, that has not only helped previously marginal acts, but threatened the old system. You can't prevent people from giving away their music. So, those who do will ultimately triumph. You might say that you don't tour, or you're a songwriter, and it's not fair, but since when has life been fair?

If Lily Allen were an American, she'd be committing career suicide.

But she's not.

And, oh right, she's never made it here! Because we just don't get it. How a not beautiful enough girl with a thin voice sings material she isn't completely responsible for and wants to be on the pop chart. Don't tell me it's solely about beauty, Amy Winehouse is not a looker, and she made it here, big time. But it is about talent. And we just don't think Lily has enough. And playing in the Top Forty world, it's about image, other things which Ms. Allen doesn't possess.

Also, in America, music is not a team sport. It's not like the U.K., where artists are embraced, despite occasional failings. Cross a line here, and you're screwed. You might get away with an apology, but disconnecting Internet? I doubt it's even legal. Because Web access is a basic right. What next, are supermarkets going to repossess the refrigerators of those who steal food?

Come on.

Has the music business been roiled, shaken hard by technological innovation?


But I'll tell you in America, what we had was not worth preserving. An industry selling overpriced CDs with one good track, the whole thing managed by overpaid executives telling "artists" what to do. Is this what we want?

Hell, that system was dependent on radio, which killed itself with twenty plus minutes of commercials per hour and static programming.

And MTV can't air videos profitably anymore when you can click online and see just what you want whenever you want.

You see the problem isn't the consumer. A lot of things changed. To scapegoat the consumer is to put forth the concept that artists like Lily Allen are entitled to their careers.

I don't care if she's successful. She's an entertaining Tweeter.

But Lily Allen is clueless when it comes to both the music business and the Internet. Then again, no one knew who she was over here, maybe this Web brouhaha will help her career, maybe it's all premeditated!

Then again, Metallica is still recovering from its anti-Napster stance. And how did these tech-ignorant musicians win back hearts and minds? By playing by the new rules, giving away more.

Lily and those across the pond should learn Metallica's lesson. Call up Lars and see what he has to say. Yes, their product should not be stolen. But first think of the fan, an act is nothing without its fans. Second, face business realities.

Lily Allen was fifteen when Lars and company made their stand. But just because she's ignorant, do we have to fight this battle one more time? Doesn't this prove that techies will rule the world? That you're better off getting an education than partying?

Make legendary music and you'll survive the new world Lily.

Because you're never going to make it on your smarts.

Posted by Bob Lefsetz | September 22, 2009 8:27 PM

Who in the fuck is this Bob Lefsetz guy? Seriously...

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 9:11 PM

More importantly

Lily MEHlen

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 9:26 PM

i started reading the incredibly long post and his analogies in the first paragraph were so ridiculously off that i stopped.

Posted by Anonymous | September 22, 2009 11:53 PM

yea, I didn't get the analogies either but the rest of it was quite good.

Posted by Anonymous | September 23, 2009 3:45 AM

geez lily. where have you been? it's 2009 already, we already had this conversation a long time ago. if you're in the business of fighting old battles, why don't you go protest for them to bring the berlin wall down or something?

i must say i laughed until i cried reading that dumb blog. the replies to every idiotic post are pure solid gold.

Posted by Camille | September 23, 2009 9:31 AM

A big chunk of my favorite bands (and I spend a shitload of money on music, cds, vinyl, concerts, t-shirts, etc) are ones that I have discovered through downloading. Example: I read a review of Octopus Project 5 or 6 years ago in a magazine and downloaded them. I now have all their albums, paid for.

If I had bought Lily Allen's 1st album, I would have been paying for music I listened to maybe four or five times.

On the other hand, I see people post requests for albums that are "hard to find" as in hard to find for free. I'll write, "Well, have you considered buying it? If you like them that much..." I figure it's usually teenagers that do that because they don't work and so don't really have money because they need to spend their allowances on pot, which obviously cannot be downloaded for free.

Posted by Anonymous | September 24, 2009 12:47 AM

Well the thing MTV once delivered to customers was that they were the tastemaker. Before the internet, you'd stay up late to catch 120 minutes, etc. because that was how you found and heard new music. Otherwise you had to hope the band you heard of were on the listening station at virgin if you wanted to try before every blog touting a new band has embedded MP3s you can check out...

Posted by clairepetrol | September 24, 2009 2:30 PM

It was been a fun though hearing lily allen words. But these will never stop file sharing & who wants file sharing to be stopped guess 80-90% like file sharing.

Posted by Gigasize | September 27, 2009 3:08 AM

i think the issue isn't so much that file sharing hurts emerging artists; it doesn't, everyone gives away their music for free at first and that really helps. File sharing just makes it difficult for a band to be anything more then 'emerging'. you have a hot indie release, it doesn't make any money but a lot of people have heard it. yes, you can tour, but tours just end up paying for themselves. in the old days, you'd have 20K or something to put into your next record. follow me down; that little bit of money from your first album gave the (successful) artist the Freedom from financial concerns to put a little more into the second one. but now you don't, now you're just as broke as you were in the first place. So your band can't afford to be a band forever, because the rent does need to get paid right?

for better or for worse, and i don't know which it is, at this point in time it's pretty much impossible to make music a career.

i think this debate is very intersting. i think movies like RIP: A ReMixx Manefesto make a compelling case for a relaxation of national copywrite laws. But I also think there are just a lot of people who want new music but don't want to pay anything for it. I think we can't expect anymore "Kid A's" if no one's making any money from "Creep".

Posted by martin | September 28, 2009 10:05 PM

file sharing is a way to promote your band and get heard across the world.

major record labels have a big prob w/ file sharing because they are getting hit the worst.

the world is going online, and nothing will stop file sharing, so its time to embrace the new technology & come up w/ new marketing/selling strategies- not time to try to stop the unstoppable.

Posted by Anonymous | January 30, 2010 8:23 PM

after reading lilys article - looks like she got screwed by her label! HAHA!

should read the fine print more clearly next time!

Posted by Anonymous | January 30, 2010 8:32 PM

well... eventually private file sharing like Binfer [] and distribution based sharing like Pando [http;//] will probably make file sharing 'monetizable' or at least control how much gets shared..

Posted by Sheela | April 9, 2010 12:34 AM

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