Piracy : The Nuclear Option

So earlier on the twitters, I said

and then


Only I won’t

Jeremy Taylor The Terrible works in this great big record shop in Cuba St, Wgtn. I’d lost touch with him for years, then wandered into this shop… and the top 100 albums were lined up in order, in a great big display around the walls… and I could tell by the order that I’d found him again. Went over to the counter and said “I don’t suppose Jeremy works here does he?”

I don’t want Jeremy’s shop to go out of business. I want there to be a Jeremy’s shop in every town. A Jeremy in every town. I’m not sure how his business is affected by the fact that people (who presumably have finite disposable income (which has been stagnant since the 80s)) are now spending:

– more on their monthly phone bill than they ever did on records or
– more on computer games than they ever did on records or
– more of big-ticket live gigs than they ever did on records or
– more on ISP connections than they ever did on records

or that people are now using shared files to find out about new music, rather than radio. But… but…

Half the people I know are musicians, or work in the music biz in some capacity. If I was going to go nuclear on the music industry, there would come a time when I would find myself downloading and burning one of Sprouts‘ records… and I couldn’t do it. It would feel like I was being cruel to a small furry animal. And Sprouts is just one. I couldn’t even do it to people I don’t know. I could never mass-pirate a Grant Lee Buffalo record. A dEUS record. I’ll evangelise (which means sharing) but I won’t… (how you say?) “hurt sales”.

Someone is going to put the entire history of recorded music onto a single disc, but it ain’t going to be me.


The entertainment/copyright industries are visiting their own version of a nuclear option onto the Internet in the shape of 3rd-party liability… the current incarnation of which is the entirely repugnant, and secretly-negotiated-trade agreement ACTA. It obliges ISPs to spy on you. Next time you send an email, next time you visit a porn site, next time you do a search for some embarrassing ailment, next time you do a search for something that is quite innocent, but the combination of words is a bit weird….

… the entertainment industry has created a situation where you’re going to be spied on. All the time. By law. Everything you do must be monitored.

In addition to this, there’s the incredibly chilling/stagnating effect – the fact (for example) that you can’t make a movie without ‘errors and omissions insurance‘ – which similar to a lot of other regulation, pretends to be about “protections” but has the side effect that only big corporations can afford to innovate in the open market. IP law needs to be reformed… taken down a peg or 12, and IP lawyers need to be put in the stocks and pelted with shit-filled crisp-packets.

The Internet is more important than the entertainment industry – I mean fuck, the telephone system is more important than the entertainment industry… and the Internet is that multiplied by about 12 entirely new dimensions. The Internet is definitely more important.

The entertainment industry does not have a god-given right not to have to adapt.


A nuke option is required… or more accurately, a response to the entertainment industry’s attack on us is required… or more accurately, we need to get rid of any corporation that is big enough to change government policy to the detriment of the society that hosts it. We need to get rid of the copyright cartels.

I think it needs to be a supply-side change. I think we need to render the copyright-cartels irrelevant not for the consumers, but for the producers. For the musicians, writers, film-makers – and I don’t think many of them will be too sorry about this, because “The Industry” with very few exceptions was always a bunch of total cunts to start with. Andy Ross is an example of someone who isn’t – if the music biz was entirely populated by people like Andy, the entire terrain would be different I think. I can think of a handful of others… they do exist, but right now the majors are a machine owned by financiers, and mega-corporations who fund all sorts of dubious shit.

Look it up sometime. The last time I looked, the same people who put out Jimi Hendrix’s records were also building a massively polluting and outdated incinerator in East Sussex UK. Vivendi are attempting to do to water, what the 20th century did to oil. These people are greedy rapacious scum.

And they’re attempting to force top-down control of the internet.

So. Supply-side change. What do we do?

Damned if I know. Set up systems where people can be paid directly by their fans rather than going through a risk-aggregater (who no longer risks)(and who pays them back a pittance, after they’ve recouped) That would do it.

The way through it is to cut out the supply-side middlemen.

But I still haven’t figured it out. The other day Adam was going on about this: http://stillcorners.bandcamp.com/

Great song. For sale for 1 quid.

Sorry, that’s pathetic. That’s sad on so many levels – not least of which, it’s a pathetically low amount – nominal… pitched at such because it’s what the market will stand… only the market isn’t bothering with it. It’s so low that all it represents is the symbolic reluctance to get out a credit-card. The Reflexive-Stinge-Hump.

Do people pay that? I guess they might.

I’m feeling kindof torn on this one though. The last (and possibly only) digital track that I bought was this

And that was AFTER I’d pulled an MP3 from youtube (yea, you can do that).

It didn’t feel good doing it – paying for an MP3 I mean. There is something clangingly wrong about that deal. I like Trixie Whitley so much that I’d donate money to the cause… I’d pay money (proper money… you know, like $100) in advance for her next record – if she kickstartered it or something… but paying for an MP3 is like paying for an echo. It’s already out there… and I don’t want to ‘tip’ her a single quid. That’s taking the piss.

Maybe I’m hung up on cult of artifact… because I would pay for… a pebble off her local beach or something. Something of symbolic exchange – though if she sold a million records, she’d run out of beach… and it’s kindof ridiculous making someone go down the beach and post pebbles about the place anyway… but you get the idea. That scary Amanda Palmer

seems to do a roaring trade in indirect sales of stuff as well. Trent Reznor does as well I think. Monetising fame (that to a degree was paid for by their record companies before they split). Maybe that’s the way through – monetising fame. Not exactly meritocratic I know… but then it is more or less exactly what we have today anyway… only the terrain has shifted so what was once the product is now the advertising. And it’s really fucking good advertising, but you can’t really expect people to buy advertising. They want artifacts damnit. Like the ones Jeremy sells.

This has turned into a massive ramble… sorry.

Something else though… when I was a kid I was addicted to space-invaders. I must have spent thousands… 20c a go… would spend about $1 a time. I loved it. Every once in a while though I’d come across a broken machine that you could play for free… and it wasn’t 1/2 as enjoyable. I’d actually spend less time playing machines where nothing was at stake. I’ve noticed a similar thing with movies. If I’ve made some investment, I enjoy them a whole lot more. The value that I give to something is an inner-thing… and it gives back.

There must be a way through this… and I’m about to cast myself head-long into it because this year I’m shooting a movie based entirely on these principles.

So anyway… to boil it down to one memorable phrase: “I think we can destroy the legacy entertainment industry, by supporting artists directly”

Or… “The nuclear option is to water the grass-roots”


Unless of course they break the internet, in which case all bets are off.

2 Comments » for Piracy : The Nuclear Option
  1. Luci Temple says:

    Great blog post. Yes, a big challenge, and would love to see more fan supported content. Tho, I fear it will only ever be a minority that will do that, so the challenge is for creators to think of ways to add value that can’t be copied so easily alongside the digital shareable stuff.

  2. admin says:

    It probably won’t take more than a minority – most musicians don’t make money… certainly not by selling recordings.

    Here is a graph of how much musicians must sell to make minimum wage


    Self-pressed or CD-baby is about 10 times better than going via a record-company. Mp3? forget it. CD baby is best – iTunes gives you 9 cents a track. You’d make more money wandering the streets looking for small-change that people have dropped.

    The recording… “the copy” needs to be the memetic driver (advertising isn’t the word) for auxiliary incomes… it can’t be “the product” any more. It doesn’t physically make sense.

    So what that leaves is something like commercial/corporate licensing, live concerts, and cottage-industry DIY… the selling of physical artifacts…

    …unless there’s a third way (and I suspect there might be) which is based upon social-contract. I which people get to boost their reputational capital by supporting artists.

    Another thing to bear in mind is that “art” is absolutely a buyers market because everyone thinks they can do it, and hardly anyone can. There is so much ego and vanity crashing up against so little talent. Whatever happens, it absolutely has to be market driven – and that’s coming from a socialist… who has tried (and failed) to make money out of art.