Downloading a misconception

An idea to charge Internet users for music downloads has left independent artists wondering if this will help their cause.

Last week the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) proposed to compensate artists for peer-to-peer music file sharing. Canadian Internet subscribers would pay a monthly fee of $5 on top of their bill that would give them unlimited legal music downloads.

SAC Vice-President, Bill Henderson, thinks it will give independent musicians more exposure. “The beauty of the idea is that people don’t have to have a hit record to be heard,” Henderson said. “People will share their stuff and they’ll get paid.”

Douglas Romanow is an independent composer, producer and owner of Fire Escape Recording. He finds SAC’s notion that Indie musicians will benefit from monetizing filesharing a bit confusing.

Romanow says Indie artists aren’t the ones being file shared. That is a common misconception.

“Indie artists build up a loyal following of friends and family who come to their shows and buy their merchandise. That’s how they make their money,” Romanow said.

Ian Sherwood agrees. He spends time and money travelling across the country playing numerous shows to get exposure as an independent artist. “Ninety per cent of my sales are done at a show,” Sherwood said.

‘Who’s protecting the little guy?’

Derek Ritschel, bassist for Indie band, Waiting for Grace, has reservations about SAC’s $5-a-month fee. “I think it’s great on a certain level, but who’s protecting the little guy…Who’s looking out for us?” Ritschel said.

He is unsure of who gets how much of the profit. SAC has only gone as far as saying that the money would be divided among artists, writers, record companies and publishers.

“I will wait and reserve judgment until I see how that $5 is broken down,” Ritschel said.

The SAC acknowledges kinks in the plan, but wants to solve them. “The issue of the Internet has just got to be dealt with,” Henderson said.

Romanow agrees, but he doesn’t think this is the solution. “The biggest problem is that it decides for the artist how much their art is worth,” Romanow said.

Despite the debates surrounding the proposal, he remains optimistic about Indie musicians. He sees artists gaining business savvy and setting realistic goals for the industry.

“The Indie scene requires rigorous business models and they’re (Indie artists) embracing that,” Romanow said. “They’re not looking for Big Brother to save them with a record deal and be a superstar.”