The Year of Living Without the BPI (and the RIAA, of course)

So, on April 7th the Digital Economy Bill, an extremely ill thought-out piece of legislation designed to protect big business interests in the entertainment industry over the civil rights of ordinary citizens, passed third reading in the House of Commons in the “wash-up” process before the general election, and was granted Royal Assent on April 8th.
Therefore, from April 7th 2010 until April 7th 2011 I will live without the BPI, who were one of the major lobbying forces behind the Act. I will not:

  • buy music by any artist signed by a major record label in the UK or the US;
  • illegally download music by any artist signed by a major record label in the UK or the US.

I will:

  • do my best to support independent, unsigned bands with both money and word of mouth;
  • post semi-regular updates on how this endeavour is going: the mainstream bands I wish I could buy stuff from, the latest small band I’ve discovered, how I discover new artists, and how much money I’m spending on music.

I expect a few things will happen:

  • The artists whose music I will most regret not being able to buy will be mid-list or small signed artists (the likes of, say, Hanne Hukkelberg), rather than the chart-toppers.
  • The amount of money I spend on music will not change significantly. (That will be difficult to measure, as I don’t really have a baseline. I spent around about GBP300 between September 2009 and February 2010, but hadn’t spent much in the 6 months before that… We’ll see.)
  • The way I discover music has already changed over the last couple of years (since I stopped listening to Virgin Radio) but I expect it will start relying even more on word of mouth and social networking.
  • If I make up to the Edinburgh fringe again, I expect a spike in my spending on music there. 🙂

How’s it going so far?
Well, on April 6th Amanda Palmer finally ditched Roadrunner Records and released a song in celebration of it. I think given the time difference etc. I probably would have picked this one up on April 7th anyway, but either way it’s so close to my chosen time period that it counts. The song was released on a pay-what-you-like basis and I paid a dollar for it and downloaded it. I haven’t listened to it much to be honest.
On April 12th, The Indelicates released their new album Songs for Swinging Lovers. The release was accompanied by a live webcast of the entire album which I thoroughly enjoyed. The album was released on a pay-what-you-like basis, and I downloaded it and paid GBP10 for it. I’ve listened to it a few times and while I still think The Indelicates are a lot better live than recorded, it’s damn good album. Incidentally, I’m incredibly tempted to take advantage of one of the “special edition” options of this album – the one where Simon and Julia Indelicate rock up at your house, perform and record the album for you, and sign over the rights to the master – for my 30th birthday next year.
On April 17th, Paul and I went to see EvelynEvelyn, and while only half of the conjoined-twin-sister-singer-songwriter-duo actually made it to Glasgow (courtesy of the Ash Cloud of Doom), it was arguably the best gig I’ve been to. I bought the album for the asking price of GBP10 (which is a substantial mark-up on the online store cover price of USD11, but does mean I don’t have to pay horrendous shipping costs from the States). So far I’ve listened to the album only once, just now, because it does actually require active listening for the full hour, and I haven’t had the time and opportunity really.
Again courtesy of the Ash Cloud, instead of Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley supporting the Evelyn sisters, we had Bitter Ruin. For the record: those guys blew my mind. They’re amazing. As they walked off the stage, I walked across to the merch table and got a copy of the album. The cover price was GBP5 – I paid 10, they were that good. And I don’t regret it. I’ve been listening to Bitter Ruin on loop for the last couple of days. Their next album is coming out next month and I’m really looking forward to it.
So in about 3 weeks I’ve spent just over 30 quid on recorded music from unsigned artists and am very happy with it. Oh, and I’ve recommended all of the above artists to various friends.
What’s next? I’ll probably have a poke around Corporate Records to see if there’s anything else on there I like; I’ll go poke Thea Gilmore’s website and catch up with whatever she’s been up to since I pirated Avalanche about five years ago (I hear she’s doing interesting things with subscription models, though I think technically she’s signed – or at least some of her albums are); there are a number of albums due out soon from unsigned artists I like which I’m looking forward to; and of course if I make it to the Edinburgh Fringe that should be exciting. Oh, and Loreena McKennitt appears to be running her own indie record label so I guess she’s back on the allowed list – and I owe her money as I don’t currently have a legal copy of The Book of Secrets.

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