PirateBeirut: Arrr You Fucking Kidding Me?

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Recently, a website by the name of PirateBeirut (a play on the name of the infamous file sharing website The Pirate Bay) has come into my attention and I feel like something must be said about it.

 According to its “About” page:

What is PirateBeirut?

PirateBeirut is a Lebanese music weblog that aims to salvage and pep up the underground independent music scene in Lebanon. We focus both on the under-promoted bands that have gone unnoticed as well as the struggling upcoming ones that seek exposure.

Why?

Consumers hate scarcity. But you and I know that monopolists love scarcity. When consumers have fewer choices, a monopoly thrives. – Seth Godin.

The music industry is overflowed with low-quality music, especially in Lebanon where “eminent” artists are determined by how much flesh they show in their music videos; This scarcity imposed by the monopolists (those with the fat bank accounts) is leaving a lot of artists with actual talent starving in the dark. We’re here to give you a choice that the Lebanese music industry has taken away from you. We’re here to bring down the monopoly once and for all.

But aren’t you ripping the artists off?

That, in our opinion, is the naïve approach at seeing things. We’re actually promoting them by distributing their work and making everything more accessible. A direct link between the artist and the consumer is created and we’re confident that this will get more people to go to concerts and see live performances.

I would like to help out! Do you guys accept donations?

Great! Start by checking out the Spread PB section. We’re working on producing some merchandise (t-shirts, stickers, etcetera) that will help us fund this project, we’ll inform you as soon as they’re ready.

• Who are you guys? How can I reach you? I want in!

We are anonymous. Don’t worry, we’ll reach you :)”

Ok, a point by point analysis:

-“…a Lebanese music weblog “: So where’s the Nancy Ajram section? Just say it: “A Lebanese alternative music weblog”, since all the artists whose material is hosted are from the underground scene. Now that we have established that, we can trace any effect this has on them back here. We have just located our vic…err, targets.

-“The music industry… once and for all”: The cause is noble but they’re going about it all wrong. Yes, the music industry is overflowed with low-quality music. Yes, in Lebanon, “eminent” artists are determined by how much flesh they show in their music videos. And yes, this scarcity imposed by the monopolists (those with the fat bank accounts) is leaving a lot of artists with actual talent starving in the dark. 100% true. But this is not the way to give people a choice, because you see you are giving choice to some and taking it away from others.

You see, the way to give people a choice is by guiding them to the light. You must inform them, enlighten them, and direct their attention to certain websites for example like a myspace, a facebook group or page, a youtube account, or even an official website, where the artists themselves have set up their own promotion tactics such as putting up some tracks for streaming or even download or uploading videos. You must say to the people “hey check out this band’s myspace (for example), you can listen to a couple of tracks they put up”. Let the artists upload their own selected material and then all you should do is bring it into the public eye.

But what you are doing is not helping the artists promote THEMselves, you are promoting them YOURselves. You are taking the promotion into your own hands, treating the music like it is your own work, like you yourself were the artist. No. If you want to upload entire albums, or even just one song, at least get the consent of the artists. The artists have their own consent (obviously) when they upload certain tracks to their myspace pages or facebook pages or whatever, and when they put up tracks for free download, they are giving people their consent to download them and share them however they see fit. But they must decide what they want shared, what they want floating out there and what they want to just be listened to online, or on the record. Let the artists promote themselves, and you just bring them to people’s attention. Don’t do the promoting for them.

-“We’re actually promoting them by distributing their work and making everything more accessible”: There, you yourselves admit it.

– “A direct link between the artist and the consumer is created”: You say that like the underground artists are these obscure idols, while in fact THEY THEMSELVES link themselves to the consumers by setting up myspace pages, facebook pages and groups, youtube accounts, you name it. They keep us informed with the latest news and let us know when they have a show coming up or when they are featured in a news article or when they will be appearing on TV. We are already quite in touch with them, and even if their entire body of work is not accessible for us to download, they let us know just enough about them and their music to get us to buy the album they labored so hard to create, not because we have no other choice, but out of our own will and dedication to them. We’re not slaves to them or their “corporate masters” such as Incognito, Toj Kil Shi, Chich Prod, Mooz Records, or the dreaded “unsigned” (the greediest of the lot). You’re basically stealing from the poor dude. We actually WANT to give them our hard earned money to show our gratitude for their unique talent and dedication, not to mention help them make a decent living! We’re not really being opressed by these underground artists. Pirate that Rotana bullshit, they deserve that, but what the alternative artists deserve is to rake in whatever dough they manage to make from album sales.

-“…we’re confident that this will get more people to go to concerts and see live performances.”: Well, listening to/ downloading tracks online DOES get more people to go to concerts and see live performances, but for God’s sake, let the artists themselves worry about that. You’re free to help them out with doing that, but leave it to them, please.

But don’t get me wrong, there is some good that comes out of this, some little unintentional good, and that is: it makes these tracks available.

This acts like an online archive. These days, some CDs are going out of print and the copies currently in stores are among the last. This is a very real issue. Aks’ser’s first two independently released albums have gone out of print, and so have SoapKills’ first independently released album and their one and only live album. This way, when some of the albums available for download on there go out of print, they’ll always be available to the public. Some of those are still available for purchase online however. When an album is gone forever, download it for free by all means. But when it’s still available, there is no good reason why you shouldn’t just buy a copy. And a random thought, but ironically, one of the reasons that albums go out of print is because of a lack of financial income to the distributors or artists, which could be due to, oh I don’t know, piracy, for example?

For people abroad, these albums are not so easily available, so this website is a decent excuse for them to download.

-In conclusion: PirateBeirut, you have good intentions, but your method of execution is flawed. You are acting like you are the artist, trying to promote yourself by distributing your own tracks, while in reality you are not the artists nor do you have their consent. Let them do their own promotion. Don’t do the promotion for them. Help them out by informing people on them and their websites and stuff. This will only lead to the public knowing about these artists but noone actually buying the albums, and then what? What reason will artists have to record albums? We must stay faithful to them and support them both emotionally and financially.

In one sentence: Spread the WORD, not the TRACKS.

Though I myself have been tempted to download a certain album (I won’t say which because I’d only be giving you ideas), I advise everyone to refrain from downloading anything  from the site because it’s really misguided in what it’s doing and using it would only encourage its further development.

In general, I primarily buy physical but I am a big fan of downloading if the CD is international and I can’t find it in stores here, and I must admit, I have given some friends a complete local album or two to introduce them to these artists, and if that little action leads to the whole scene’s demise I apologize (I was young…), but when you do it on the internet the impact is much greater, due to a much larger audience. 

I promise to continue informing you on the alternative scene using my own words and directing you to its artists’ own promotional locations on the web.

Here is the website (look but don’t touch children, or right click “save as” for that matter!): http://piratebeirut.com/

Here is the future of the scene if this keeps going on: http://b7.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/01222/76/94/1222164967_l.jpg

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