Honestly, is piracy really hurting indie musicians?

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When I released my first EP last year, I couldn’t even begin to think how hard it would be to gain public attention. Especially, if it’s not a momentary spike in interest you’re after – but something which lasts for some time. Unfortunately, to be at least somewhat noticeable in modern music reality one has to spend a great deal of time and effort, becoming almost a professional music marketing guru.

And should I also mention money? Money for advertising, online radio plays, video production etc. Quite quickly it became clear to me that unless I invent something unique or outrageous, I would not be able to attract consistent audience attention.

When the news came out that my ‘Dust Off The Stars’ release was pirated – honestly, I was shocked. Somehow, I never thought this would happen to me. It felt like the end of my music “career”. At least from financial standpoint. But little did I know!

 Already within a week after the pirate release I found my website flooded with visitors. Even though I already opened my Facebook page – and MySpace clearly lost the battle with Facebook at that moment – my Calfskin MySpace page had some hefty increase in the # of visitors. Later on I found out why – for some weird reason, pirate websites which “distributed” the release indicated MySpace Calfskin page as my “website”.

But the traffic alone was not the only effect of this pirate release. My monitoring for all things “Calfskin” on the web showed that a bunch of websites which featured new *pirated* electronic music had some lively discussions about the release. One of them was in Russian (I think it’s still available for reading pleasure if you’re curious and know how to use Google). A particular user even engaged in a virtual conversation with me, addressing the fact that this should be seen as the ultimate free promotion which I should be happy about.

Now, a couple of releases later, I must say that there is some truth in this indeed. If not for that pirate ‘help’ I would probably not be able to get much attention. One thing though I must answer to my anonymous pirate – it’s not a free promotion. Even though I did sell quite a few physical CDs afterwards, I literally had only a few *Digital* sales. And I understand why – for some time this pirate release was the first link which appeared when searching for my debut release.

So. Do I regret it?

-No. If not for pirates ‘helping’ me with the first release – you’d probably not be reading these lines right now.

Did pirates actually hurt me as a musician?

-Come to think of it now – not really. I don’t think that those who are used to pirated music would consider buying an unknown indie artist.

Would I want my other releases to be pirated?

-No, I definitely wouldn’t.

Why?

Simply, this time I want to be in control of my music. I want to be able to offer free tracks where I want and to those who really want to hear my music. And I certainly want to have real fans among my listeners, who are not afraid to reveal their identity.

I’m thankful to the pirate group who released my debut work and to my anonymous listeneres. Hopefully, at least some of them stayed Calfskin fans until now.