How to deal with "rogue" downloads

Running a label in the age of digital is a tough business: loads of crap demos an A&R has to go through in order to pick the good ones, low margins, rogue websites offering your music as a 10 cent download ("hey, it's all licensed with our collecting society!") and products being available on Rapidshare just hours after their release. There's nothing you can do about it: have the file in question removed, a couple of minutes later, five more copies pop up on other one-click hosters.

Now, I don't have a problem with people who'd like to try before buying. They want to listen to the whole tune, not just some two-minute snippet on Beatport or some 45-seconds preview on iTunes. I do understand that! But if I really like a tune which I've acquired in a similar manner, I'm buying it in the end. Especially when using it in my DJ sets.

Then, you have the die-hard fans. They upload a Pesto track to YouTube, share it with their friends, record it from some web radio and post that to SoundCloud. They are not aware of any evil they might be doing or any harm that their action may cause to both artists and labels. They just love the tune and thus, they put it up their profile on whatever service.

How do you deal with them?



Let me give you an example. I have a Google alert set for various keywords in order to monitor other people's activity on Pesto releases. One of them is set up for the keyword "cloudsteppers" which is the artist of our Pesto 012 single. So, last weekend, I find a mention in my RSS feed for that very keyword and see it's a SoundCloud link. I thought "hmm, maybe it's Vyach of Cloudsteppers who put up a snippet on his SoundCloud" but the link pointed to a profile I wasn't aware of. I clicked the link, SoundCloud opened and I was displayed my Soda Inc. remix of Cloudsteppers' "Make Me Shine". No problem, fans tend to do that. I see downloads are enabled and it's nearly the whole tune, hijacked from some web radio stream - available as a free download.

Well, there's a free download of that Cloudsteppers track on pesto.de but, in fact, it's not the "Jon Silva's Soda Inc. Remix".

At this time, a label has two options:

1. lawyer up, hit the gym, profit.

2. write a message to the poster, explaining the backgrounds, kindly asking to disable downloads.

I went for option 2. and here's what I wrote (including all grammar and spelling errors - it was a Sunday):

SC message to Olga

Here's a transcript:

Hi Olga,

Just came across my remix of that Cloudsteppers track on your profile. I'm happy you like the tune and when people put our Music (the mix is released on my Pesto label) on their profile, it usually means they're big fans. That's awesome!
However, it takes away possible income from the artists and the label - especially when offered as download.

I am therefore asking you to disable downloads and if you feel like supporting both the artist and the label (Cloudsteppers, Pesto Music and me), please add a download link to a store. You can use a link to Beatport for example:
http://www.beatport.com/release/make-me-shine/151087

Feel free to keep the track on your profile, you don't have to remove it but please disable downloads.

Hope you understand:)

cheers & have a great weekend,

Jon

PS: did you know we have a Pesto FreeBee, a free download of another version of Make Me Shine? Check this out:
http://pesto-usa.com/PestoCast/Make_Me_Shine_FreeBee_Version.mp3

Less than 24 hours later, I get a reply:

Hi Jon,
I thank you for having written, downloads is disable,
(
CLOUDSTEPPERS - Make Me Shine (Jon Silva's Soda Inc remix) by Olga Wagner :))
and thanks for another link, I'm glad!
Olga

Another Way



Rather than pissing off one person with an unnecessary lawsuit and additional hustle, I now have a supporter. Rather than Olga telling her friends what dickheads the Pesto guys are, she's now probably telling them that we're just reasonable and that we appreciate our fans doing free promo for us. At least, I hope so. Worst case: she doesn't tell anybody but points her friends and social circle to her profile and we get more exposure. Everybody wins.

What I was about to say: I don't mind if you post our tracks. A person who's satisfied with the sound quality on YouTube or SoundCloud wouldn't buy it anyway. No sales gone. A person who's convinced of having a right to download music, software, ebooks and the likes for free without any consideration for the authors wouldn't be buying in any case.

It's up to you - the fan, the listener, the reader, the enjoyer - to pay for non-physical, digital goods. If nobody pays, there won't be as much material for you to download in the future. If you support the artists and the labels that bring lovely music to you, the artist will be able to buy a new piece of gear to record vocals or a guitar. The label will be able to buy stock photography for cover artworks, buy label software, buy new mastering plugins to improve the overall label's sound and so on and so forth.

It's all up to you! Your decision makes the difference.

Ya feelin me or you tend to disagree? Let us know in the FB comments.