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Economics of SOPA from Indie Rap Artist MC Lars

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Here is a guest post excerpt from my friend and artist MC Lars from the Huffington Post UK.

“In last week’s State of the Union, President Obama stressed the importance of creatively revitalising our nation’s economy. He called for “an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values,” the blueprint for lasting domestic prosperity. There are some parallels to this shift in thinking in today’s indie rap game, specifically in application of sustainable new media economics.”

“What this means then is that in order for artists like me to survive, I must be creative with how I let people hear my music. A primary means of distribution in 2011 was my USB robot, a two-gigabyte hard drive keychain that housed all of my albums digitally. I also sell t-shirts with cartoon characters I draw myself and I try to print on shirts manufactured domestically when I can. 47% of my income comes from merchandise, 40% from ticket sales, and 13% comes from iTunes, Spotify or other paid music services through the internet. I used a crowdsourced funding site called Kickstarter to produce my last album, with added bonuses of drawings and personalized songs to the highest contributors.

If the internet were compromised or regulated to the point where the 13% of my traditional digital income (from iTunes, Spotify, and others) were to disappear, it could likely mean that people would turn to getting my music for free, which would then mean that I would need more ticket and t-shirt sales in order to maintain my income level. (My income, by the way, covers my expenses, taxes, and health insurance, and that’s it.)

“Economically, we are living in an era that takes us back to the punk and indie roots of the 70s and 80s. Musicians must be able to go out and perform for years in small clubs to tiny crowds; it’s the way one perfects his or her craft and pays his or her dues. It’s how bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat became legendary, they had explosive, powerful shows and were willing to sacrifice everything to make their music heard. Henry Rollins of Black Flag tells his story in his classic book of journals, Get in the Van, an important read for any indie musician today.

We live in an era of innovative fusion of old and new. Being a musician no longer means simply being a songwriter and performer. One must also know a little bit about business, branding, t-shirt design, social networking, production, publicity, accounting and tour managing.

Ultimately, what this is means is that if you own and run your own business, no one can take that away from you. (The MPAA and RIAA exist to maintain the status quo of the entertainment industry, but I don’t need someone with a large salary lobbying for my interests as an artist when that person is disconnected from the reality of new media economics that I’ve described above.)

The internet in its current free and open format is important to me as an independent indie rap musician and artist. In fact the internet is essential to me and to all of the other artists who are like me. The government’s harnessing and regulating the internet and its free flow of information would be a dangerous thing in that it could lead to government control of a very important channel of a portion of the income that I earn – and through which I express myself freely, exercising my First Amendment rights as an artist.”

Read the whole thing here from the Huff Post UK.

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Comments

4 replies
  1. Glenn says:

    I don’t see any examples here (or at the longer version at HuffPo UK) of how his business would be hampered by SOPA. Just one example would be great. For example, was Megaupload an important distribution channel for MC Lars? He mentioned Spotify and iTunes, but not Megaupload. Does he use foreign-based services to share music through social media? If so, is he using services that are likely to be harmed by a SOPA-like law? And if those services are impacted by US-based site blocking, how easy or difficult would it be to migrate his files to another service? He mentioned iTunes, Spotify and Kickstarter. Would any of those be affected by a law aimed at foreign-operated websites? If so, how?

    What I’m looking for is an understanding of the practical implications of anti-piracy law. I understand his desire with the importance to ensure a “free flow of information,” as he put it. And I agree with that point of view. I think citizens should be very careful with the new powers assumed by the government. But this post is little more than vague talking points. I don’t see an understanding of SOPA here. I see an artist who is rightfully worried about losing his ability to pursue his career on the Internet but can’t explain exactly what he’s worried about.

  2. MC Lars says:

    Hey guys,

    Megaupload and similar web file hosting sites were a primary way kids in rural England in 2006 found out about my album “the Gaduate”. I did a sold out UK tour that summer because of it. Torrenting were a part of that too, but I remember a lot of kids telling me they got my album for free through Megaupload at shows. It was interesting, but the numbers of tickets we sold showed it wasn’t hurting me.

    13% of my income comes from services like iTunes and Spotify, which is a small percentage compared to artists with strictly Internet-based careers who don’t tour or can’t sell tickets. The main point of the article is that I’m in the t-shirt business and I pay my rent by playing small clubs in America and internationally, free distribution of my music allows this to happen. I don’t want the government shutting down international sites that distribute my music for free – I get exposure when people who can’t get my albums in stores and it allows me to tour and make tons of money off of t-shirts and my USB robots. Sure, there could be alternative ways of distributing the music digitally, but having the government regulate that scares me. Such policies ultimately don’t help artists like me with fans who steal music all the time no matter what.

    Hope this helps! Glenn – would love to discuss this more in depth. Please hit me up next time you’re in LA.

    Peace and thanks,

    MC Lars

  3. Jeremy says:

    Hey man… great article… I really enjoyed it. I am familiar with your work, mainly through my exposure with the Rondo Bros… but I have always thought you were doing something right. I like the fact that you don’t look at the negative side of people getting music for free. People are sick of wasting money on music they hear and get tired of a few weeks later. Sometimes kids want to try music out… if they like it, believe me, you can actualize a fan for life! That is going to pay the healthcare in the long run.

    Keep up the good work

    Peace

    Jeremy Harrison

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  1. […] selection of music for the audience. This growing market is described in a Huffington Post article “Economics of SOPA from Indie Rap Artists MC Lars” posted by blogger Davekusek.  The following video uses hip hop as an […]

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