This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at Sonicrampage.org.
Isn't it fair to say the mechanics of file sharing are incredibly dull? There's so little at stake in the transfer of data between nodes that the value of what's being transferred is often obscured. The inchoate fury of musicians who feel they've been ripped off comes in stark contrast to the attitude of most people who use P2P networks, a kind of puzzled ennui. How could anything so banal be illegal? While there are "chat" facilities in Soulseek and Limewire's software how often does one actually use them? And what kind of exchanges are people having on these inline channels? Not much in the way of the life-changing dialogue one suspects. The internet is only so great.
With all this in mind I put on my best smile and set off down Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon handing out free CDs. Motivated as much by self-promotion as fear of litigation, everything I gave away was "my stuff". I included a movie I'd made a long time ago, a comic I'd drawn, a few radio shows I'd done, and some vintage mixes. Even though we couldn't resist taking a detour past the Sony BMG headquarters for a photo opportunity on the way home, I'm basically sceptical of pro file-sharing rhetoric (www.downhillbattle.org). Is it really alright to give away other people's music for free?
This was great fun. Shoppers immediately grasped the conceptual angle. Lithe French tourists hugged me, whole Asian families gathered round to have their portrait taken, cabbies stopped to collect a disc, radical hipsters raised a salute and small children pointed and giggled. Though the temperature slightly dropped as we entered trendy Soho, people were still smiling. Giving away the CDs was easier than I'd anticipated, and once the crowd got the idea everyone piled in. Quite what they'll make of the contents I don't know, but people are open-minded enough aren't they?
Rapper D2i of Black Mobb Entertainment, who sells his mix-tapes on Oxford Street much in the way I was doling mine out, was the only person who voiced concern. My giving away CDs was bad for his business he volunteered. However once I'd assured him that this was definitely a one-off stunt, we became firm friends united in the knowledge that hitting the street as cold-calling ambassadors for our own tiny visions takes a certain amount of chutzpah.