The Trap of the Filesharing Debate

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by: Nancy Baym

Sweden’s Hybris is an exemplary internet-savvy record label. The other day, on their blog, they reported on a seminar they held in Stockholm along with also-exemplary label Songs I Wish I Had Written, to discuss the future of music:

It was never said out loud, but in some parts, our original aim seemed to be there all along as a background in the discussion at the seminar. We never fell down the trap. Ah, yes, the trap. It is very hard to talk about the future of music, music that deserves respect, and not fall into the trap of the filesharing debate. The filesharing debate is over. There are nothing more to discuss. Unfortenatly that is mainly what is going on. Endless talks, discussions, laws, propositions and what nots about what to do about the big ‘problem’ of file sharing. Not much discussion about what to do if you are lost in music however. Or why to do it. Or for whom. Or how. Or where. And so forth.

There need to be discussions though. What are we going to do with our love for music? etcetera. […] We feel that there haven’t been a lot of discussions between people in this crazy business. So far the discussions have been done in small circles of friends, in confrontative style in big media or at blogs, leading up to progress in some parts but no-one is really talking. Or maybe mainly, listening.

I recently interviewed their top guy, Mattias, who is an exceptionally articulate analyst of how labels should adapt to this new terrain. He articulated his stance on filesharing a bit more in our interview.

I view file sharing as a positive. It’s affecting the culture, listeners who are into our kind of music, they are more music fans than the general listener. That kind of person has increased in number over the last 5-6 years. In Stockholm now there are tons of clubs that play our kind of music. It’s 100% file sharing and the internet that we have to thank. All people involved in indie music have known that if we could only get exposure we’d be huge. The majors had marketing and budgets, but the internet made it easy for the independents.

mp3 bloggers are important in the development of mp3 culture. In the beginning there weren’t many mp3 blogs, it had very big impact if we put up our own site because everyone would go to the site. Nowadays mp3 blogs have taken that place. The label isn’t enough of a filter anymore. It’s great for us. If a big mp3 blog puts up a track by one of our artists it gives it credibility. It makes it easier for people to like it and accept the music.

Some more quotes from other label people are here.

He is quite right that what discourse there is remains stuck in the endless cycle of “what will we do about file sharing” instead of “how can we create a new model that works in this environment?”

Hybris’s website is worth exploring for the ways in which they are building a new model: giving some of the music away (on video too), emphasizing their global nature, blogging and maintaining a presence on many different online spaces (MySpace,, Facebook…).

On a related note, today Its A Trap contributors listed their 10 favorite 2007 Scandinavian releases, and many of us included Hybris/Adrian Recording’s Familjen on our top 10. Familjen is nominated for a Swedish Grammy and is getting Pitchfork adoration for their super super supercool video for Det Snurrar I Min Skalle, and recently won a huge online voting competition in which both labels made heavy use of social network sites for recruiting votes. This crew knows how to work the internet.

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