Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Show Some Appreciation

On Saturday night I went to see the punk band Snuff play a gig at the Borderline. It was the first time I'd seen them for quite a few years, and they were as good as they always were. At the end of the evening I decided to stop by the merchandise booth. They had a few CDs for sale that I didn't already have, so I decided to buy one and, while I was at it, I decided to buy an album by one of the support bands too. Nothing remarkable about this, you might be thinking, and you'd be right... only as I was buying the CDs I was aware that, as much as I wanted them, I was also buying them as a way of showing my appreciation for the evening's entertainment. Bands like Snuff have a solid following (the show was sold-out and ram-packed), but they're certainly not making millions. And, as someone struggling to make a living in a creative industry, I'm all too aware of the difficulties of trying to get an income from artistic pursuits...especially in an age where piracy is as rife as is.

The point of this blog is not to segue into an antipiracy rant, but more to make a plea to encourage people to support the artists (and filmmakers) that they like. In this sense, I suppose it can be seen as a follow-up (or a rehash) of an argument I made in this blog post back in 2009... but let me bring my point up-to-date:

At the end of last year, the director Ti West wrote an open letter to the 'shoplifters of the media-world', asking them not to pirate his film The Innkeepers. You can find the full letter, and a good summary of it, on the link – but essentially his point was that if no-one pays for his film then there's no proof that people are supporting his work, and if there's no proof that people are supporting his work then no one will give him money to continue making films. Another example: this year's Sonisphere was cancelled due in part to poor ticket sales. Admittedly this is probably down to a weak line-up going up against Download's incredibly strong bill, but the point is that not enough people were supporting it to make it viable, so it got pulled. The message here is the same: artists can't survive in a vacuum, and they need to pay their bills the same as everyone else. So if you like a filmmaker, a band, an artist, a writer, whatever, you should support them not only by watching/listening/seeing/reading, but by paying (maybe this is a little bit of an antipiracy rant after all!).

Last summer I wrote about the crowd-funding of Ginger's Triple Album over on the Life Just Is blog. Eight months on and the album is finished and the MP3s have been downloaded and digested by the fans (with the CDs and Vinyl's, etc., to follow in May). The albums were released one week at a time, with 'listening parties' taking place every Friday night as the albums hit the net. Fans from around the world would listen and communicate by using a Twitter hash tag and/or a Facebook fan group, and although I missed all three parties, I did drop in and out of the discussions, and there seems to be a real spirit of support and a sense that, as pledgers, we were a part of something special. Although the pledge-funding aspect might have made this a slightly different experience, there's no reason why a similar approach couldn't be taken by fans of any creative product – and why discussions on sites like Twitter couldn't be used to foster a real sense of solidarity and support. A great recent example of what I'm talking about is the #TeamMargaret campaign, which managed to help Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret take home the highest per-screen average in the UK on its opening weekend, and later saw it expand to several screens around London after opening on just one. (You can read more about #TeamMargaret here). If everyone in Team Margaret had decided to download the film illegally, that show of support would have been meaningless. Yes, the same number of people might have seen the film, but there would be no tangible evidence of that support. Nothing says 'I love you', it would seem, like cold, hard cash.

I know that there are as many arguments in favour of piracy as there are against it, and I'm not trying to paint it as a black and white issue – but I am trying to say that, if you like something, or someone, you should support them because, if you don't, they might not be around for much longer. And you'll only have yourself to blame.

Think about it. And show your support.

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