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Deep Elm Records

Fact: The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000. This is tragic.

Fact: Of the 75,000 albums released on CD in 2010, only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies.

Fact: More than 30% of all visits to the internet are in search of illegal / pirated copyrighted content.

Fact: Unauthorized file-sharing is estimated at 40+ billion files...that's 95% of ALL music tracks downloaded.

The Internet is only a means of communication. It has not rewritten the legal rules of each nation through which it passes. It is not an
amorphous extraterrestrial body with an entitlement to norms that run counter to the fundamental principles of human rights.

Our society would not tolerate a situation where half of all the traffic in and out of the bakeries, butcher shops and grocery stores
involved stolen merchandise. So we should not tolerate the vast explosion of digital theft on the Internet...

Illegal downloading is killing rock and roll. The signs are everywhere: record labels are closing shop, mom and pop record stores have all but vanished, distros have shuttered, new artist development opportunities have dried up and touring opportunities are way down. Why would anyone steal music? Especially from independent bands and labels that only survive on selling very few records in the first place? Illegal downloading is not's theft...and it's against the law.

Deep Elm's owner John Szuch was recently interviewed by the Norwegian music press about illegal filesharing. Here's what he had to say:

1. Can you describe your existing label structure?

We are now a digital-only label, not by design but out of necessity. CD sales are very hard to come by these days with very few stores left (ie, Best Buy, Walmart) to sell CDs, plus we have an entire generation of new fans growing up without ever purchasing CDs at all. Illegal downloading has reached epedemic proportions. Fans need to understand that illegal downloading is wrong. It's a crime. And it's only hurting them in the long run (ie, soon everyone will be required to pay for all bandwith used on your computer, cell, tablet, etc). We don't make records for please don't steal them. Each song is the end result of a quite long and expensive process of songwriting, practice, pre-production, recording, mixing, mastering, design, manufacturing, distribution and promotion. If you're willing to do any of that stuff for us for free, then we'll give you free music. We do officially give away free music ( but posting our albums on bit torrents and the like and/or downloading them from such sites is just plain wrong.

2. Is it realistic to think that in the future music will, or can, be given away for free?

I have a lot of respect for RadioHead as musicians and songwriters. OK Computer is one of the best albums ever props for that. But what they started really makes me angry...devaluing music. And many other big artists are following suit. This will eventually trickle down to the indies because fans will think they are entitled to get music for free. I think what they did has given validity to illegal downloading. Ironically, in the first week there were 200,000 "free" downloads of "In Rainbows", but an estimated 500,000 illegal downloads. Fans did not even want to pay one penny for it because of this insane mindset that music should be free. I think it's a definite possibility that major labels will give music away for free...only to their eventual detriment.

3. If music were to be given away for free, how would an up and coming band or a small label be able to finance recording, marketing of a release and feed the artist?

It's easy for multi-millionaire artists like RadioHead to give away their music, but not for true indie artists that are touring in vans, sleeping on stages and eating pizza every night. And it makes it nearly impossible for true indie labels like Deep Elm to survive, develop and support their artists. Fans may be more apt to buy tickets for a tour and tee shirts when they arrive since they got the music for free, but remember that indie labels do not share in any tour revenue. The bands needs all those monies to stay on the road. And do you really think indie bands are getting rich off touring? Hell no. One percent, maybe. And maybe another 10% break even. They make huge sacrafices. Even if we did share in that revenue, we'd just be delving into monies the bands really need in order to stay on the road and tour. Bands don't show up in your hometown for free. So how are we supposed to generate funds to keep our doors open? If free music becomes the trend, we will be forced to stop releasing new records and supporting independent most other indies have already done.

4. Does file sharing affect your label?

Very much so. Six months after Napster came out, most indies saw their CD sales drop by 50%. I was shocked that people would steal music. Music is the cheapest form of permanent entertainment...yet it means the MOST to nearly everyone. A compact disc or legal download generally costs $9.99...and it's have it forever. You can duplicate it for personal use and upload to your phone / media player. $10 can literally change your life...I know it did for me. That's the price of two beers, one movie (or half of a 3D movie), one lunch...1/8 the cost of a new video game. You'll probably forget those two beers you drank by morning or that movie you just saw, but you will never forget the CD which you go back to again and again. Why would anyone steal music? Each copyright violation carries a $25,000 fine in the USA and citations are being issued more frequently. In France, they passed a "three strike" law that gives prison time if you commit three copyright offenses. In other countries, they will be taking away your internet access if you are caught.

5. When the large majority of people under 30 in Europe have been "tapping" music from the internet like water from a crane for free, is there any hope for making them pay for downloading music? How can this be done?

I think fans needs to be educated about what they are doing and what the end result will be. Remember for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When all the indie labels close down, it will be a sad day for the listening public. Fans will be stuck only with new records from major labels / major bands which are focused on sales and sales alone...formulaic music written specifically for radio play, NOT for your heart, mind and soul. Soon, all the cool, cutting edge new music will never see the light of day because there will be no one supporting them and giving them an opportunity to be heard. So you see, in the end illegal downloaders are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

6. Can changes be made in the way people consume music without governmental action towards file sharing sites?

Every site that is illegally distributing copyrighted music should be shut down. And they know exactly what they are doing...they are cognizant of their roles as vehicles through which infringers act in concert with one another to copy and distribute huge amounts of copyrighted material. If governmental authorities know these sites are being used to illegally share and / or download copyrighted music, copyrighted movies, copyrighted software, copyrighted video games, copyrighted anything, they should be shut down. Period. End of story. And you know why they aren't? Because the big businesses that want to sell you the media players, phones, computers and other electronics that store and play these files make political contributions to ensure that copyright laws are not properly enforced. If everyone had to pay for content, sales of these devices would plummet. It wasn't until after filesharing started that sales of these devices exploded. Politicians side with the companies that give them millions of dollars, not with the band that just poured their blood, sweat and tears into making a record. As compression and file storage technology continues to improve, things are only going to get worse. It's a time bomb. The problem with illegally downloaded movies and video games is rapidly increasing, which will likely lead to far worse problems for music. How will even a major record label survive when it can no longer be supported financially by it's profitable sister film division? It's all a viscious cycle. If this continunes, it's the end of music as we know it.

7. Any other comments?

To those naysayers that think filesharing helps promote and encourage record sales: why have total album sales (including all legal downloads) plummeted industry wide? With millions of illegal downloads taking place on a daily basis, shouldn't total sales then be blasting through the bloody roof like they were BEFORE filesharing started? What if people stole what you did for a living? If you make burgers and someone steals them out the back door, then soon you won't have a job because your employer won't be able to pay you. It's the same thing that's happening with music.

We are well aware that not everyone steals music. And to those people, we have respect. As to those of you that do: think a little bit about what you are doing and the implications. Think about that record you love so dearly...your desert island disc...the record that makes you feel better when you are down...the record that makes you smile and the record that make you cry. Now imagine it never existed. Shame on you.