Last week, EMI announced that they lost £1billion last year, which really is an awful lot of money.  It could mean that one of the biggest record labels in the world is to collapse, and that really wouldn’t be a good thing for anyone who plans on making a living out of music.  There can be no glossing over the reality; all of this is down to people like us downloading music for free.  If you want to be melodramatic, you could say we’re ruining our own entertainment industry and pretty soon we won’t have much of an artistic culture to speak of.  Go us!!

Thankfully, you learn by your mistakes, and if destroying the music industry that we love has been our mistake, here are a few of the lessons we will have learnt along the way:

1. Downloading music is fun.
By that I don’t mean ‘I love music, and I love exploring new genres, and downloading music let’s me do all of this for free!’.  If anything, I’m slowly coming to hate music and think I’ve probably already heard anything that’s any good.  What I mean is, the actual process of downloading  music is one of the most enjoyable past times I participate in.  Watching the little green bar on Firefox creep up to completion is a truly enrapturing thrill.  You know, at times I’ve achieved download speeds of over 700kbps!  At times like that, I could justifiably kill myself, knowing I will never be so excited or happy again.  I’ve been known to text message friends telling them of my download speeds.  I have accounts with both Rapidshare and Megaupload to really maximise the use of my bandwidth.  I am the guy who skews all statistics on legal v illegal downloads because I download a million more albums than I could ever care to listen to, or would ever think to buy in a shop.  Thanks illegal downloads, you’ve debased my interests and made the internet slow for anyone on the same network as me.

2. Elvis was crap and barely released enough good songs to fill up a ‘best of’ compilation.
Downloading artists’ discographies is a really sobering experience.  You’ll have heard of Elvis.  You’re likely aware of how he’s supposed to be the best rockstar ever, and has legions of fans the world over who are profoundly dedicated to the man.  You know how many albums he released??  About 70.  You know how many of them are good?  None, they’re all shit.  A lot of his most famous songs are covers, and the rest are just drivel.  He’s only famous because he cashed in on his fickle fans as often as possible, through music, films, concerts and tatty merchandise.  There are a ton of other people whose reputations have been ruined by illegally downloading their discographies; Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones… They were all really credible for other generations, because they would only buy their greatest hits.  Which of course, are pretty decent.  But owning 20+ albums by each of these artists makes you realise how patchy their work really was.  Thanks illegal downloads, you’ve ruined a lot of legacies.

3. There was more music in the 60s than you would ever have thought possible.
People make out that these days, because anyone can download Cubase and upload a song to YouTube that ‘making music is now so much more accessible’; that it’s so much easier to write, record and release a song now than ever before.  But that’s bullshit.  People who say those things obviously haven’t ever downloaded Northern Soul compilations, or the Nuggets compilations, or in fact any psychedelic / funk / soul compilations.  If they did they would realise that there are THOUSANDS of the things; every man and his dog were releasing 45”s in the ‘60s.  What’s more, they all sound really good.  Unlike now, where if you’re not famous your music is likely to be dogshit, if you picked up a guitar 50 years ago it was impossible to go wrong; just bash out some chords and sing something like ‘Baby! Where have you gone?’, and you’re on to an underground gem that Soul Jazz will pick up and rerelease 40 years later.  Good music was far more abundant when fans paid for their records.  Thanks illegal downloads, you’ve made music worse.

4. Anyone can be a popstar.
This should have been abundantly clear long ago.  In the 80s and 90s pop stars were just regular guys.  East 17 looked like the kind of scumbags who would have spitting competitions, the Spice Girls were all very average in appearance (which of them would really get into Girls Aloud??), whilst Take That and Boyzone couldn’t have been two more mundane collections of men (Jason Orange?, Howard?,  Mikey from Boyzone??).  It’s a given that they were not super attractive people, but they were all the easier to idolise for that; it added to their mystique and the belief that they must in fact be far more talented than looks alone could suggest.  To be so comprehensively average in appearance, you’d imagine they must have fantastical dancing abilities that could charm a snake or voices that could make blind men cry.  But when kids stopped buying music and Simon Cowell had to create the equivalent of a live televised tombola in order to make some money, it became abundantly clear that pop stars were not the profoundly talented artists we thought, just A-level dropouts with mediocre voices who would otherwise be working in Argos.  The veil has been lifted, the illusion has been shattered, and thanks to mp3s, we all now know that pop stars are nothing more than karaoke singers who just got lucky.  Thanks illegal downloads, you’ve ruined the only reason why people liked you in the first place.

So yeah, illegal downloading basically made us all realise how much music there is in the world, how much of it is shit, and made us hate all of it as a result.  Call me old fashioned, but I preferred it when I had to save up three weeks of pocket money just to buy one album, listen to it a hundred times, learn all the words, read all the notes on the inner sleeve and then feel really proud of myself when I sing every word of the song at some shitty ‘retro’ club night 10 years later.