Public Enemy on file sharing: Help yourself

Steve Rosenbush

It might seem that musicians are united against free file-sharing, but that's not the case. Public Enemy is releasing its new album, New Whirl Odor without a major record label. The music is being sold directly to consumers through cell phone networks using services from m-Qube. The CD also is available through Best Buy and REDEYE is sold without digital rights management or copy protection, both of which Public Enemy opposes. Manager Walter Leaphart says the group has been releasing music in the form of free MP3s since 1996. In his estimatation, most artists have little to lose in the world of file-sharing. In most cases,the only money they receive from the record company comes in the form of an advance. Since many costs, including the production of a video, are charged against the advance, "it's easy to sell a million records and still owe the record company money," he said in an interview. And he doesnt' buy the argument that file sharing is stealing, either. "No one has a problem if you make a copy of a song that's played on the radio. Why is this any different?" he asks. That's why the record companies are at risk of being pushed aside by musicians who sell directly through the public or through social networking sites like MySpace. And besides, he argues, the main concern is getting the music out there, not selling more records.

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