Thursday, January 29, 2009

File sharing works “Wonders” for unsigned duo.

Last year the unsigned UK pop duo Georgia Wonder tasted minor but traditional success through supporting Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall on his first solo tour.

This year an unconventional approach has seen their debut EP “Hello Stranger” downloaded over 30,000 times in four days by users of Frostwire, one of the file sharing programmes the music industry would prefer to shut down rather than harness.

For Georgia Wonder’s vocalist, Stephanie Grant, the opportunity was irresistible:
“What Frostwire helped us achieve is incredible. Their support has put our music into the hands of tens of thousands of potential fans in a matter of days.”
And all Frostwire did was add a link to the duo’s songs on the programme’s welcome page, their spokesperson Kademlia explained (via email) that Georgia Wonder was an act they believed in:
“When we first heard Georgia Wonder's EP, we couldn't stop humming 'The Girl You Never Knew' (see below). We knew there is something unique about them, because this doesn't really happen within our team. Another interesting thing was that we immediately felt the need to share the word about them.”

Even though this altruistic attitude has given a massive boost to Georgia Wonder’s listener base, Frostwire’s software is also helping a vast amount of people share music that should have been purchased.

When you read the latest statistics you can’t blame record companies from gnashing their teeth over the huge sums of money they are potentially losing.

Figures recently published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) showed that forty billion files were illegally shared in 2008.

As these statistics are based on results from only 16 countries the extent of their problem is potentially much bigger.

Sharing this many files has been made very easy thanks to the “BitTorrent protocol” which allows a computer programme to download a file from many sources instead of the traditional one point of contact.

For example: if you were using the BitTorrent protocol to buy a book in the physical world, individual pages would be sent to you by hundreds of people instead of the whole book delivered from just one shop.

This type of data transfer is known as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) with the “peers” being thousands of domestic computers running programmes like Frostwire.

If you visit the charts hosted at “The Pirate Bay” you’ll see what is currently popular in the BitTorrent universe.

Heading music’s Top 100 is Pink Floyd’s full discography – all 27 albums wrapped up in a file that is just under 4 gigabytes in size.

Also in the charts are established groups such as U2, Metallica, Coldplay and The Beatles as well as a host of present day artists.

Unbelievably, unsigned Georgia Wonder are rubbing shoulders with these giants and, during the period their EP was available on Frostwire, they broke into the Top 20 – which is a remarkable achievement.

It would take many months for Georgia Wonder to reach a similar number of listeners using networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, ReverbNation and Facebook but at least with those places a firm relationship can be developed with the visitor.

However, as Frostwire only promote music they believe to be a worthy listen, they themselves will form a relationship with their users and that level of trust will mean many more digital artists knocking at Frostwire’s door.

As Kademlia points out: “Music just seems to be the natural thing to share and young and up-and-coming musicians seem to be first to understand and utilize the advantages of peer-to-peer distribution. After all, today's new artists are the pioneers of the future music industry, one which will not be controlled by a hand full of record labels.”

With this type of success it won’t be long before the music industry embraces P2P trading and, with yearly downloads of 40 million; even fifty percent of that traffic would be a tidy sum.

For Kademlia the future is obvious: “P2P has been proven to be an effective media distribution technology. It's been embraced by millions organically. Hopefully, the music industry will evolve and figure out way to use it, instead of fighting it.”

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