Iggy Pop blasts piracy and U2 freebie for making ‘thieving a habit’ in Lowry lecture

Rock legend Iggy Pop took aim at the free download culture and even slammed Irish rock legends U2 during a speech in Salford.

The American rocker has been around long enough to see a lot of change in the music industry.

The man known as the ‘godfather of punk’ believes we may see yet more change in how music is distributed.

In his entertaining and enlightening speech on ‘free music in a capitalist society’, the punk veteran took aim at BitTorrent, fans who do not pay for music and U2.

He explored the ways in which the music world is constantly evolving and the need for it to keep pace with the technological age in his lecture at The Lowry in Salford earlier this week.

“Thanks to digital advances we have a very large industry, which is laughably, maybe, almost entirely pirate,” he said.

“The new electronic devices which estrange people from their morals also make it easier to steal music than to pay for it. There’s got to be a correction.”

The punk veteran was talking at the annual John Peel Lecture at this year’s Radio Academy’s Radio Festival, named after the former BBC Radio 6 DJ.

During the lecture, Pop examined a natural evolution from ‘bootlegging’ (a recording not officially endorsed by the artist or by any other legal authority) to widespread illegal downloading as a reaction to ‘insane prices’.

“I think people are just a little bit bored and more than a little bit broke,” he said.

“Now, everybody is a bootlegger and they’re not as cute as before. There are people out there just stealing stuff and saying, ‘Don’t try to force me to pay’.

“That act of thieving will become a habit, and that’s bad for everything. We’re exchanging the corporate rip-off, for the public one.

“There is a general atmosphere of resentment, pressure, and perpetual war dripping on all the time.”

In his 45-minute speech Pop commended the work of those trying to make a ‘positive change’ in the music industry.

He first singled out Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke for praise.

Yorke released and distributed his new album ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ uploading it on BitTorrent – a network supporting peer-to-peer file sharing where users can host files and control traffic and access to them.

“I think what he has done with BitTorrent is very good,” he said of Yorke.

“It’s good that he is encouraging a positive change. The music’s good and it’s being offered at a low price to people who care.”

Yorke said by doing this he hoped to ‘bypass the self-elected gate keepers’ to his music.

“If it works well, it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to the people who are creating the work,” he said.

Similarly, revolutionary electronic artist Aphex Twin announced his new album ‘Syro’ – his first studio album in 13 years – in August, via secretive web links only accessible through Tor.

Tor is a ‘deep web’ browser typically used for the internet’s more clandestine pursuits that maintains users’ anonymity by scrambling their IP address.

Pop also addressed the recent controversy surrounding U2’s new album, ‘Songs of Innocence’.

The Irish rockers’ thirteenth album was released in partnership with iTunes and was automatically uploaded to users’ accounts free of charge regardless of whether they wanted it or not.

The Stooges’ frontman poured scorn on the move, claiming Bono and co ‘robbed’ fans of the opportunity to choose whether or not to buy the album.

“The people who don’t want the free U2 download are trying to say, ‘Don’t try to force me’,” he said.

“Part of the process when you buy something from an artist is an anointing on that person of love. It’s your choice to give or withhold. But in this case, people felt they were robbed of that chance.”

The cases of Thom Yorke, Aphex Twin and U2 are only the most recent examples of high-profile artists and musicians experimenting with new ways of distributing their music and engaging with fans.

Their noteworthy attempts to progress alongside technology illustrate the rapid and ever-changing nature of music distribution.

Perhaps more importantly, the strong reactions to their efforts – positive and negative – affirm the need for further change and debate, and ultimately, consensus on acceptable practices.

Main image courtesy of Fat Possom, via YouTube, with thanks.

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