Counting Crows + BitTorrent Team Up – A Lesson for Comic Creators

With all the discussion going on about piracy and the use of torrents in modern comic book marketing and distribution, this move by the band Counting Crows caught my eye.  They’ve decided to team up with BitTorrent to push content to not only their fans, but also potentially to BitTorrent’s user base, finding possible new fans.  Their email announcing the move explains it all.

Soooooooo…WTF? What are we thinking?

That was the reaction of some of my friends when I told them we were giving a chunk of our album away to BitTorrent for free downloads. The major labels will tell you that P2P is killing the record biz, after all. But the record biz is not OUR biz. We are interested in making and listening to music we love. We are invested in connecting as many people as possible to as much music as there is. The labels are packaging nostalgia for something that never existed and they are lost. They are investing in dodo futures and getting exactly what they paid for.

Our aim, since we wrote our first songs, has always been the same: to connect. I remember discovering the Counting Crows Message Board on AOL back in 1995 and realizing what it meant that something like that existed. Here was a way to simply talk to people. Here was a way to connect to anyone anywhere anytime. It was the cure for Babel — and it was just the beginning. In our job at the time, they told us there were only really two ways to connect: you could bribe radio stations to play your record or you could bribe record stores to carry it. No direct connection at all between the music and the people – just these entities taking bribes and promising to “pass it on”. The message boards promised a different kind of connection, more personal, more immediate — just more.

As the Internet expanded through P2P, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc…, you realized it was all just connections. You can say some of them were good and some were bad but trying to brand an overreaching moral judgment onto something as ubiquitous as the Internet is kind of small minded. It’s all a way of connecting. Is there a hole in the dike and is some of the $ you used to pocket draining out through that hole? Yup. In fact, there are actually about a billion of those holes so you can’t plug them. Now does it really seem like the solution is to dig another hole so you can stick your head in it and pretend like none of this is happening?

Not to me.

Because that hole is a conduit and that conduit goes somewhere and that somewhere is straight to all those people I’ve been talking to on Facebook and Twitter and all the way back to that message board. Underneath it all, it’s still people choosing to connect. It’s no wonder the record companies can’t see the upside to this – they were never interested in bothering to connect to people in the first place. They only saw the bribery. They paid for the fix and placed their bets accordingly. I can see why it pissed them off when it stopped working as well. Imagine, all those people choosing for themselves instead of buying the records we paid the radio to tell them they should buy.

We imagine just that. And we leave it up to you. There are 150 million users on BitTorrent. 150 million INTERESTED people (or they wouldn’t be here). 150 million people interested in watching a movie or playing a game or reading a book…or listening to a song. And you don’t have to bribe them to do it!

You just have to give them a choice.

I’m not going to pretend there wasn’t a downside to people stealing records but if you can’t see the upside to an audience of 150 million listeners, then you’re too dumb to be reading this anyway. These are our new radio stations. Nobody’s carrying a boombox on their shoulder waiting for you to tell them what they can listen to anymore. But everyone has an iPod in their pocket and a choice. Everyone. So we’re going to give them some songs they can put in their pocket and then let them choose for themselves. Listen to it once, twice, a thousand times, or not at all. It’s up to you. You should only like it if you like it. If you don’t, that’s cool. Not everything is for everyone. We’d be just as happy to recommend some other music to you either way. There’s so much great stuff out there and a lot of these people are our friends. We’d like to help you connect. Isn’t that what everybody wants anyway?

While a few creators have dipped their toes into the water, a stigma still pervades this powerful tool.  How long before a creator or publisher bucks conventional thinking and dives in with Torrents as part of their marketing strategy or distribution?