Fair trade music

At New Music Strategies, we’ve been thinking about an idea that we believe would be really helpful for music marketing, would contribute toward ethical and sustainable practices for musicians and music businesses, and which we believe consumers would get behind.

We were talking this week about the fact that many people (on all sides of the digital copyright debate) speak about their relationship with music consumption as having an ethical and moral dimension.

People talk about how they like to ‘support the artist’ in certain instances – whether it’s that they are fans of a specific artist and want to see them create more works, or that they have a more general sense of obligation, gratitude or individual ethics when it comes to online music purchasing. Most people seem to be conflicted – not sure what impact their decision to download unauthorised content might have, or whether it makes any difference at all.

Some feel that there is an element of protest and ethical civil disobedience in their decision to download music released by multinational corporations, or music represented by organisations who support the disproportionate legal action against music fans. Some artists are known to be in an exploitative relationship with the record label and wouldn’t necessarily get paid anyway. And it’s even more complicated than that too, when you consider the treatment of contributing (but not featured) artists, sustainable use of materials in manufacture – and the durations and conditions within contracts that may be considered unfair.

So we came up with the notion of Fair Trade Music.