Lily Allen vs the Internet: is file-sharing killing music?

A few slightly deluded music hacks might have dubbed Lily Allen "the voice of a generation" in the past but unless they were talking specifically abou

A few slightly deluded music hacks might have dubbed Lily Allen "the voice of a generation" in the past but unless they were talking specifically about girls dressed in prom dresses and trainers or potty-mouthed celebrity kids they were pretty way off the mark.

However, Allen's suddenly got very political, putting herself forward as the leader of a new campaign to attack file-sharing. Over on a blog simply entitled It's Not Alright, Allen's collecting the views of artists on file-sharing and has posted her own open letter:

"File sharing is fine when you're a successful artist with sell out tours and a back catalogue ready to be sold to a new audience. That might be fine for them but it's not fine for the acts that haven't made it big yet.

What I'd like is for artists that don't think file sharing is fine to get their message out there too. I want to make it clear that file sharing is not alright. And I want the industry and the artists that have made it to look at how we can help those artists that are still struggling to break through in the file sharing age."

Allen's big beef is with the Featured Artists Coalition, a group of bands and music industry types, that has come together to represent artists' rights. Her view seems to be that people like Ed O'Brien and Nick Mason, members of massive bands, can be blase about file-sharing and are not thinking of new acts struggling for recognition.

I think Allen wants it both ways. She sees and has benefited from the ease with which you can promote music online but she wants "file-sharing" to be stopped. This is not a simple task. Just identifying offenders is an absolute minefield. Models like Spotify clearly show a possible model for the future but it isn't actually making enough money to sustain itself in the long term.

Allen's howl of rage and rallying call to other artists is commendable, as is her call for the music industry and government to develop a solution to the problem. However, if she advocates the same punitive measures favoured by Lord Mandelson and the BPI (shutting off internet connections and dealing out legal threats) she's wrong. Home taping didn't kill music and file sharing won't either but fans need incentives to buy music, not threats to stop them stealing it.

For more on this topic see Stuff's recent appearance in the Evening Standard – "Peter Mandelson Doesn't Get The Internet"