Thursday, 24 September 2009

Lily Allen: My Part In Her Downfall

So, I get into an argument on the internet - nothing new there - but this one ends up as worldwide news, and what seems to be the end of a pop star's career.

It's been about 24 hours since I sent an e-mail to an influential website which has seen Lily Allen called out for being a hypocritical lying music pirate. This morning, Lily responded to my revelation with a factually inaccurate statement.

I'll have to explain this one in full. I'm a huge fan of - a technology news-and-commentary blog that keeps us geeks up-to-date on how the digital revolution is ripping up the rulebook, and how luddites continually strive to pass backward outdated laws to keep things the same. Naturally, the articles are strongly against persecution of P2P filesharers.

But this is no pro-piracy blog that offers "l33t nu moviez and albumz". TechDirt is simply acting as the messenger boy, pointing out the old ways of selling overpriced plastic shiny discs are over, and that the record industry should not fight digital, but embrace it, accepting that the infinite supply of MP3 should really drive down the price of recorded music.

There's no point in trying to stuff the genie in the bottle. Even the most dense of computer users knows where the Pirate Bay is. DRM - the unwanted protection scheme on some CDs and DVDs - has been nothing but a huge disaster for the media industry, causing legitimate customers to complain about their purchases not playing on various equipment. Treating the very people who pay your wages as potential thieves is never going to work, and yet, the pirates have the last laugh by offering the same media in a superior format - free of all hassle and easily copiable, just like we've always had in the past.

Besides, how is copying music equal to "theft"? Pro-copyright lobbyists always insist it is "stealing", and I'm sure we've seen that patronising "you wouldn't steal a car" trailer at cinemas and on DVDs.

Thing is, it's completely false. A copy of something is not theft, has never been theft, and never will be theft. Even the law stipulates it is different to theft.

If I nick your car, you don't have a car any more. If I sat outside your house and somehow made a 100% exact copy of your car, you wouldn't be deprived of anything. No crime committed.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should download copies of all music out there just because we can. I go to gigs, I go to festivals, I certainly put my fair share in. I used to be very anti-filesharing about 10 years ago.

After having seen the way the record industry has been reacting to filesharers, and, through having worked for a couple of labels and befriending quite a few artists, I've learnt just how much mark-up there is to the labels and how bands just get ripped off.

It doesn't have to be this way. The real money is in live performance and genuinely scarce goods. CD singles and music videos have always been a loss-leader anyway, they have since before the internet was in nappies.

I am totally not convinced about the piracy fearmongering from famous people who are clearly not educated in the subject. I'm sick of it, that's why I did something about it.

Lord Peter Mandelson - the non-elected government minister who twice had to resign because of his financial scandals - is proposing a disgusting law that criminalises almost every internet user in the UK, usng a guilty-before-proven-innocent basis.

It sickened me to see Lily Allen backing such a terrible Orwellian policy. On top of this, she cited support from the likes of James Blunt, Elton John and Take That's Gary Barlow. That's right, the big names she has on her side consist of a guy whose only positive contribution to society is a new piece of Cockney rhyming slang based on his name, a dreary ballad performer who once stated the internet should be shut down for five years and the songwriter for Steps. If filesharing didn't look good before, it sure does now!

Not that this is good enough for Lily Allen, who this week, launched her own blog dedicated to fighting digital piracy and slurring filesharers as "thieves".

This has been nothing short of a disaster for the feisty ska-tinged popstrel. With the mundane and moribund queueing up to slap her on the back, music fans started questioning her stance. The comments on her blog were filled with criticism.

On Monday, the following report about rapper 50 Cent appeared on her blog:

Famed rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) was apparently on CNBC recently talking about his "business acumen." I have to admit that having three different people all trying to interview him at once is rather annoying -- as they almost never let him complete a thought. However, when they ask him about piracy, and whether or not it makes him angry (around 2 minutes), he responds that: he sees it as a part of the marketing of a musician, because "the people who didn't purchase the material, they end up at the concert." He says that people can fall in love with the music either way, and then they'll go to concerts. He notes that you can't stop piracy either way, so why try to fight it? He also talks about other business opportunities for musicians.

this is particularly selfish in my view, he seems to only be thinking of how piracy effects him. What about the guys that work in the studio and the kids that run around town putting his posters up,the people that designed his artwork, the people that run his website. Is he giving them a cut of his live fee?
Now, that first paragraph - expertly written, and just one of many reasons why filesharing MP3s is actually good for musicians - gave me a sense of deja vu. The second paragraph is obviously Lily's own commentary. You can tell by the patronising tone and logical flaws. But what's particularly galling is... well, the attribution? Who wrote that first paragraph? Ah yes, it was lifted from TechDirt, without permission, despite being copyrighted.

So there we have Lily Allen breaking copyright. I guess that's "strike one" under the Mandelson Regime. Luckily for Lily, Michael Masnick at TechDirt doesn't take copyright infringement as a massive problem, happily reporting on the incident, and the obvious irony surrounding it.

With the attention focused on Lily's infringement, especially as TorrentFreak reported on her copyright hypocrisy, she eventually had to issue attribution...

The insincere tone didn't go down too well, and when she posted two scanned newspaper articles later on, the mocking nature of her critics went into overdrive.

Here's where I come in...

Sick of the way she shamelessly ripped off TechDirt without so much of a linkback or a credit, I did some digging around. I am actually a fan of Lily Allen, although I can't say I like her much as a person any more.

I remember Lily popping up on the radio back in 2005-6, when she was an up-and-coming artist with a rebellious tone and fairly witty and incisive lyrics that compare to some of Jarvis Cocker's best work.

The internet was cited as her way of doing promotion at little cost. She kept up with the then-popular MySpace fad, and she posted 'mixtape' MP3s where her songs would be sandwiched between ska/pop/rave/rock/indie classics...

Wait a second, she did what? Oh yes, she uploaded the digital equivalent of C90 compilations. Beautiful creations, yet copyright-infringing.

Surely these have disappeared into the digital ether by now? Well, no! I reckoned that a few might pop up on places like

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this blog posting about her second mixtape, with a tracklisting of some pretty damn famous songs, such as:

Dirt Off Your Shoulder - Jay-Z
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
Cosmic Dancer - T-Rex
(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me - Sandie Shaw
Gangsters - The Specials
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks

I hovered over the link to the MP3, and I was stunned - it begins with - her official website! Yep, that's where it is hosted, and at time of writing it is still there, along with her first mixtape MP3. That's three strikes now, isn't it?

Well, I did what any decent-thinking citizen would do, and so I e-mailed Peter Mandelson so that her internet connection could be cut off, that freeloading harlot should be burnt alive in oil TechDirt, so that could expose the story.

10 minutes later, and my revelation is on the front page of TechDirt. You have no idea how much my ego expanded at that moment. It was at Kanye West proportions. I had always wanted to submit an exclusive to that site for years, and here I was with my first submission accepted in a near-instant.

It meant even more to me, knowing that Lily herself would actually see it. I hoped she would respond. In the meantime, it was quickly picked up by the P2P supporters at TorrentFreak.

What an embarrassment. Lily Allen exposed as a complete hypocrite and a liar. What would her record label, EMI, make of it? And would we get a response?

In the late morning, my exposure had reached Lily, who blogged about it. Except that I can't link to this blog entry nor can I quote it in full, because she deleted the entire blog within half-an-hour of learning how we caught her red-handed, indulging in copyright infringement.

Luckily, it's TechDirt who are again the heroes, because Michael quotes some of what she said about my dirt-digging.

I've been dying to respond to her, yet have been at work, and busy with the site so here goes, with Lily first:

i made those mixtapes 5 years ago, i didn't have a knowledge of the workings of the music industry back then...

Yet it worked in your favour, didn't it? Can you honestly tell me that it wasn't a factor in connecting with your fans? They're bloody good mixtapes by the way, so even if you do claim you're quitting music, please continue making them. I'm especially chuffed you stuck in a Specials B-side and 808 State's Cubik. You do note that on the blog that lists the tracks, there are people there commenting on how they're off to buy the music? I don't think anyone lost out, there's certainly no evidence of it.

As your article clearly states , is an EMI run website, which is exactly why i don't acknowledge it (i think theres a link to it on my myspace(which i do run), thats purely because, my record contract states i cant sell my merchandise online anywhere else on the net . i don't post on there, i dont even look at it. the record company run it.

I can spot a contradiction in that first sentence, but aside from that, you came up with those mixes. You distributed them, and although the recordings from Dizzee Rascal, The Specials and SL2 are legally held by EMI, there quite a few non-EMI artists on there, such as the Kinks. Jay Z and 808 State. Now, what about "the guys that work in the studio and the kids that run around town putting [...] posters up,the people that designed [...] artwork, the people that run [the] website." Are you "giving them a cut" of your live fee?

Think about what you are proposing now. The Lily Allen of 2009 wants to see the Lilly Allen of 2005 prosecuted. That's it. That's the sheer insanity of it all. Would you like some ketchup on that foot of yours?

Anyway the snippets of songs you hear on those mixtapes are about 30 seconds to 1 minute in length, in traditional mixtape style, it is infringement, correct, but it's not my site, it's EMI's.
Lily, you are lying about "song snippets". That second mixtape is exactly one hour long, and contains 19 tracks. A quick bit of maths reveals that splitting 60 minutes in 1/19 gets you 3.16 minutes - that's the mean average of each song. And many are in there practically in full, with the closer - the Kinks' Waterloo Sunset - being 100% complete.

I do like the way you state "traditional mixtape style". Yes, tradition, style - that's what it is about! You know it's been going on for years, we know it's been going on for years. Yet now you've become a bit *cough* richer, you want to criminalise this activity! You're pissing on your very own roots.

The term "sell-out" isn't used as much as it used to be in music fan circles, but right now I'm calling you out as one.

i am not a hypocrite, i don't illegally download music, and i still think unauthorised file sharing is wrong.

It's not about the downloading of music, which is virtually impossible to trace. Record labels go after uploaders, they can see the IP address quite easily when there's a 'supplier'.

You're a total joke to state that filesharing is wrong, because as I have proven, you have indulged in it yourself. This "do as I say, not as I do" attitude is EXACTLY what a hypocrite does. This is what you have become.

Don't worry about filesharing, as to cite a certain album title - Everyone's At It. Including you, Lily.

Regrettably, some of the critical comments on Lily's blog were very juvenile and spiteful. This was cited by Lily as a reason why she deleted the blog. I don't believe that for a second, it's pretty obvious her copyright infringements did her no favours, but I do distance myself from the personal insults hurled at her. Thankfully there were many many viewpoints that ripped apart Lily's argument in a civil manner.

So, Lily deleted the entire blog, and even stated she's quitting music because of piracy.

The story has gone wild. Google News have it on their front page, with at least 140 articles related to it. The Daily Telegraph are reporting it. DigitalSpy are talking about her mixtape piracy.

A Facebook friend of mine urgently wanted my e-mail address, as his friend is an editor of a national music magazine, and I'm to be interviewed about this debacle.

I've had celebrity blogger Perez Hilton e-mailing me with "love it!", though to be fair, he's definitely no fan of the white-trainer'd songstress.

Plenty of my friends are finding it hysterical, that me, some unknown podgy guy with an opinion, has just managed to cause havoc for a well-known A-list pop star. I wonder if she's summoned in for a carpetting at EMI Towers?

To be humble though (I can sometimes manage it), this isn't about me. It's about the power of the internet, the digital democracy. If I didn't report it, someone else would have done. I'm very much in favour of the story continuing to spread.

As it stands, I've had a hand in severely damaging the dinosaurs' pro-copyright campaigning, I am so chuffed at that. I started embracing MP3s 12 years ago, when I ran a fan site about the Prodigy, and ended up on the receiving end of a £500 legal settlement bill from the BPI's solicitors because we had live concert recordings (commercially unavailable ones) online. Despite the fact none of this ever harmed the finances of The Prodigy or XL Recordings - quite the reverse in fact!

So I'm quite happy the record industry is running around like a headless chicken, losing money everywhere because they just cannot satisfy the market with the same old same old. No amount of remastered Beatles albums is going to save the day. Give up on the plastic discs, and concentrate on providing VALUE for the consumer.

If you want further positive reasoning why MP3s should be priced at virtually zero pence, and why record labels should actually gear themselves up as PR services rather than the outdated shifters of CDs, please pop over to and take their advice on all matters digital.

My thanks to Ryan Lambie for the rather egotistical subject line suggestion!


Spike Nesmith said...


I bet she's hurting now, but it'll pass. At worst, she'll feel bad for a while.

Mark said...

Thats brilliant

Bear said...

A Really Nice Piece Of Work Buddy - give yourself a pat on the back.

I don't endorse illegal downloading but I'd feel more sympathy for these big name acts if they were demanding that their record companies treat their customers fairly instead of demanding that governments bully genuine music fans.

Why do I always feel like I’m being ripped off when I buy a download?

TypicalDownload.Com Price List
-The latest number 1 floor-filler -79p
-An ancient lifeless album filler – 79p
-A 30min rock opera – 79p
-A 30sec intro – 79p
-A Rock God all time classic – 79p
-A “what’s their name again” first release – 79p

If this is how pricing works in the real world why can’t I buy a bottle of Ch√Ęteau Lafite Rothschild for the same price as Blue Nun?

My parents never illegally downloaded or taped any music, they bought all their music on vinyl. Dad owned a Mario Lanza album and Mum owned the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music. Yes that’s right, two albums. My girls are growing up in a house with over 500 CDs & heaps of MP3s almost all bought & paid for.

Which of us is responsible for the death of the music industry?