From 2003-2008, FACT operated as a bi-monthly print magazine. As part of our From The Archives feature, and to tie in with out 10th birthday celebrations, we’ve uploaded a cache of vintage articles from FACT’s ink-and-paper days. Below is Woebot’s account of taking to the streets to give away free CDs, originally published in 2005. (Note: This piece isn’t half as exciting without the photo account of the day, which we’ll be adding tomorrow).


It’s fair to say the mechanics of file sharing are incredibly dull.

There’s so little at stake in the transfer of data between nodes that the value of what’s being transferred is often obscured.

The inchoate fury of musicians who feel they’ve been ripped off is in stark contrast to the attitude of most people who use P2P networks, a kind of puzzled ennui. How could anything so banal be illegal?

While there are chat facilities in Soulseek and Limewire’s software, how often does one actually use them? And what kind of exchanges are people having on these inline channels? Not much in the way of the life-changing dialogue, one suspects  – the Internet is only so great.

 

“Giving away the CDs is easier than I’d anticipated, and once the crowd gets the idea, everyone piles in. Quite what they’ll make of the contents I don’t know, but people are open-minded enough aren’t they?”

 

With all this in mind, I put on my best smile and set off down Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon to hand out free CDs. Motivated as much by self-promotion as fear of litigation, everything I give away is “my stuff”. I include a movie made a long time ago, a comic I’ve drawn, a few radio shows I’ve done, and some vintage mixes. Even though I can’t resist taking a detour past the Sony BMG headquarters for a photo opportunity on the way home, I’m sceptical of pro file-sharing rhetoric and don’t believe it’s right to give away other people’s music for free.

The day is great fun. Shoppers immediately grasp the conceptual angle. Lithe French tourists hug me, whole Asian families gather ’round to heave their portrait taken, cabbies stop to collect a disc, radical hipsters raise a salute and small children point and giggle. Through the excitement slightly wanes as we enter trendy Soho, people are still smiling. Giving away the CDs is easier than I’d anticipated, and once the crowd gets the idea, everyone piles in. Quite what they’ll make of the contents I don’t know, but people are open-minded enough aren’t they?

Rapper D2i of Black Mobb Entertainment, who sells his mix tapes on Oxford Street in much the same way as I’m doling mine out, is the only person who voices concern. My CD giveaways are bad for his business, he contests. However, once I’ve assured him that this is definitely a one-off stunt, we become firm friends – united in the knowledge that hitting the street as cold-calling ambassadors for our own tiny visions takes a certain amount of chutzpah.

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