Striking a Balance: Brent Lawson discusses the Online Streaming/Piracy Nexus

Based in Scotland, Brent Lawson is founder and manager of Pro-B Tech records, an independent dance music record label. Aiming to release high quality and deeper underground music, Brent is highly dedicated to the craft, his label having already signed numerous exceptional artists like TILT, The Underground Allstars and many more. We had the chance to sit down with Brent to talk about the emerging global streaming opportunity , the potential risks associated with streaming for a small label and raising the awareness of piracy, especially for small labels.

How would you say Spotify and other legal streaming avenues have improved the outreach of these bands? How has the streaming revolution impacted your label?

I think the idea is good and in a world where technology is all about making things easier, streaming is a good process. However as with anything it is too easy to abuse, I have seen first-hand how easy it is to have a track that you can mark as private be ripped and on the internet in seconds. So I guess as with anything there are positives and negatives dependent on how the user and end user utilizes these programmes.

We hear a lot about the direct-to-fan strategies labels are now using now. How have legal streaming services improved this strategy? How important is Social media for your artists?

There is no doubt that the ease of these services has allowed a far wider and easier reach. This in turn gives us, as a label, a more efficient way to push the brand, but again the reduced revenue from streaming over a purchase directly from a store makes it very difficult to recoup your initial outlay as a label. We are firm believers in the use of Social media and are very active in the use of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube. However what we always ensure is that we put up the direct buy links to the stores we sell in, and if putting anything up on YouTube it will be teasers of our music either mixed in with other mixes from the EP. We never put up full tracks via SoundCloud, YouTube etc.

With streaming being so important, have you seen a spike in piracy and an urgency to deal with it?

Absolutely, being avid users of MUSO it has become very apparent and very transparent where the usual suspects are and where they have located our music. A very high percentage of this comes from people ripping music directly from streaming services. As a label owner, DJ & artist myself it is hugely important I think we risk labels going under, or just stopping as it is not worth their time and investments. I do also believe it will be stopping many people looking into starting a label due to the complications and misunderstanding of what is involved.

Do you think there is enough being done to raise the awareness of the threat of piracy? If not, what more could be done to help people understand and be educated of this threat and steer them to legal avenues? What are the implications of piracy to a label such as Pro-B-Tech Records?

I am not confident that there is enough being done, I think what MUSO are doing is a huge benefit and big step forward. But I think we need to be louder, labels need to get together with distributors and start making more of a fuss about this. Known culprits/sites need tougher actions such as closing them down. I think getting companies working hand in hand from Artists, Labels, Distributors and MUSO visible at various conferences such as BMC, IMS, WMC. This will bring together a plan of action to show and highlight via reports while calculating what is being lost to piracy would be a good first step forward. However this would only be a starting point. The implications are high and as we are not a major label, every penny counts. For every stolen piece, our costs are and that can only go on so long. It also means that more time, effort and finances are needed to be put towards tackling the problem and not all artists are keen to see this extra cost as part of their agreements. So whilst it is very positive to have the capability of such services as MUSO, artists don’t always understand the benefits hence I think we need to get more visible and louder about the overall issue.

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