• Piracy Fuels Brazil's Techno Scene

    From Sean Dennis@1:18/200 to All on Sun Oct 21 22:26:05 2007
    Hello, All.

    Piracy Fuels Brazil's Tecno Scene

    Friday, October 19, 2007
    By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press Writer

    BELEM, Brazil u This steamy city at the mouth of the Amazon river is a haven for pirates _ the digital kind who copy CDs and DVDs by the thousands for illegal sidewalk sales.

    Belem is also home to one of Brazil's most thriving pop scenes: tecnobrega, a musical movement that's expanding exponentially thanks to musicians and producers who see copying as a marketing tool rather than intellectual property

    All around the city of 1.5 million, tecnobrega's cloyingly sweet melodies and synthesizer-driven shuffle beats blast from cars, river boats and curbside speakers set up by street vendors hawking the latest hits.

    While piracy is the bane of many musicians trying to control the sale of their songs, tecnobrega artists see counterfeiters as key to their success. Artists, who make their money off of live shows, deliver their CDs directly to the street vendors, who determine the price that market can bear. This "mixtape" phenomenon is popular in other parts of the world, including Argentina and the United States, where it is an integral part of hip-hop.

    "Piracy is the way to get established and get your name out. There's no way to stop it, so we're using it to our advantage," explains Gabi Amarantos, who frequently appears on Brazilian TV on the strength of bootleg sales of her CDs (from which artists don't get a cut).

    Aspiring tecnobrega artists also e-mail MP3s of their latest efforts to producers and DJs who burn CDs that go straight to the copiers and street stall
    vendors nationwide, selling for as little as 50 cents. Legal CDs sell for around $15 at record shops.

    "It's this really gritty tacky, sleazy jungle music. It's just genius," said John Perry Barlow, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates protecting free speech in the digital age.

    Barlow sees tecnobrega as following in the footsteps of his hallowed "Dead heads," whose trade in bootleg Dead tapes boosted the band's popularity for decades.

    "It's making it possible for every kid in Brazil to know their songs by the time they turn five," Barlow said. "It's actually good for a lot of money _ you
    give it away and it will come back. That's literally true with information, not
    with property."

    Ronaldo Lemos, a law professor at Brazil's respected Getulio Vargas Foundation,
    an elite Rio de Janeiro think tank and research center, says tecnobrega and other movements like it represent a new business model for the digital era, where music is transformed from a good to a service.

    "This year the multinational record labels will only release about 40 records by Brazilian artists, while tecnobrega artists will release around 400," said Lemos. "The record industry argues if intellectual property isn't protected there will be no innovation. But tecnobrega has shown that's not true."

    Brazil's National Anti-Piracy Association dismisses tecnobrega as an insignificant movement that makes light of piracy, which it says costs the Brazilian economy two million jobs a year and $15 billion in lost tax revenues.

    "Piracy in Brazil is undermining the ability of the music and film industries to invest in the next generation of local talent. Lower revenues from current sales mean less money to invest in new artists," the association's general director, Andre Borges, said when he announced the industry's plan to sue illegal downloaders in Brazil.

    Brazil is one of the world's biggest markets for music theft, with more one billion tracks illegally downloaded each year, according to the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Counterfeited discs account for around half of the all Brazilian CD and DVD sales.

    But tecnobrega also is an economic engine _ moving about $5 million a month through Belem's economy, according to a study by the Getulio Vargas Foundation.
    The average singer makes about $850 a month _ about five times the minimum wage
    in Belem, and a decent salary for a musician.

    Tecnobrega producer Beto Metralha said the music developed out of necessity in a place where few musicians could afford to pay a whole band and most music consumers don't take home enough money to buy non-pirated CDs. The average ensemble consists of little more than a keyboardist and a singer, sometimes accompanied by an electric bass. The signature shuffle rhythm is derived entirely from a single program on an electronic keyboard.

    The distribution scheme also grew out of necessity _ few record companies were interested in tecnobrega, but enterprising copiers figured out there was a market to exploit.

    Brazil's top-selling Banda Calypso, whose "brega" sound paved the way for tecnobrega, claims to have sold more than 4 million CDs nationwide, avoiding traditional distribution networks and marketing its CDs directly through news stands and other unconventional outlets.

    The best songs are played by "aparelhagens," hugely popular DJs running shows with laser displays, smoke machines and giant video monitors that alternate images of the dancing crowds with psychedelic imagery.

    "Before you couldn't get your record played on the radio if you couldn't afford
    payola. Now if a song hits big with the aparelhagens, the radio has no choice but to play it," says Metralha. "The dynamic has changed."


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