Hootie Drummer Goes Back To School
The drummer for Hootie & The Blowfish says the Internet can help struggling bands find an audience. But James "Soni" Sonefeld is wary when it comes to protecting his band's Grammy Award-winning music.
Sonefeld attended Professor Robert Schrag's Intro to Communications class at North Carolina State University this week to share his thoughts about the proliferation of bootleg recordings on the Internet.
At one time, unauthorized recordings of live concerts and alternate versions of studio releases were considered a minor nuisance.
But that was before inexpensive CD recorders and digital streaming technologies enabled bootleggers to mass-produce studio-quality copies and distribute them over the Internet.
To differentiate between the tacitly approved tape-swapping among fans and profit-seeking pirates, class guests repeatedly referred to "that guy in Italy" as the enemy, meaning bootleg operators overseas, where copyright laws are harder to enforce.
"I think it's very similar to prostitution," said Sonefeld's manager, Rusty Harmon. "The guy in Italy making copies is the pimp. The product you're buying are the whores."
Hootie's group, along with Frank Creighton, director of investigations for the Recording Industry Association of America, talked for most of the two-hour class about their fear of, and distaste for, online operators.
Piracy is the greatest threat to the industry as a whole and to the process of producing sound recordings," Creighton said.
The association estimates pirated recordings cost the record industry $5 billion worldwide last year, he said. As a result, the organization has worked harder to quash bootleggers.