Ed Sheeran: ‘Illegal File Sharing Is What Made Me”

Ed Sheeran: 'Illegal File Sharing [Piracy] Is What Made Me"
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Ed Sheeran: 'Illegal File Sharing [Piracy] Is What Made Me"
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Mark Kent (CC by 2.0)

What’s the secret to Ed Sheeran’s massive success? One word: piracy.

To say Ed Sheeran is having a good 2017 would be a severe understatement. His latest album singles have broken Spotify streaming charts at least three times already. He also became the first artist to have two simultaneous top 10 debuts in Billboard history.

Oh, he also announced a massive 48-date tour.

So what led to such massive success?

Sheeran recently spoke to CBS’ Mark Philips.  After showing Philips the literal ‘Castle on the Hill,’ Sheeran opened up about his past.  Sheeran started his music career as an independent artist.  He went to London and sang in street corners and pubs.  Yet, he told Philips that he didn’t get in contact with record labels, or wait until someone discovered him.  Instead, he marketed his own music, releasing on music websites.

Here’s the best part: Sheeran earned half a million dollars from independent sales. He explained,

“What I didn’t have was infrastructure.  They have an American label, they have a Japanese label, they have an Australian label.  So that’s what I was signing for.”

So, what does Ed Sheeran owe his massive success to?  Piracy, surprisingly enough.  Fans started sharing music in what the music industry considers the “seedy pirate underground.” He explained,

“It was file sharing. I know that’s a bad thing to say, because I’m part of a music industry that doesn’t like illegal file sharing.”

Philips remarked that the industry considers illegal file sharing as piracy.  Yet, Sheeran didn’t dismiss piracy as necessarily bad.  Fans illegally sharing his indie music in universities helped Sheeran become a top artist.  He continued,

“Yeah, but illegal fire sharing was what made me.  It was students in England going to university, sharing my songs with each other.”

When his first album, Plus (+), came out, he had a solid following, thanks in large part to piracy.  When Multiply (X) came out, it scored the top spot in the UK and the US.

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Yet, after finding unprecedented mainstream success, Sheeran simply vanished from the spotlight. He told Philips why he suddenly disappeared.

“Not losing touch, but I was definitely in a spiral work and partying that probably would’ve ended not well.  But also, I think, as much as I needed a break, I think the public needs a break from you.  If you continually are just in everyone’s face the whole time, eventually they’re gonna be like, ‘Eehhh, yeah, you know what, I’m cool.’”

So, does Sheeran still consider file sharing helpful? No. He told Philips,

“I don’t think file sharing exists now.  I think people rip off YouTube.  That’s a thing.  But I feel like it’s so easy to stream.”

Sheeran’s much-needed break may have helped secure a solid 2017.  Fans have sent Divide (÷) albums skyrocketing.  His latest album has rocked sales charts.

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So maybe it’s time to reconsider our notions of piracy?  Despite the music industry’s constant attack on piracy, it certainly helped secure a top spot for Ed Sheeran.

10 Responses

  1. Versus

    Makes no sense. If everyone pirated his music and no one paid for it, he would be broke.

    So it’s “selective piracy”. So who gets to pirate and who has to pay? Doesn’t seem fair.

    • Straximus

      And if no one had shared his songs, he wouldn’t have been successful. But it’s never been the case the everyone pays for music or no one does.

      And no, it isn’t fair. But few things in life are. And this is a relatively small injustice compared to to others, that some people pay and some don’t. But it’s not entirely unfair either. Those that pay get to avoid the hassles of piracy. They don’t have to deal with finding clean torrents, or interviewing for private sites, or having bad tags on the files. There’s value in the convenience of paying a fair price, which is why many people do.

  2. Anonymous

    Who are the kids going to believe, the RIAA or Ed?

  3. PiratesRU

    That he does not credit radio at all is criminal. Ed is BS. Sold out to Tech. Hope he gets a job in a cubicle somewhere.

  4. Michael Butterworth

    Students used to swap mix tapes to share their love of an artists with their friends. Recording of the chart show on a Sunday was a thing too.