Published on September 16th, 2011 | by Alan Cross


Insurer: Stage Collapse Tragedy Caused By Illegal Downloading

If you read that headline and immediately thought “WTF?” then join the club.

You might remember the story from last month where four people died when a festival tent at Pukkelpop in Belgium collapsed during a severe thunderstorm.  

Naturally, the festival organizers had insurance to cover these sorts of catastrophic things.  So if you’re the adjuster assigned to the case, to what would you assign blame?  The tent manufacturer? Those who erected the tent?  Perhaps those in charge of supervising the tent?  

No.  You blame illegal file-sharing.

Here’s the insurance companies’ reasoning:  Illegal file-sharing has led to fewer CD sales.  Fewer CD sales have forced artists, managers and labels to emphasize the live music experience–including festivals, of course–to make up for the lost revenue.  Emphasizing live gigs attracts people.  And should a thunderstorm strike, those people risk being killed or injured.

Bottom line?  If people didn’t trade music illegally online, then none of this would have happened.  

I sh*t thee not.

About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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21 Responses to Insurer: Stage Collapse Tragedy Caused By Illegal Downloading

  1. dheadspaceb says:

    So… illegal files-haring is an act of God? I guess I can give up on cleanliness now…

  2. Rob says:

    That is the craziest run of logic I have ever seen.

  3. Steph D says:

    Wow. Just, wow.

    I guess by that reasoning, the Altamont tragedy was also caused by music-sharing. I guess we all owe the Hells Angels an apology.

  4. Donald Smith says:

    False. The article does *NOT* attribute to illegal file sharing whatsoever.

    The article states "…an unintended consequence of falling record sales … bands feel a strong need … crowd equipment and video".

  5. Damien says:

    Emphasis on live music is because it's the only way an artist can actually make any money. Record Companies keep 99% of CD sales revenue

  6. Dave R says:

    I can just imagine what the LSAT and the Bar exams are like with "winning" logic like that.

  7. I says:

    Sounds like someone (most likely a major record label) spent a lot of money to "encourage" that obscenely errant pointed finger.

  8. farsider says:

    God hates hippies, simple as that

  9. Herman says:

    Early man developed floating objects called ships. My Great-Great-Grandfather came across the ocean on a ship and his lineage descends directly to me. I downloaded a song once, and now people are dead.

    I blame pre-historic civilization for deliberately, knowingly, with malice and forethought, creating these 'ships' with the intention of causing greivious emotional and bodily harm to those people.

    It's just shamefull.

  10. Sparky McBiff says:

    So your "research" for this crazy claim is shown in your "I sh*t thee not" link that takes us to the claim on boingboing which then links to a twitpic of a paragraph in some journal that is in French but when translated (I read French) says absolutely nothing about "illegal downloading"?
    30 seconds of research on Google would have quickly shown that that entry on boingboing is the only place where that claim is made.
    It looks to me like you should have labelled your link "I sh*t thee" instead.
    Please do better.

  11. Ripper says:

    Coming from years in the insurance industry, I can honestly say that this guy is bat shit crazy!

  12. Alina says:

    The insurance company uses the Chewbacca defense and gets away with it.

  13. bob says:

    Quote "Coming from years in the insurance industry, I can honestly say that this guy is bat shit crazy!" Endquote.
    But these crazy "theories" are winning more and more often in the courts.
    You don't have to look far to figure out why this country is in a mess.

  14. Elder23 says:

    It's like blaming the fall of the Iron Curtain on a combination of McDonalds and Joan Jett!

  15. Violin guy says:

    I'm responding to Damien, who stated record labels keep 99% of profits. The standard is more like 75-90%. However, the publishing standard is 50/50, and that's where the money is. When you hear the "Michael bought the Beatles' catalog" stories, it's the publishing that is bought. It's a different contract altogether. Gershwin still makes millions every year, and he died in 1936.

  16. John Eppstein says:

    I'm responding to both Damien and Violin Guy about record labels keeping the "profits". Actually, the percentage of what they actually keep is nowhere even close to what either of you claim. The crux lies in the word "keep". You see, record companies have these things called "expenses" and expenses eat up a large amount of the money that comes in the door. These expenses break down into two basic categories – artist expenses and general overhead. Artist expenses include things like promotion and artist development. If an artist is successful these expenses eventually (note that word – eventually) get reflected back to the band, out of their sales. This generally takes awhile; the typical time line for a new artist to break even is 3 years. However if the artist is NOT successful (which is the case with the majority of new artists, around 80%) the record company has to eat the artist expenses, including any cash advances made to the artist. Back in the days before piracy sucked most of the development capital out of the industry there were artists who made a career out of getting signed, getting the signing bonus, and then getting dropped, only to repeat the cycle again at another label. Needless to say the record companies didn't generally like publicity about that.

    The other kind of record company expenses, general overhead, includes rent on the physical plant (offices, warehouses, studios if any, etc.), salaries which in addition to the high profile executives also include secretaries, mail room people, gofers, A&R people, and bunches of other basic workers who keep the business running.

    After all this the amount of money the company actually gets to KEEP might be 10% in a good year.

  17. Don H. says:

    I always thought it was The Bee Gees and Donna Summer that brought down Communism….

  18. kakes says:

    wow i found this article and after reading the comments i decided to look into the situation myself. if you actually read the french article (or even just i dunno, use a translator) you will see that this ridiculous game of telephone has lead to things being blown outta proportion. the other poster is right that NOTHING is mentioned about illegal downloads. in fact it just says that there are "declining record sales." so that could be due to things like LEGAL streaming music, a crappy economy, OR illegal file sharing. the adjuster specifies that weather condition are no worse than before nor are they causing more accidents, but they are just causing more damage because concerts are under pressure to put on large shows with large stages and heavy sound and lighting equipment. the point of the article is that accidents like this are likely to continue because the adjuster is correct that this is the trend. it doesn't state what the insurance called the "official" cause.

  19. Observe says:

    The STUPID!!! It BURNS!!!!

  20. JETHH says:

    @ donald smith

    "False. The article does *NOT* attribute to illegal file sharing whatsoever.

    The article states "…an unintended consequence of falling record sales … bands feel a strong need … crowd equipment and video".

    False – what you've written there IS an attribution. I can recommend a good Logic 101 book if you like.

  21. mark says:

    SO>> If file sharing is pushing artists into doing outside live gigs, what happened in the early days of Woodstock festival.. way before a computer could copy music, and the tape cassette hadn't evolved yet past 8-Track???

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