Last Wednesday's Brit Awards saw the great and the good pay tribute to the UK's finest musical talent. From David Bowie to Laura Mvula, the Arctic Monkeys to One Direction, the 2014 nominees demonstrate the incredible diversity that exists across the British music scene today. With January figures showing that the UK's creative industries are worth over £70billion per year to our economy, it seems there has never been a better time to make music in Britain.
There's also never been a better time to be a music fan. The internet allows us to stream or download a track in seconds. We can store our music on our phones, tablets, computers or in the cloud. It is available everywhere - at home or on the move.
But under the surface of this boom in talent and accessibility, there is still a sense among fans that paying for music merely lines the pockets of the record industry bigwigs. There is a belief that young artists are exploited by record labels that siphon off the lion's share of the profits to pay for their executives' champagne lifestyles. That's why it's ok - they say - to download the music they love illegally, for free.
While it's true that artists do not have enough of a say regarding the decisions that affect them, this shouldn't be used by their fans as an excuse for theft. Illegal downloading is not merely two-fingers up to Simon Cowell, it's a kick in the teeth to the performers who made the music.
A new study published last week investigated the top 30 websites that deal in pirated content and found that each one generates an income from advertising of around $4.4million annually. That's over $100million per year in the pockets of organised crime and out of the mouths of musicians. As their business model depends on illegally distributing billions of stolen copies of works that cost others billions to create, their profit margins reach up to 94% - margins that bands can only dream of. Piracy does not care if you are a global corporation or a small indie label run by artists, they steal from all, big and small. Whereas a song downloaded from iTunes is the price of a packet of crisps - and hopefully more nourishing.
What we need is a change in the culture of the music industry. Where musical artists sit at the decision-making table, working closely with their record labels and their fans to make sure that artists get a fair share of the money their fans spend on their music. But we also need fans to realise that illegal downloading is not the answer. The debate isn't as simple as Universal versus Kim Dotcom, it's HulkShare versus Music. We need to build a sustainable music industry, where those with the great ideas are fairly rewarded.
One way of doing this is to ensure that the UK Government understands the economic and artistic contributions of the music sector and upholds rigorous intellectual property laws. The laws that allow people the right to make a living from their ideas. Without them creativity may become a hobby not a job. That is why I am calling on all true music fans to join me and thousands of workers and creators in signing a new petition urging politicians to take action on this issue. The petition has been launched by the Creative Coalition Campaign - a group of artists, trade unions and businesses across the creative industries - formed to champion the rights of workers and creators and to press for effective measures to combat online copyright infringement.
Send the message to politicians and the music industry that we value music and we want it and its creators to survive in the digital future.
If you love British music, please, give it a future.
Crispin Hunt on behalf of the Featured Artist Coalition. The Featured Artists Coalition campaigns for the protection of UK performers' and musicians' rights.
The Creative Coalition Campaign (CCC) brings together rights holders and trade unions across the UK. Its membership includes 31 leading organisations in the film, music, publishing, games, and sport sectors; as well as trade bodies and trade unions. Sign the petition to support creativity here.