Taking Things from Musicians: What It Means to Steal


Observe the audience, dispersing after a band’s performance (at TAB, for instance). Look past the crowd heading for the doors and you’ll notice fans gathered before the stage, their eyes keenly set on a prize: objects lain onstage, strewn on the floor. These abandoned objects (at least abandoned in the eyes of the rabid collectors) would find themselves taken home as memorabilia. 

The standard harvester would eye for the usual pickings of set lists and used drum sticks by shamelessly climbing onto the stage. However, it is this stage-crawling mentality that, more often than not, leaves the backstage crew annoyed. Thankfully, many venues offer barricades that make the crew's job much easier. 

When fans get on stage, they can trample on wires and trip over cables — potentially damaging heavy and expensive gear in the process. Piled onto the fact that fans with clouded judgment are unable to distinguish what is important to the band and what isn’t, they groundlessly claim ownership rights on equipment thought as ‘insignificant’ or ‘disposable’. I've even seen stuff like hand percussion instruments to stage accessories taken home. This shit happens and it's infuriating.


There was a time when fans were more morally upright in their support. Set lists and customised guitar picks have been given out as appreciation to fans that support their music and come to their show. When these fans vie and try for objects of memorabilia to take home, that intent is lost. While no one will scream bloody murder of theft if you do so, patience is a nice virtue to own. 

In the case of music theft, it has split even the most ardent of fans ever since music sharing sites, torrents and music streaming apps fell unto our laps. In the past, sharing music would require the purchase of the CD first before getting ripped and distributed among friends on sketchy CD-R copies. 


Now, the simple click of a magnet link will send the deluxe edition of Jamie XX’s In Colour to your library within seconds. No single purchase is shared among friends now, not even the lowest of royalties. Some artists, like Tame Impala, Diplo and Liam Gallagher are all in for the notion of sharing music without the burden of cash transactions, believing that, in doing so, they reach out to a wider set of audience and recoup their profits through ticket and merchandise sales.



Kevin Parker, frontman of Tame Impala, has said in a Reddit AMA that "...the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music..."


However, others like Elton John are less liberal and vehement on anti-piracy, pulling their entire discography off torrent sites and insisting regular file-sharing users have their internet connection cut by providers. Even Prince has trust issues with YouTube. The stats are clear, though — more than half of Singaporeans download illegal music, movies and TV shows.

On the other end of the spectrum, another form of theft has been plaguing musicians for decades on. Somewhere in April this year, producer Nosaj Thing played his new set to a vibrant crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg (Brooklyn). What he didn't realise was that this set of new material would never be performed to another audience again

Two weeks after the show, the Asian-American producer suffered tragedy when his tour van was broken into: MacBook Pros, hard drives, stuffed with years of demos and master files, along with expensive equipment were taken. It left him reeling from shock as the recordings for his new album could neither be replicated or retrieved from anyone else.


Nosaj Thing's newest album, Fated, which had its session files included in the unfortunate theft. 

Another similar situation with rock band Surfer Blood left them upset and frustrated at the utter lack of humanity. After dealing with the departure of guitarist Thomas Fekete, who left the band to recover from a rare form of cancer, the band suffered another setback when their touring van was broken into, in the outskirts of Chicago — thousands of dollars of equipment, personal items and tour settlements were stolen from the band, including donations to Fekete’s totalling medical bills. While the thief got away with a potentially large haul, the band would walk away from Chicago without their earnings, having to replace personal items and makeup donations collected for Fekete.

What most fans (or pure opportunists) are unaware of is when people steal from musicians, they are not stealing guitars, musical instruments or even computer hardware that can be exchanged for money at Cash Converters — they are stealing an artist’s means of livelihood. Of course, instruments can be recovered through insurance, but the theft of ideas and creativity is something that can never be bought back or insured. 

Stealing is wrong. Please don't do it kids.

*This is not a sponsored post by SPF.

What do you think? Does downloading music from "alternative" sources constitute as stealing? Where would you draw the line? What do you think of fans grabbing setlists and other property onstage?