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The Civil Wars See Positive Side of Music Piracy

Fred Hayes, Getty Images

In an age when the internet’s social media sites allow songs, videos and concert footage to be readily shared all over the world, many artists are concerned about the amount of music that is being spread around for free. But the Civil Wars aren’t in that group. The duo, comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White, insist they are happy to have their music shared with the masses, even if they aren’t getting paid for their hard work.

“Sure, piracy has its drawbacks, but it also has positives,” Joy tells Forbes magazine. “We’ve had people admit to us before that they were given a burned CD of our record from a friend. They’d go on to say that, once they heard the music, they bought tickets to the nearest show. And there, standing in line afterward to say hi — wearing a band shirt they bought that night — they recounted how many friends they’d turned on to our music. In short, we try not to be curmudgeons about piracy, but to embrace this shift in culture.”

The singer-songwriters actually encourage their loyal followers to share video of their energy-packed performances on several social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

“We’ve also encouraged people to upload and share their footage from our shows via their social network of choice,” John notes. “It’s become a powerful medium for us. It shows many different sides of us that an audio-only format can’t.”

The popular duo say they owe a lot of their success, which includes a critically-acclaimed album (‘Barton Hollow’) and a song with Taylor Swift on the ‘Hunger Gamessoundtrack, to fans spreading the word online.

“While the vastness of what’s available on the Internet adds to a lot of noise, it also makes it possible to connect with people like never before,” says Joy. “As a band, we’ve tried to utilize that. We don’t want to be ivory towers. We enjoy the interaction with fans. Word of mouth via avenues like social media have been a huge part of our musical story.”

Far from worrying that having their music shared for free will hurt their overall profit, the pair say there is one aspect of their music that will never be able to be replicated on a computer screen.

“One thing is true,” Joy maintains, “you can pirate music, but you can’t ever pirate the actual experience of going to a show and seeing someone perform live. We try to keep that in perspective, and it motivates us to make each night on stage count.”

The Civil Wars will head to Los Angeles this Sunday (Feb. 12), for the Grammy Awards, where they are nominated for two trophies, for Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo/Group Performance. They will also join Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, the Band Perry, Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton as performers for the evening’s ceremony.

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards air live from the Staples Center at 8:00 PM ET on CBS.
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