Eliminating Piracy

There’s a belief that if we just quashed piracy, eliminated all free access to music, coffers would fill once again, musicians would be rich and we’d enter a new golden age.

But that’s hogwash.

1. Music competes.

With not only video games and movies and TV, but the Net and everything on it. People have a limited amount of time and money, who says they’re going to spend it on music?

2. Ubiquity is dead.

Once upon a time, the three TV networks commanded 90% of the viewing audience. Now the five reach twenty-odd percent, the rest is split amongst a zillion cable channels. So if you believe if we eliminate piracy suddenly albums are going to sell ten million again, you’re dreaming.

3. Not all piracy is a substitute for purchase.

Read this article:

The numbers being thrown around are fictitious.

4. Piracy might be the downside of the Internet, but there are many upsides, direct contact with the fan and the ability to expose new people to your wares, and all of this can be done FOR FREE! We’re building a new ecosystem, because the change in infrastructure demands it. Piracy is just one part of the picture.

5. The way out is to license the piracy, find ways for people to pay. Been noticing all the ads on YouTube lately? That’s how they do it, they entice you for free and then you end up subscribing. Kind of like cable, the price never goes down, only up, but until there were web alternatives, subscriptions only went UP! Free streaming services are about getting people hooked on legitimate, legal systems and then converting them to paying customers once they’re obsessed. You might like Spotify on the desktop, but you can’t use it on your mobile unless you pay.

6. Information Is Beautiful

If one more ignoramus emails me this chart I’m gonna explode. Do you believe everything you read in the newspaper? Did the American government blow up the Twin Towers? Are you one of those people who only cottons to information that supports their cause?

Read this e-mail:

"I work for an indie label with a direct deal with Spotify. With all the articles lately about how Spotify is bad for the artists I did some calculations on the royalty reports we get and it turns out for the US premium subscribers it pays out MORE than Rhapsody or former Napster. About 50% more. Yes the free tiers are in the hundredths to thousands of a penny but if a consumer is that cheap then they probably aren’t downloading from iTunes.

Also my new favorite artist I have listened to the one track that hooked me over 100 times. Which at a premium subscription is more Net than a download of one track.

Please withhold my name/email due to privacy concerns in the off chance you use it."

Bingo! It’s about converting people to become premium subscribers. And if this happens, there’s plenty of revenue. Just don’t assume it’ll all go to a handful of artists who’ll be as rich as in pre-Internet days and realize we’ve shifted into a LISTENERSHIP model. Doesn’t matter if someone bought it, it’s if they USED IT! Isn’t that a much fairer way?

7. You bought the damn Les Paul and Marshall, don’t complain that there’s no one paying to record you. If you can afford the aforementioned equipment, you can buy some software (you already own the computer!) and make your own damn record. As for promotion… Those acts the majors hype don’t last and they release ever fewer of them. They’re heading straight for the cliff, you want to hitch yourself to their wagon?

8. The Internet has made scalping ubiquitous.

Yes, ticket prices have gone up because there’s a marketplace to buy them. No Internet, no StubHub. And you might say that the acts don’t get any of this revenue, but some do! They scalp their own tickets or employ I Love All Access. Furthermore, all the data possibilities are why promoters can afford to overpay acts/give them all of the ticket revenue.

9. Legacy acts

They may be complaining that they’ve got no recorded music revenue, but the Net is keeping them alive. Sure, there’s some radio airplay, but without easy availability/access to their music online would all those classic rock acts be moving as many tickets? NO!

10. Eradicate piracy and it’s going to be that much harder to break an act. We go back to the winner take all system. People will only buy what they hear/are exposed to, which will in many cases be the tripe that is foisted upon us by the major labels, the Top Forty fodder. It’ll be all beat-infused crap all the time, because people won’t be able to trade free music amongst themselves.


Do you think you’re paying when you watch sports on ESPN? YOU ARE! Approximately five bucks a month, whether you watch it or not. The key is to make music listening feel free, even if it’s not. We’re on that road, but too many musicians want to kill it, because it’s a nascent business. It’s like killing the iPod because it didn’t work on Windows and there was no iTunes Store. It’s like doubling down on Kodak because you don’t own a digital camera and who’d want to shoot pictures each and every day other than a professional?

We finally have the tool for success, the way out, streaming services, but you want to kill them. You’d probably eat a cookie today rather than forgo it and have twenty tomorrow.

Killing piracy kills the music business. It cuts down on listener experimentation and innovation. Who’s gonna make something that radio won’t play if there’s no free listening and sharing online?

Just because the new world doesn’t look like the old world, don’t dismiss it. Sure, a bunch of people may have lost their jobs at the label, but a bunch more gigs were developed in tech. And now so many bands need a webmaster. What did that guy do previously? Certainly not work at the computer-averse label.

We cannot go back to the past. However much you might have loved the pre-Internet era. So can we all agree to march forward and say yes instead of no, admit that certain behaviors cannot be eliminated and therefore must be corralled to our benefit?

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