After attending Friday’s social media lecture regarding digital piracy and the issues surrounding the subject it got me really thinking about my own views on downloading music. I had always been of the opinion that “sharing is not stealing” and that it was fine that the internet should act as a platform for sharing media through peer to peer services such as torrenting. Recently as a semi professional who hopes to make money by providing audio engineering services for bands and artists I have started developing a conscience regarding music sharing! Despite still downloading albums released by the leading companies in the industry (i.e. EMI, Universal, Sony e.t.c) I pay monthly for a full spotify account and try to buy releases by artists on smaller, independent record labels such as Tru Thoughts and Ninja Tune– this eases my mind slightly! In this blog post I will be sharing some of my personal thoughts on file sharing and digital piracy.
I feel that downloading music that has been shared is a completely different process than duplicating CDs for the purpose of reselling them. This is a process to obtain music rather than steal profits which has allowed our generation to be subjected to a much wider variety of musical genres which can only be a good thing leading to open minded, educated musicians. Over recent years there has been a huge shift from physical to digital delivery for music content. This change in consumers buying habits may explain the record companies decline in revenue more than piracy and file sharing. In my opinion, paying for a folder of digital files doesn’t seem quite the same as buying the actual physical record complete with artwork, booklet e.t.c which gives a real sense of ownership to the product.
This shift from physical to digital delivery also encourages users to pick their favorite tracks from albums to download rather than the album as a whole- I feel this is wrong as it detracts from the artist’s intended vision for the album. I think record companies need to provide the customer with something additional to the music files as an incentive to buy the music legitimately. I was really glad Pink Floyd recently won their court settlement to ensure the tracks on their albums could not be sold individually which allowed them to retain the intended sequencing of tracks and the conceptual feel to their albums. Pink Floyd’s “Immersion” edition of their classic album “Dark Side of the Moon” includes posters, 6 CDs which contain previously unreleased audio and video footage along with information booklets and photos. This is a step in the right direction for providing consumers with an overall physical package which includes incentives/extras that cannot be obtained by downloading the music digitally.
In general, people sharing and downloading musical content online tend to be fans of music who still spend money on gig tickets, festivals and merchandise. According to the PRS bands and musicians are making more money from live shows than ever before and the fact their music is being shared gives them large amounts of promotion. Music sharing has always existed in some form such as copying tapes and CDs. It is a process can never be controlled completely especially when it is so easy to do with very low chance of any serious repercussions. These illegal downloads in fact help artists as listeners download music so that they can have more music than they could otherwise afford. Record executives often mention the “lost sales” due to illegal downloads. The reality is they haven’t lost sales due to the downloads. The listeners wouldn’t be buying the music if it wasn’t otherwise available, they would just be going without. This article by the University of Oxford also suggests that digital piracy may actually by benefiting media companies though the free promotion that pirating inherently provides.
Digital Piracy Image from http://thedigitaldrivetrain.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/piracy-vs-theft.jpg
Pink Floyd Immersion Boxset Image from http://www.whypinkfloyd.com/images/slideshow/im-darkside.jpg
Bell, N. (2008) Recorded Music: Who benefits from digital? [Online] April 2008. Available from: http://robertoigarza.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/rep-recorded-music-who-benefits-from-digital-pwc-2008.pdf [Accessed: 12th October 2011]
BBC. (2010) Pink Floyd win EMI court ruling over online sales [Online] March 2010. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8561963.stm [Accessed: 12th October 2011]
University of Oxford. (2008) “Digital Piracy may benefit companing” [Online] March 2008. Available from: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2008/080317.html [Accessed: 12th October 2011]