Baby Steps for the Music Industry

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that music piracy is a highly controversial issue. However, while reading up on the topic, I found it very difficult to find any actual research on the topic. Particularly in Australia.

For a brief history of online piracy, watch here:

So I decided to investigate where some of the information on the issue is coming from.

I typed ‘music piracy’ into the Google Search bar and the top non-Wikipedia entry was from the Recording Industry Association of America. The title of the page was Who Music Theft Hurts.

As you can imagine, their view on the subject concurred with dominant discourses on the subject. They maintained that music piracy was the cause of $12.5 billion dollars worth of harm, and they had a ‘credible study’ to prove it.

I took a look at the study, The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S Economy, and discovered that, for starters, the study had been published in 2007. This would seem to be a problem, especially because it is referred to as being factual seven years on. Further reading uncovered the fact that CD sale losses were factored into the concluding figures, because: “U.S. retailers of compact disks face reduced sales and lower profits as a result of pirate activities that occur in the United States”.

Now, declining CD sales can be attributed to many things rather than just piracy. Perhaps a general, globe-wide Digital Revolution could also be to blame?

Regardless, the study, and indeed the figures it supplies, are hopelessly out of touch with the times. Maybe, at their time of publication, these findings may have been more applicable. However, a lot has changed since 2007, and so there really should be some more frequent research on such a prominent website.

At the end of the study(p. 27), the author, Stephen Siwek, is also reported to be heavily involved in publishing pieces that defend intellectual property rights and the industries who rely on them. So it is little wonder that his study concludes what it does.

That’s just one study. But if you do a little research, you’ll find that it’s very typical of the type of ‘information’ that’s available.

Where are the qualitative studies?

Who is looking at how and why Australians access music?

Why is there so little information exploring alternative views?

Australians world’s worst for illegal music downloads is a Sydney Morning Herald article that looks at Music Metric data (the methodology of which has not been revealed). The data is from 2011-2012, which is not particularly recent, but is some of the most recent data I could locate on Australian piracy.

Apparently, Australians are the sixth highest for illegal downloads, but download the highest number of files per capita.

Our top music download in 2011-2012 was the Hilltop Hoods.

Photo Credit: Michael Spencer. Hilltop Hoods @ One Movement Music Festival

So how do we fix the problem? There’s all sorts of information, little of which seems very credible, on the issue of piracy.

To correct the balance, we need to look into why people are turning away from legal purchase of songs, instead of assuming it is because of criminal tendencies.

So that means qualitative studies, interviewing people, and seeing what’s really going on. 

These kind of studies benefit everyone: music listeners, music producers and even other media industries.

This is the first step in improving the relationship between music listeners and music producers.

References:

Siwek, S 2007, ‘The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S Economy’, Institute for Policy Innovation, accessed 24 September 2014, no. 188, pp. 1-28.

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