Category Archives: BCM240

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.

An outdated way of thinking

I love music. I love listening to it, dancing to it, and sharing it.

However, gone are the days when I would  save up my pocket money to spend on a CD. As you all well know, these days, we download.

Is this way of thinking outdated?
Is this way of thinking outdated?

Obviously, this has caused uproar within the recording industry. Now that it’s both cheaper and more convenient to just download music off a torrenting site, people aren’t paying for their music anymore. But is downloading a song for free really the same as stealing a CD from a shop?

Panic within the recording industry over loss of revenue has caused incidents such as this, where a 29 year old man was fined $675 000 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 tracks. That’s the equivalent of $22 500 a song.

This seems ridiculous.

To be fair, industry revenue has been falling throughout the 21st century (Bestinza et al. 2013, p. 5). However, while some of this may very well be attributed to illegal downloading, there are other flaws in the current business model of the recording system.

Sure, I liked that song on the radio. But I didn’t love it. I’m not willing to pay $1.69 for it on iTunes. But, if I can download it for free, maybe I’ll get the whole album, and listen to some new songs. Maybe I’ll really like it .  Maybe I’ll even buy concert tickets or merchandise later on.

A lot of musicians these days have recognised pirating as a very effective form of promotion. Amanda Palmer is one of them (skip to halfway through the clip if you don’t want the back story):

Lots of up-and-coming bands have started releasing their music for free on line, hoping to pique curiosity and create a following for themselves.

So is it really reasonable to sue for suspected damages when, in reality, they may not have purchased the song  anyway?

Particularly for young people with fairly low disposable income, paying $1.69 for every single track becomes very expensive very quickly, and encourages the purchase of only the best songs (at least in my experience).

Thankfully, there are other options for the music industry, rather than just suing random, everyday people.

Spotify, for instance, provides a subscription service.  You pay about $11 a month for unlimited access to their vast music libraries. This is what I use. I like the extra features I get that I wouldn’t get if I just torrented, like top tracks, related artists and artist radio. It feels like iTunes, but I can try as much music as I want for a comparatively small amount compared to when I used iTunes.

But that’s just me. There are still problems with the service, such as the micro-payment system.

The point is, services like Spotify, that provide convenient and cheap options are the way of the future. Expectations of media access have changed dramatically during the rise of the internet.

It’s about time the music industry kept with the times.

References:

Bustinza, O.F,  Vendrell-Herrero, F,  Parry, G & Myrthianos, V 2013,”Music business models and piracy”, Industrial Management & Data Systems, vol. 113, no. 1 pp. 4 – 22.

Texting during class: another moral panic?

Multitasking is something that’s been heavily debated for many years.

Who can do it?

Who shouldn’t do it?

When is it inappropriate?

While multitasking is a part of everyday life, it is increasingly coming under fire for interfering with peoples’ lives.

Specifically, when it comes to young people and learning, many are concerned that having too many electronic ‘distractions’, such as smartphones or laptops, can be detrimental to a person’s ability to achieve.

This is just one of many voices expressing this opinion:

According to Faculty Focus, there have been multiple studies proving a connection between the use of devices in conjunction with learning and decreased academic achievement.

One of the studies referenced, The effect of multitasking on the grade performance of business students, specifically measures the relationship between texting in class and information retention. They divided a class of 62 undergraduate business students in two. Half could text during class, half could not. All students were quizzed at the end of class.

The experiment proved that students who texted during class were more likely to receive lower grades. However, there were several flaws in the experiment. For instance ‘multitasking by texting’ was classified as sending three pre-planned messages to the lecturer.

In my experience, multitasking with a smartphone usually involves more than three, random texts.

However, this study supports multiple studies that say the same thing. There is a massive amount of information and research going into the concept of multi-tasking, and whether students in the digital age are suffering because of it.

However, I think that a lot of this can be boiled down to moral panicGen Y learners: just how concerned should we be? Tells of how there is actually very little representative information about Gen Y, apart from U.S university studies.  A lot of the studies appear to be based around the notion that young people are particularly susceptible to the dangers of new technologies.

However, people forget that students have always been distracted. If it wasn’t Facebook it was passing notes. Instead of playing Candy Crush it was drawing graffiti on the desk. And instead of texting people it was daydreaming.

Devices just provide another avenue to dispel fidgeting, boredom and general lack of interest. It’s not that attention spans that have altered dramatically, it’s just the way that young people these days operate.

Until more studies are done, we really can’t say for sure whether or not multitasking during class affects learning.

 

References:

Ellis, Y, Daniels, B, Jauregui, A 2010, ‘The Effect of Multitasking on the Grade Performance of Business Students’, Research in Higher Education Journal, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

Public Etiquette?

There are more and more ways than ever to make being alone in a public space less awkward. We have phones and iPods and public televisions. There is no reason to engage in people-watching and less chance of making uncomfortable eye-contact with a stranger.

I catch the bus to uni, and it always amazes me how silent it is. It seems that most people travel alone. Occasionally you hear the faint whispering of a person’s earphones. Many people are texting friends or scrolling Instagram. Some of the more inconsiderate people are making phone calls.

There are funny little antisocial behaviours that are expected when you are on a bus. For example, when the bus opens its doors to let more people on,  there is  a spare seat beside beside them, many people, if they weren’t already, find something to do on their phones. They want to appear impassive; not too stand-offish but not too eager.

Fortunately for me, people mostly stay in their own, device-oriented bubble. Bus trips are relatively calm affairs.  However, sometimes, when people start to break the rules, like what happened here, the private bubbles pop, and the event becomes very, very public:

Catching antisocial behaviour on smartphones and posting it to YouTube has become a normal occurrence, and there are thousands of examples.

In many cases, this can be seen as a way of publicly raising issues that need addressing, such as racism on Sydney public transport. It is a positive step in creating change.

However, are there cases when this is unjustified? Does just being in public  mean anyone can take your picture or a video and splash it across the internet?

This quick guide to the legislation regarding photography in public places  says that 95% of the time, you can take a photograph of anyone or anything in a public space, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.

Still, I go to the park not expecting to have my photo taken by a stranger. Regardless of the legislation, there is etiquette in place.  We use our phones to disappear into private space while in public space, but rarely expect images of ourselves in public to be available to anyone other than the people in that space at that time.

It seems, while there is legislation in place, our behaviour in public is dictated by a strong sense of public etiquette.

The main ideas seem to be: don’t attract attention and don’t make eye-contact with strangers.

 

Movie Dates

I’ve been going to the cinema for as long as I can remember. I’ve gone with my sister, my parents and my friends, to see the latest Harry Potter film, catch up on the most recent Disney release, and even just to fill in time.

My local cinema is independent, but surprisingly sophisticated and cheap. There are six different screens, all the same size as some of the larger chain outlets, and they show all the latest releases. They’ve even started doing midnight releases. I can also get an adult ticket, small popcorn and small drink for little over $10. It’s little wonder that cinema-going in my home town is a regular event. It’s not uncommon for people to go and see a movie just for the sake of it, and even watch a favourite movie multiple times while it’s still at the cinema.

Unfortunately, as I soon worked out, it’s not the same everywhere else.

On a recent cinema trip, I took notice of my surroundings, and exactly what it took to organise the trip. I categorised my journey in terms of Torsten Hagerstrand‘s concepts of Time Geography

Capability: The cinema we selected was approximately twenty minutes away from where we lived. We decided to leave 45 minutes early to allow for difficulty parking , the queues inside, and also to drop by the supermarket and pick up some snacks. (this lesson was learnt from past experience).

Coupling: As my two friends and I live together, it was relatively simple to pick a time and drive together. The movie we wanted to see was Guardians of the Galaxy.  As avid Marvel movie fans, we’d been waiting months to see it, but also didn’t want to be part of the crowded rush that is opening night. So we waited until what we thought would be a quiet weekday night. We arrived twenty minutes early, meaning we beat the queues and had plenty of time to sit (up the back of the theatre, of course) and chat before the film started.

 

Authority: This cinema utilised something completely foreign to me with my small-town-cinema upbringing: seat numbers. However, we had visited this cinema before, and no one ever seemed to sit in their allotted seat because there were simply never enough people in the theatre for it to matter. We walked in to discover that there were people already sitting in our allotted seats. Not worried, we sat elsewhere. Unfortunately, this screening was very popular, and we soon had to move so a particularly large group could sit together. A couple behind us were very rudely and loudly told to move by two men whose seats they were sitting in, despite their assertions that someone had already sat in their allotted seats.

What followed was a very tense fifteen minutes, as people slowly filtered into the darkened cinema. We were acutely aware that the same thing that had happened to the couple behind us might happen again. We debated in whispers whether we should go and claim our allotted seats. We knew we weren’t authorised to be in the seats we were, and it made us uncomfortable.

None of us relaxed until twenty minutes into the film.

There is a lot of speculation about the future of the film industry. Many have warned that the increase of movie pirating will ruin cinema going. However, according t Screen Australia, cinema admissions have been fairly steady over the last decade, while box office intake has, mostly, been increasing.

So the facts do not back the statement.

As for the future, I think cinema going will still be popular for a long time. There are lots of different reason people go to the cinema, not just to see the film. They go with their friends to socialise, to experience the films they do want to see in their optimum environment, and to  have something to do on a first date.

Cinema isn’t going anywhere just yet.

 

Left behind

There have been big changes in Elizabeth’s life in the last few weeks. Instead of being on 8GB of internet data per month, they have been upgraded to 15. In a house of 4, including two teenagers, it’s been a struggle to balance work and homework with personal interests.

Source: ABS Household Internet Access
Source: ABS Household Internet Access

This upgrade has not been without a hefty fee however. The family now pays $115 for 15GB.

The reason for this is that Elizabeth lives on a farm. It’s only twenty minutes away from the nearest town, but even this short distance makes a big difference. It’s hard to keep up with the rest of the world when they all have unlimited, high speed broadband, and you’re stuck in the early 2000s with internet that appears to enjoy failing at the most inconvenient times.

But Elizabeth’s internet access hasn’t always been this bad. Not even five years ago, they had 25GB for the family, for a much lower cost of $50 a month. They are now paying more than double for a bit over half as much data. They used to be able to use YouTube, download plenty of music, and browse whatever their hearts desired, without fear of running out of data only two weeks into the month.

Unfortunately, while the internet was great when it was working, it wasn’t always working. There were several factors that guaranteed an internet shut down. Rain was one of them. It didn’t have to be heavy rain, or any rain at all. Even an overcast day would be enough to trigger the ominous orange ‘no internet’ light on the router. Snow was another obvious one, as were moderate to high winds.

Of course, sometimes the internet stopped working for no particular reason at all. It appeared to particularly dislike weekends, and would regularly stop working around close of business on a Friday. This meant that there was no one in the provider’s office until Monday, meaning the internet was out all weekend. Nevermind those big school assignments.

These hiccups started off as quite sporadic, but gradually got more frequent, until it was more common to not have internet than to have it. Family members began habitually checking the router as they wandered past. A sighting of the green ‘internet is on’ light triggered a house-wide panic to snatch as many devices up as possible to check emails, Facebook, download that song you’d been wanting for a week, look up and open tabs of research for assignments and whatever other webpages you needed.

Eventually, despite the best efforts of the internet provider, it was concluded that, for whatever reason, Elizabeth’s household could no longer be connected to the internet by this provider.

And so began the long summer of 2013-14. The household went three months without any home internet connection. They relied on mobile data, and free wi-fi from cafes, maccas and shopping centres.

Like many Australian families, they were curious about the National Broadband Network, or NBN. They’d heard great things. It was going to revolutionise their ability to connect and participate online. No more of the sub-standard services they’d had so far. Something like this clip describes.

 

However, when Elizabeth’s husband inquired about it, he was told not to bother. The NBN was horribly oversubscribed in their area, making it very slow, and, at times, almost impossible to use. Another satellite was to be launched in a few years, but until then, Elizabeth’s family were better off going to BigPond, Australia’s largest provider.

Unfortunately, because Telstra (owner of BigPond) is the largest network in Australia, with the widest reaching service, they can charge quite large amounts. And that brings us to Elizabeth’s current situation: paying $115 for 15GB.

The service is reliable, but makes life very difficult. In this day and age, it is hard to keep up with everyday life without the internet.

In fact, many Australian households do not have a broadband connection at all, 17% in fact according to a 2012-13 ABS report. Add on top of this the many unknown people who cannot afford or access much more than a few gigabytes, and there are a great many people in Australia who are being left behind Australia and the rest of the world.

According to Alan Kohler (2014) in The Reality of the NBN, a family in Brunswick (inner Melbourne) which was connected to the NBN, gets unlimited, high speed data and phonecalls for $115, the same price Elizabeth’s family pays for a measly 15GB.

Is this how it’s going to be? The NBN (if it even continues as planned), will make the lives of those in the capital cities even easier, while those in more ‘difficult’ areas are further disadvantaged? Elizabeth is just one of thousands.

Apparently, all we can do is wait and dream of the future, and the crazy possibilities there might be if there was, one day, decent internet.

 

References:

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, cat. no. 8146.0, ABS, Canberra.

Kohler, A 2014, ‘The reality of the NBN’, Business Spectator, 17 March, viewed 23 August, <http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/3/17/technology/reality-nbn>.

 

 

 

Popularity Contest

All media producers want to know who their audience is. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Title: Audience at a Frontier Fiesta show

There are lots of different ways to measure audiences. In Australia, Unitam is installed in thousands of homes to measure how many people are watching which shows. GFK is set to take over measuring radio audiences, incorporating a new online element.

But what happens when it comes to measuring online audiences?

When it comes to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, its easy to tell how many friends or followers you have. The number is often used to gauge a person or organisation’s influence.

But how accurate is this? Does having a thousand Facebook friends mean that you’re more influential than someone with only two hundred?

Many people disagree.

Klout appears to be offering a different perspective.

For a quick introduction to the concept, watch this:

 

Klout goes beyond just looking at social media audiences in terms of their numbers. It cross-references Twitter and Facebook and other major social networks, to measure a person’s actual influence.

Each person gets a score out of 100, with 100 having the highest influence. This is based on how active you are on social media, how your followers/friends respond to you, as well as how many of them there actually are.

My face when I found out my Klout score

Even if I tweeted and retweeted all day long,  if no one was retweeting or mentioning me, my score would not be very high. This would probably be because what I was saying was not relevant or interesting.

Whereas someone like Kim Kardashian, who has millions of followers who are very interested in what she’s up to, would have a higher score (it’s 88, to be precise).

Barack Obama has a score of 99. This makes sense.

Obviously, there are flaws in the system. Just because a follower doesn’t retweet you doesn’t mean you don’t influence them. And, just because someone retweets you, it doesn’t mean you are actually impacting them.

However, it represents a significant step towards combining quantitative and qualitative data.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go improve my Klout score.