Tag Archives: music piracy

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.


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.


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.