A new initiative to stop people illegally downloading music has just been announced with various internet providers such as BT, Virgin Media, Talk Talk and Sky sending out “educational” letters to people they believe have been downloading any illegal content. A maximum of 4 letters will be sent to one household with no further action taken.
The efficiency of the idea has been criticised widely with members of the public calling it a joke and others saying “People throw away bailiff letters, why would they take this seriously” nevertheless the scheme is due to be rolled out next year.
Music is undergoing a massive transformation and the future of music has changed forever. Traditionally music has always been purchased from a retail store in exchange for a physical copy of music in the form of an 8-track, cassette, CD, or vinyl but in a world of ever increasing technology music can be purchased on your phone, computer or tablet.
As a direct result of this web streaming services have become more prevalent and are a force to be reckoned with as they offer instant, affordable (sometimes free) and almost unlimited amounts of music.
iTunes and spotify are today’s main players, iTunes was created in 2001 and had sold ten billion songs by February 2010 whilst Swedish company spotify came along in 2008 and by 2010 it had 2.5 million paying members.
Whilst sites like Amazon and play.com sell second hand music second hand making no money for the artists websites such as spotify and iTunes pay a small amount to the artists each time a track is played.
However, not all artists have seen the benefits behind the idea with performers from Adele to ACDC opting out.
Adele decided she only wanted her hit album 21 to be available to subscribed users, which spotify refused to do, according to business magazine Fastcompany, Spotify “decided it did not want to split up its content catalogue, so as to create separate music libraries for paying subscribers and freemium users”
The founder and CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek said on the website “From day one we wanted to create a catalogue with the widest possible choice for our users.”
Despite spotify allowing you to listen to songs for free at home music lovers still want to be able to download a song onto their MP3’s to listen to on the go.
Due to this piracy is the main problem facing the music industry today, costing the American economy between $200 and $250 billion per year. It’s easy for anyone to download music onto their laptops or phones that is then available to them in digital form forever.
Some people argue that they have found new bands through illegal downloading that they would never have known about before.
Despite it being a criminal act there seems to be no permanent solution to the problem of p2p file sharing and torrenting. In America The Stop On-line Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in October 2011, which amongst other things aimed to blacklist known offenders and block entire websites found to be allowing free downloads as well as the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the websites imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
This was met with hostility from people all over the world who claimed it was an infringement on their human rights and their right to expression. On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia site Google and around 7,000 other smaller websites took part in an organised service blackout. They publicised this widely and Wikipedia had a banner on the top of their page explaining why this was happening with a reported 162 million people viewing the banner.
People from all over the world got involved to campaign against the act. On January 19, 2012 members of the group anonymous (so called Hactivists) carried out “denial of service” attacks on pro-SOPA websites. They claimed the attacks were a protest of SOPA and the United States Department of Justice’s shut down of Megaupload earlier that day.
Others boycotted companies that supported the act, a petition by Google was allegedly signed over 7 million people.
Whilst piracy seems to be a never ending battle the answer may lay in the distribution models. In 2007 Radio head made the decision not to resign with their long standing label and go it alone. They release their seventh studio album in rainbows as an exclusive digital download, the twist being that their fans were in control of how much they paid.
This “pay what you wish” trend was ground breaking at the time as there was no set price, allowing customers to choose the album’s worth for themselves. Whilst Radiohead refuse to release their profit it is estimated that the average price paid was between $6 and $8, meaning the band would have grossed $2,736,000 from digital sales alone.
In Rainbows went on to enter the Billboard chart, the U.K. Album Chart and the United World Chart at No. 1, going on to sell millions worldwide. According to Radiohead’s publisher, Warner Chappell, In Rainbows made more money before the album was physically released than the total sales for the band’s previous album, Hail to the Thief.”
Managers now consider this non-traditional pricing strategy as a viable opportunity to enhance sales revenue. This new strategy as well as income made from tours and merchandising means that although illegal downloading may be one of the biggest problems to hit the music industry there are other legitimate ways for bands to make money.