Tag Archive: IFPI


My Love is Shared

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Image courtesy of Laserwolf

Anchorage’s music scene has been growing in recent years. This is not the result a of resurgence in music interest, but rather the blowout of social media. Everyone plus their grandma can be searched and found on Facebook, and the same goes for musicians. Having a social media presence allows artists to spread their work. Local artist Laserwolf is no exception to the trend.

On a cold, windy night in early March, local musician Todd Armstrong aka Laserwolf agreed to speak about file sharing and the ever-evolving music industry. The 21-year-old virtuoso scratched his unshaven chin and sipped on a glass of orange juice and vodka while recording equipment was being laid upon an unstable dining room table.

Across the living room sat a record player; something you rarely see in a young person’s dwelling. Within Armstrong’s room is a walk-in closet occupied with thousands of records. Tucked away in the musician’s pocket is a 160 GB iPod Classic. The MP3 player contains close to 15,000 songs. Armstrong is obviously a music enthusiast. Someone so embedded in music culture would never think of obtaining music illegally. But such an assumption is far from the truth.

Armstrong began making music when he was 14 years old. He downloaded the program FruityLoops, now known as FL Studio, after being introduced to it by a friend.

Image Taken from FLStudio.com

“I downloaded it, the same program (FL Studio). I stole it,” said Armstrong glancing into the camera with raised eyebrows, as to indicate the “theft” of the software launched his music endeavors.

As Laserwolf’s Facebook page indicates, he has been DJ-ing since 2008. Since turning 21 years old, he has played many more performances than in the past. The tracks Armstrong chooses to play at his shows are largely obtained through Internet blogs, and he likes performing because it allows him to share what he has found.

“I like DJ-ing because I like sharing the music that I’ve heard,” Armstrong said. “Because in general people don’t know how to get music… The good music. You know, you gotta’ dig on the Internet. I don’t know. I think of it as a way of sharing music.”

Music options are now limitless thanks to the digital revolution. People can easily download the newest singles or albums available at the click of a mouse. Whether that click carries out a legal or illegal action is up to the consumer. Many have opted for the illegal route despite multiple campaigns funded by the largest names in the music industry. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an organization that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide, close to 95 percent of music downloads are unauthorized, with no payments to the artists or producers.[1]

Treasure trove of “free” data

The majority of these downloads happens through peer-to-peer (P2P) networking. This networking is a distributed application that divides tasks or workloads between peers. Peers are equally privileged participants in the application. They each make a portion of their resources, such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth, directly available to other network participants. Sharing without central coordination creates peers that are both suppliers and consumers of resources.

Peer-to-peer networking, or file sharing, works in direct opposition to the music industry’s traditional model of business. A model in which they solely provided the goods (music) and clients consume. P2P file sharing became popularized by systems like Napster, and the networks tend to have a considerable emphasis on music.

P2P decentralized network. Image taken from Wikipedia Commons

New distribution methods have caused a power struggle between the industry and consumers. The dominant players of the old economy forcefully lobby in support of legal acts that target file sharing, such as the Digital Economy Act, which passed through the UK Parliament on April 8, 2010 and entered into force on June 12, 2010. The act grants the UK government wide-ranging powers to tighten copyright law. File sharing is focused on, with serious offenders having the speed or capacity of their broadband service limited or temporarily suspended. This means that the owner of a connection (café owners, universities or libraries) can be held liable, even if the owner is not personally responsible for downloading pirated material.

Others see file sharing as a positive step toward open and free information. As Birgitte Andersen of the University of London puts it, “New digital technology has the power to revitalize the cultural industries and the service economy, and to create more value for its businesses and its consumers. Through access to resources, low cost virtual premises and worldwide exposure, it opens up opportunities for businesses (no matter how small or big) and individuals, who have the determination and ideas to do something, providing they understand digital technology.” [2]

Regardless of which argument you find yourself in agreement with, the music industry has changed immensely in the past decade—Napster was introduced to the public in 1999. The industry is also struggling to keep up with the new digital economy.

“You can get anything. I had a really slow Internet connection and I would start to download a bunch of albums. I would go to sleep and wake up and have like five new albums. Yes!” Armstrong shouted clenching his fits for emphasis. “I can listen to these for weeks and be happy. They’re (major music labels) dead. They’re mammoths. They’re dinosaurs. They’re going extinct, and it’s inevitable.” -Todd Armstrong



[1] Andersen, Birgitte (2010). “Shackling the digital economy means less for everyone: the impact on the music industry.” Prometheus, 28: 4, 375-383.

[2] Andersen, Birgitte (2010). “Shackling the digital economy means less for everyone: the impact on the music industry.” Prometheus, 28: 4, 375-383.

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Innovations in digital distribution (most often originating from outside the recording and publishing industries) have significantly changed users’ relationships to the music they consume.

Photo taken from stuffwhitepeoplelike.com

In a study conducted for New Media & Society, a sample of 630 college students participated in a music downloading study. Nine in ten, or 89.8 percent, of the respondents had downloaded music from the web. The participant pool was 69 percent Caucasian, 14 percent African American, 8 percent Hispanic and 8 percent other. The respondents downloaded an average of 265 songs in the past year and had an average of 677 songs stored on their computers.

The study concluded that for the most part college-aged individuals view music downloading—like other web applications—as entertainment. The conclusion raised questions about the purposefulness of the downloading. Some college students go to the web to download specific songs that they enjoy. Others appear to be less goal-directed and view downloading as a way to occupy time.[1]

Disposable income was the second dominant factor in making the decision to download music illegally, according to the study. It states, “The strength of the convenience/economic utility factor in this study reflects the respondents’ interests in the immediacy and accessibility of acquiring music via the web as well as the cost benefit.”[2]

John Aronno relates music to food. He stated that people will always spend some amount of money on music.

“Economic downturns don’t depress music, they make people turn to it. Music is what gets us through the worst of times. Piracy has become so prevalent because it is so convenient, not because people couldn’t afford to purchase the music,” said Aronno.

Evan Phillips believes it has more to do with making the best of your resources.

“I think it has a little to do with income level.  It has more to do with being smart,” said Phillips. “If 100 people are given the opportunity to pay for something versus getting it for free, my hunch is that at least 80 of them would choose to get it for free despite income level.”

The IFPI collected data in 2006 indicating that in the five largest European music markets (UK, Germany, Spain, Sweden and France), most of the users of legal music download services were newcomers to Internet music downloading.

Image taken from the Capitalist Shrugged blog.

Legal downloads of songs to iPods, computers, and other devices have stalled, researcher Nielsen Soundscan reports, growing just 0.3 percent last year. Also, a early digital money maker for music companies, ring tones, peaked in 2007 at $714 million and have since fallen 24 percent, according to data from researcher SNL Kagan.

P2P file sharing is illegal, and it is apparent to the people who do so that it cuts into the revenue of the music industry. This does little to sway this group, however, viewing the falling percentiles and millions and the money spent on campaigns to halt such operations as pure greed.

It is often referred to as ethically questionable behavior in consumption. Dr. Kyoko Fukukawa of the Bradford University School of Management argues that “rather than applying pre-existing universal moral principles, more than 80 percent of consumers make ethics related decisions on ad hoc and contextual basis, weighing factors such as cost perceived benefit and value against ethical considerations.”[3]

Other scholars argue that the music labels are now threatened by true competition from new Internet services providers. Their business models are based upon inclusiveness, interaction and competition through exposure of many artists, as well as high variety and low price for users.[4] Their direct and indirect economic effects can be huge, and they open up our cultures.

Toxic Music. Taken from the Lonesome Writer Amaryeahtajuddin blog.

One of the mechanisms the recording industry has tried to implement to fight P2P file sharing is depositing large volumes of polluted music files into file sharing networks. Some examples of polluting a music file include replacing part of the content with white noise, cutting the duration, inserting warnings about the illegality of P2P downloading or changing the song title.

Within public advertising and campaigning (funded by trade associations) the discourse of downloading illegal content as being unethical and immoral is common. There is an explicit intention to shape consumer behavior to benefit the industry by encouraging higher user spending on cultural goods.

The Music Matters anti-piracy campaign reminds consumers to “make the ethical choice.”

Monolith Agency is an example of how people in the music industry can continue to make money. Bands on the Agency’s roster tour heavily, and it makes a percentage of off every show it books for bands. Publishing and licensing songs are yet another way for artists to generate revenue.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in licensing your songs to commercials, movies, and TV shows.  My band mate Leeroy Stagger had a 45-second clip of one of his songs on Gray’s Anatomy a few years ago,” said Phillips. “He’s still getting residual royalties off that.  I’m pretty sure he got a check for $12,000 last year.”

If we decide to punish people, I think the most fitting crime would be for them to be forced to learn how to play the song they’ve downloaded on a musical instrument of the perpetrator’s choosing. But, again, as long as it’s not for-profit piracy, I don’t have an issue with it.” –John Aronno


[1] Kinnally, W., Lacayo, A., McClung, S., & Sapolsky, B. (2008). Getting up on the download: college students’ motivations for acquiring music via the web. New Media & Society, 10(6), 893-913. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

[2] Kinnally, W., Lacayo, A., McClung, S., & Sapolsky, B. (2008). Getting up on the download: college students’ motivations for acquiring music via the web. New Media & Society, 10(6), 893-913. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

[3] Fukukawa, K. (2002). “Developing a framework for ethically questionable behavior in consumption,” Journal of Business Ethics, 41, 1-2, p. 99-119.

[4] Andersen, Birgitte (2010). “Shackling the digital economy means less for everyone: the impact on the music industry.” Prometheus, 28: 4, 375-383.

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