Tag Archive: P2P file sharing


The Good Times are Killing Me

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Companies such as Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group—all of which are represented by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and have close ties to the IFPI—were developed around content production for analogue distribution channels, which they have dominated for decades. According to the IFPI, these four music majors control around 75 percent of the global music market.

Image taken from DavidAirey.com

On the one hand, the providers have worked with this analogue broadcasting and distribution via fixed format, such as CDs, LPs, and—in the past—cassette tapes, which has been around for ages. These formats are limited, however, to how much data they can carry, and they make for expensive business models. Andersen stated, “Venture capital is required to cover risk in volatile music markets, which is one of the reasons why music majors, such as Universal and Sony, achieve control over artists and markets (radio, clubs, retail) and are able to sell cultural services to listeners at a high price.”[1]

On the other hand, there is now a large part of the global populace that grew up with Internet service providers, having made the Internet and digitization a large part of their being.

These new (new compared to the music majors) providers are not developing content or products, but rather they are selling services using the “technological and business opportunities of digitization. They include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Ebay… and have acted as a forceful business group.”[2]

The music industry is lobbying against this movement, and while it may not be losing, blunders in their market strategies began long before the advent of the Internet.

Local musician and creator of The Alaska Commons Blog John Arrono traveled with two bands, Thought Crime and Sleep in Fame, from 2000-2005 as the bands’ lead singers. He has been on multiple tours and festivals, and has opened for acts such as Slayer, Hatebreed, Thrice, Face to Face, Machinehead and Papa Roach among others.

Aronno stated that the recording industry made a huge calculated mistake, starting back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Looking to save money, the industry started to sign fewer bands, with an aim to also sign those bands to shorter contracts. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, most bands signed three or five album contracts; nowadays, thousands of bands get signed every year. It is likely that the majority of the bands will be dropped from their label before their first album makes it to the shelves.

Bow Wow Wow, where are you now? Image taken from Wall Flowers Society.

“The strategy was to depend heavily on revenue from hit singles rather than full albums and sustained careers. The brief popularity in the new media of music videos, likewise, took the focus off the music and onto the packaging. They gambled that they could cut costs while maintaining sales by concentrating their efforts on publicizing specific artists,” said Aronno. “The lack of variety, however, has vastly affected popular music. By scaling back on artists and not working to develop their talent into long and profitable careers, they have devastated their own industry.”

The recording industry views this strategy of signing and dropping artists ad nausea in a different light. In 2008, Universal launched Global Talent Services (GTS), a company that provides global services to artists’ managers. According to Universal Music Latin America and Iberian Peninsula Chairman Jesús Lopez, it aims “not to get new revenue, but rather to maximize operations, particularly for those artists who are on the brink of pan-regional development and need support in multiple companies.”[3]


[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.

[3] Cobo, L. (2008). The Face Of Change. Billboard, 120(15), 24-27. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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To musicians, the most effective tool for spreading music is not a service implemented by the recording industry. Rather, it is the Internet.

“All they’re doing is signing the artists, and they (the music majors) have connections to distribute the music,” said Armstrong. “It’s not like there’s any Sam Goodies anymore. The industry is dead and it’s all about the artist now. And through the computer, through the Internet, it’s artist directly to listener.”

As early as 1999, Napster demonstrated that there was high demand for digital music and that consumers were willing to trade the music quality of CDs for convenience, as they started downloading small files from huge, illegal, online collections.

Cha-ching. Image taken from gsmdome.com.

As Jason Rutter, professor at the School of Mass Communication Research in Leuven, Belgium stated, Napster showed that there was “an untapped potential for a new model of music distribution and consumption. What might be seen as a natural extension of early Internet utopianism for free exchange of information and a frictionless market had, however, a significant impact on the music industry and, in turn, other digital content industries.”[1]

A recent Bloomberg article titled “Digital sales hit the wall as listeners turn to streaming services,” stated that U.S. sales of all kinds of recorded music—CDs, downloads, and other formats—will fall to $7 billion in 2012, or a bit more than half their level in 2005.

Impact on sales has not been entirely negative. The most viable of changes in the music industry as a result of digital innovations was the launch of iTunes by Apple in 2001 to compliment its mp3 player—the iPod. By February 2010—a quarter in which it was reported that iTunes sales accounted for 28 percent of the U.S. market and 70 percent of U.S. download market—Apple had sold 10 billion songs through the iTunes store, and had a catalogue of 12 million tracks. [2]

Photo taken from The Garfield Messenger

The success of the digital download market has played a major role in revitalizing what was considered to be a dead element of the traditional music market—the sale of singles. In 2009, just 1.2 million vinyl and CD singles were shipped in the UK, contrasting with 113.2 million units in 1996. Thanks to digital downloads, however, that year the UK music industry managed to show its highest ever level of single sales with 152 million units being sold with 98 percent of these sales being digital downloads. [3]

Digital downloads are beginning to lose their new-car smell, however. The number of music enthusiasts using iTunes, Amazon.com, and other digital music stores has leveled off at about 40 million people, market researcher NPD Group reports. Audiences are increasingly turning to ad-supported streaming sites such as Pandora.

“I generally am introduced to new music through radio or Pandora. If I like a track, I’ll usually download a couple additional (tracks) off of the album. Sometimes, I’ll download the whole album. If I like it, I buy the CD,” said Aronno.

The problem is—at least for the recording industry—is those services are far less profitable than sales of individual tracks. “It would take 200 streams to make up for a single download,” said Robb McDaniels, chief executive officer of INgrooves, an online music distributor, in the aforementioned Bloomberg article.

Rutter explains it best: “Digitalization has driven a shift in the nature of the market from one in which music sales were focused on physical goods, to one where digital distribution and secondary markets are the driving forces behind income generation.”[4]

The future of the music industry remains elusive as Bond, James Bond. Not the suave Sean Connery Bond of the ‘60s, but rather the newest of the Bonds, Daniel Craig. Craig is a destructive Bond who uses force to achieve his objectives, not realizing that his actions are hurting rather than helping.

The recording industry cannot stop music fans from clicking that download button one more time.

Aronno believes that at some point the music industry will hit bottom and start to build a new model of operation from scratch.

“Artistic movements are always subject to peaks and troughs, and we’re going through an unprecedented trough, because private industry has been repressive of talent and the creative process. Major labels own the airwaves and use them to flood the market with Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift,” said Aronno. “The result is something a world away from a period of enlightenment. Industry has literally dumbed down music, and we’re feeling the impacts of that now. It’s why people are… playing games about music rather than writing their own music. At some point, something new has to happen. But that’s not going to come from the think tanks inside the major labels. Much the opposite, they will fight any change with ever cent left in their coffers.”

Your new best friend. Image taken from Fileserve.

Large numbers of people are using illegal download services to obtain their music, and while the demographic doing so may not surprise you (18-24 year olds) the view points of musicians using these services might.

“It’s better for the artist (file sharing) because everyone has the ability to listen to their music if they have Internet access. If they want 30 more cents… I’m not buying music,” Armstrong lets out a genuine laugh. “I don’t have money to buy music. I’m not in a union. I don’t have a living wage. My priority is: I like music, I like to listen to it, there’s nothing good on the radio, I don’t want to spend $1.29 on a mp3 that I could fuckin’ ‘steal’,” Armstrong raises his hands, gesturing quotation marks. “I guess, is a word you could use. I like the term borrow.”


[1] Rutter, Jason (2010). “Consumers, crime and the downloading of music.” Prometheus, 28:4, 411-418.

[2] Apple (2010). “iTunes store tops 10 billion songs sold.” Press release, February 25, 2010, available at http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/02/25itunes.html.

[3] Rutter, Jason (2010). “Consumers, crime and the downloading of music.” Prometheus, 28:4, 411-418.

[4] Rutter, Jason (2010). “Consumers, crime and the downloading of music.” Prometheus, 28:4, 411-418.

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Last year, songwriter and musician Evan Phillips started a booking company for Indie bands, dubbing the operation Monolith Agency. According to the Agency’s website, Monolith is an “artist-centered business who’s primary goal is to provide high quality booking and publicity services for independent musicians.   We believe that hard work and mutual investment over time is the best way for our artists to achieve a long lasting and gratifying career.”

Image obtained from Monolith Agency website

Phillips has been involved with music for more than 15 years. He is the lead singer for the Alaska band The Whipsaws; they have released three albums total. He is also a member of the Indie folk group Easton Stagger Phillips; the group consists of Phillips, an American songwriter and a Canadian songwriter. ESP has released one album in America and Europe. Phillips is embedded in the music industry. He performs and aids aspiring musicians to travel and spread their music. Thus, he must purchase CDs all the time.

Wrong.

“Honesty, I haven’t bought a record or song in over a year.  I either listen to Pandora, or sync my iPod with friends to get their music,” said Phillips. “I don’t consider it stealing.  In a perfect world, every musician would be compensated for every song that gets downloaded.  But let’s face it; any band that plans to make it in this day and age needs to have a live show.  Touring is the bread and butter of any band’s income.”

Aronno believes that file sharing is a double-edged sword. He stated it is probably the greatest tool that lesser known artists and bands can have to get exposure. Indie bands traditionally are not the ones fighting file sharing.

“Lars Ulrich of Metallica was the leader in the fight to break Napster, but he wasn’t exactly hurting, in terms of making money. It was just greed, and possibly some recognition that they weren’t making very good albums,” Aronno said. “Most bands are thrilled to get their music out there; most bands believe in the music they write, and thus depend on our better nature, as consumers, to respect their hard work and go out and buy their album if we like what we hear.”

People’s better nature doesn’t always shine through, however. A high number of downloads doesn’t always translate into listeners attending concerts. People download songs and listen to them at home rather than fork over $20 (or much more) to attend live performances. Despite sharing his thoughts on the negative aspects of file sharing, Aronno considers the current method of dealing with offenders as ineffective.

Image taken from LA Daily Journal Article

“I think criminalizing and prosecuting piracy is a pretty dumb use of time and resources. Technology always outpaces our ability to control, or even understand it. The only piracy that offends me is third party piracy; people who download with the express intent to repackage and sell it to someone else. That’s disrespectful to the artist. But downloading a band because you like their music? That’s a compliment,” said Aronno.

Armstrong explores multiple blogs to prepare his sets (lists of songs) for performances. Lacking an Internet connection this can be difficult at times, but whenever he has access to a computer he finds doing so useful and easy, being familiar with the technology. The spread of music through the Internet inspires the DJ. Inspiration doesn’t always spark enough interest to persuade Laserwolf to purchase music.

“I dig through blogs. I have a set number of blogs I go to whenever I have access to a computer. And I just dig through them, through the posts, and I might listen to about five albums at the time. Whatever I like, I download,” said Armstrong. “But I mean it’s the artists giving it to the blogs, so it’s not illegal…for the most part.”

It’s still P2P file sharing.

“Yeah, I guess.”

And you do that?

“…Yeah.

Do you consider it stealing?

“No. It’s overpriced. They’re just robbing me with their overpriced CDs. Why should I pay $20 for a CD when I can get it for free? I will only buy a CD if I like the artist enough.”

Music downloading is commonly identified as an activity that is predominantly undertaken by music fans.[1]


[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.

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