Friday, November 6, 2009

Pirates, Music Sales and the Recording Industry of America by Ted Ghaffarian

Pirates. That term has been used pejoratively by the Recording Industry of America—the RIAA—for some time. Now if I called someone a pirate, I’d mean they were merciless, scruffy anarchists who plunder and disrupt all notions of decency and peace (either that or Captain Jack Sparrow drinking rum and hitting on my girlfriend).

Many file sharers have a strong distaste for this term. But I actually do think it fits when we extend this metaphor even further to the World Wide Web. If file sharers are pirates, then the internet is a vast sea, teeming with mediocre and irrelevant information. Law abiding consumers are tiny boats, with limited resources to find islands of products. In a digital sea, our consumer senses are limited to viewing images of far off products that are potentially islands away. I can’t go to an online clothing outlet and put on a pair of pants to make sure they fit, or feel the material. There is very little tangibility to consuming online products, which may be why many turn to piracy before purchasing online media.

Since the advent of digital media, the RIAA has assumed that their yearly losses stem primarily from file sharing and duplication. The Guardian, an English newspaper, published a story, based on research done by the   BI Norwegian School of Management, which found that consumers of  legal and illegal digital media between the ages of 15 to 20 are ten times more likely to purchase music. That means pirates the RIAA callously names them —at least for that important demographic of consumers —are a vital source of digital sales for the music industry.
Artists have begun to capitalize on this information already. In 2007, Radiohead, an internationally popular rock band, released their seventh studio album without record label backing and distribution. Instead, they released the album on their own website, claiming that it was up to the consumer to pay whatever he deemed fit in return for downloading the album. That means one could even download the album without paying anything.

As a financially dependent college kid, that was my first choice. However, I listened to the album in its entirely, and donated as much as I could afford to the band's cause, because I thought the album was incredible. Contrary to what many in the recording industry would think, most downloaded the album and then made a possitive financial contribution to the artist. Not only was this a wildly successful experiement, but it made Radiohead a fortune because they didn't have a record label netting all or most of the profit.

If the RIAA cannot see the enormous opportunities that file sharing--the loosing of all those pirates--offers the music business, then it will ultimately end up sinking its own ship.

No comments:

Post a Comment


About Me

I write for lots of different venues, so this blog provides links to those places. Plus, occasionally, stuff that appears no where else . . .