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Music Piracy(5 posts)

Music Piracyaeon
Apr 22, 2003 12:01 AM
We've all done it. From creating a cassette from radio recordings, to ripping borrowed CD's, to creating and trading huge MP3 databases online, it's become a part of our culture. Music piracy is not a new phenomenon by any means, but with the rise of the internet, it has become impossible to ignore. The fastest to adapt have been teenagers, computer savvy and fast to pick up new trends. The slowest has been the record companies, which have suffered significant slowdowns in sales over the last few years. The history of piracy is almost impossible to document, simply because it changes so quickly. Looking back even a few weeks, there have been noteworthy events. Radiohead's new album was leaked on the internet a record 3 months before it was set to hit stores. Also, Madonna fans looking for an early peek at her new album received recordings of her saying "What the (censored) do you think you're doing?" over and over. The face of music is changing, but no one seems to know how just yet. But perhaps more importantly, what should change, and how?

A Personal Account

I am a university student in British Columbia. I'd consider myself a normal music fan in most respects, except perhaps the scope and depth of my interest. My tastes would be best described as alternative and garage rock, although I like many styles, including: (but not limited to) emo, hip hop, rap, jazz, blues, classical, folk, classic rock, metal, nu-metal, punk, pop, reggae, electronic, and soul. I own 56 CD's, the most recent being The D4 (because I loved them live, and it was 10 bucks), Radiohead's The Bends (because it's a classic and it was also 10 bucks), and The White Stripes' Elephant for $14.99 (because it's just that good). In addition, I have some 4620 MP3's, including several full – or almost full - albums. I have my computer and my discman hooked up to my receiver, as well as a cable to get static-free radio. I don't use a burner, but I have owned an MP3 player, and more recently, a Minidisk player. Out of the people I know, all have downloaded music, mostly using Kazaa, and most have burned CD's. And for the record, I have the new Radiohead album, it is amazing, and I will most likely purchase it when it is available.

The Situation, According to Me

I consider the radio, in general, to be a poor medium for experiencing music. Even in a major city such as Vancouver, the selection of music to be heard is rather dismal. On any given station, a large chunk of time is devoted to hearing repetitive commercials and annoying DJ chat. The rest is spent on the same top 40 hits, seemingly on an hourly rotation. New or original material is sorely lacking, and very rarely do any new bands get airplay.

I propose, then, some theorems that I think many people are using to guide their music purchases:

1. Paying money for a CD that does not offer anything beyond the music tracks is pretty pointless.

What I mean is CD's that have bland artwork, perhaps no lyrics, or can't be played on a computer.

2. Paying $20 for a CD is outrageous.

I don't care if it's the best CD of the decade, that's just too much money.

3. Paying for a CD that is mostly filler is not a very good idea.

Sure, the singles sound nice, but 2 singles at say $7 each, with lots of filler thrown in, isn't so nice.

A common reaction I hear from people is "Why should I have to pay for something I can get for free?" This, of course, begs the question: should music be free? The answer is no. Music can't be free, because it costs money to make it, and who wants to be in the music industry if you can't even make a living? The other side of the coin, however, is that paying for music can't remain the same as it once was. The following quotes are from a BBC article on piracy.
Evidence gathered by critics of the music industry has shown that CD prices have steadily risen over the past few years and may have
Music Piracy Part 2aeon
Apr 22, 2003 12:02 AM
The following quotes are from a BBC article on piracy.
"Evidence gathered by critics of the music industry has shown that CD prices have steadily risen over the past few years and may have contributed to the slump in sales as much as the rise of file-swapping systems.
In late September five music companies and three music retailers were fined more than $143million after being found guilty of fixing CD prices too high."
This would seem to imply that a large factor in piracy is not only "I'm paying for what I can get for free", but "I'm paying too much for what I can get for free".

The reaction of the recording industry has been both slow, and largely counterproductive. The recent MuchMusic documentary on piracy contained a boardroom scene where an idea was floated that making an example of some high profile file-sharer would make people stop to think. The idea was shot down as being the worst thing the industry could do, and I agree. Music in our time is as much about image and public relations as it is about the actual music. If fans get wind that their favourite band isn't playing along with file sharing, they will be fans no more. Case in point – Metallica and Napster, although by this point I'm sure they have enough money and fans not to have to worry.

So What Should Be Done?

There are a few more issues that have to be dealt with before jumping to conclusions. One is that filesharing definitely raises awareness of new or obscure bands. Another is that the technical side of the piracy most likely can't be stopped. Shortly after the fall of Napster, better and faster programs flooded the net, most notably Kazaa. Finally, it seems that online projects aimed at creating legal means to share files have been ignored. Subscription services are not showing any signs of becoming popular.

Basically, the ball is in the record industry's court. They decide what the next move will be, and they can either save themselves, or drop the ball forever. There are some very hard questions that need to be asked, such as why the industry decry's the slowing sales on one hand, and yet contributes to the larger-than-life images of its artists. Why, in an age where The White Stripes can make a five star album for $10 000 and vintage equipment, the industry claims the production costs are prohibitive. And why the vast proportion of their efforts are focused on finding the Next Big Thing, effectively marketing to the 10-second-attention-span masses with inoffensive sugar pop or hip hop, rather than pushing brilliant artists or new sounds. Perhaps the biggest question is: why is the industry about the money rather than the music?

Implications

For the industry:
Cut the crap, and cut the fat. Major labels are bloated with greedy people on both sides of the studio glass. The industry can provide cheap, creative music that would truly be art, but instead it caters only to the shareholders.

For the artists:
Give the people what they want. You can't stop piracy, so don't even try. Embrace it, but give something extra to those who buy the music. Good artwork, bonus material, and most importantly, respect. Also, make your albums worth buying. We don't need a CD full of filler, but we also don't need 15 unrelated singles. If you're going to make an album, make it a cohesive unit. Make it flow, give it a theme, have a direction, do something!

For both:
Some of the major problems have come from the industry and artists playing the bad guy. A little respect and niceness would go a long way. Instead of insulting the consumer, cooperate, educate, and listen to the consumer. I've already seen some ads on TV promoting paying for music, but it's going to take more than that to convince people. In the end, prices have to come down. The CD isn't dead, the industry has just crippled it.

Links:
Efforts to stop music piracy 'pointless' – The BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technolo
Music Piracy Part 3 (It just cut out a link)aeon
Apr 22, 2003 12:03 AM
Links:
Efforts to stop music piracy 'pointless' – The BBC
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/2502399.stm

The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution – An interesting article from 4 Microsoft employees on why file-sharing can't be stopped.
http://crypto.stanford.edu/DRM2002/darknet5.doc
re: Music Piracyeyebob
Apr 22, 2003 8:29 AM
Back in the day, the Music industry also screamed bloody hell when cassette tapes became widely available. They soon learned that they needed to embrace that technology and did. My thoughts are many. If the record company wants to sell music in a CD format, encode it so that it cannot be duplicated or transferred at all, or at an additional cost. (As an example, Turbo Tax now will not let you install their program more than once without making you pay for it). That will help to prevent the problem until someone figures out how to get around it. But make it a crime to do so. That way if you do P2P online, you're breaking the law to share a file that was "stolen" With this, I'm not saying that P2P should be illegal, quite the opposite. P2P should exist but the record companies should mandate that all new music be released with some type of safeguard to prevent piracy (which leaves us with the idea that you cannot do a damn thing about all the stuff that's out there already, so be it.) If the record company moves to start selling their music over the net this same type of encryption (is that the right word) technology can be used too. This would drive sales towards the net and retailers like Border's, etc. would scream, but I think that that's how business goes.

BT
any sites sell mp3's at reasonable prices?DougSloan
Apr 22, 2003 8:35 AM
I'd gladly pay for mp3's, one song at a time. I also don't like paying $16 for a cd with one song I like on it. I did the Napster thing, for all of two weeks before they took it off line. However, that was mostly because there was no other way to get single song music in mp3 format.

Is there a good internet site that sells individual songs in mp3 format? (...or, are they too concerned about piracy after the purchase?).

Doug