Monday, November 08, 2004

Music Pirating

The Economist has an article about the fall in sales of the music industry.

According to an internal study done by one of the majors, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the drop in sales in America had nothing to do with internet piracy. No-one knows how much weight to assign to each of the other explanations: rising physical CD piracy, shrinking retail space, competition from other media, and the quality of the music itself. But creativity doubtless plays an important part.

This is definitely worth the read. For a long time I have argued that making P2P the bogeyman in this discussion was the current equivalent of the 80s saying, "Home Taping Is Killing Music". It wasn't true then and it's not true today. Most people would love to pay for music. Just ask all of those iPod owners. Paying for music is not the issue. Delivering music cheaply and conveniently and making it convenient to play are the issues.

Why should I pay $18 for the whole album when only 3 songs on it are any good? Sadly, I do think that this means that, in most cases, the album as an art form is seeing it's demise. Some artists will still be able to put together a good one, but many just cannot do it these days. On the internet, though, I can listen to the tune and decide whether or not to invest in the album or even a few of the songs. It seems to me that such distribution would increase sales because it would get people like me, who may not be willing to fork over hard cash for an entire Pink album, to buy songs by artists (remember those things called "singles"?) that I wouldn't normally trouble with, thereby increasing the base for sales. In fact, I envision a day when pop artists dispense with the album concept altogether and just release songs as they are completed. Eventually the album comes out collecting the "greatest hits". Only then will the record companies bother to package a CD with already proven material.

However, the RIAA chose to prosecute their consumers. They also chose to blame the public rather than recognize the public demand for new channels of consumption. And there are new reports that suggest that the music industry is once again thinking of messing with consumption. They are already demanding a tightening of the way consumers can copy the media from one format for personal use to another format (from iPod to your notebook to a CD, for instance) thereby thwarting the concept of fair use. They are also thinking of raising the prices of the downloads (already too high in my opinion, considering that I'm not getting a professional disc, a printed booklet, liner notes, etc). If the RIAA continues down this path, rather than coming up with innovative and consumer friendly methods, they will continue to create an outlaw public that will continue to grow.

No comments: