Does Piracy Make Music Better?

By  |  Friday, June 12, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Sometimes roundabout logic does makes sense. A BBC feature article published today is arguing that illegal file sharing has exposed a generation of artists to a infinity of influences that makes today’s bands better, strengthening the music business.

Robin Pecknold, who is the lead singer of the band “Fleet Foxes,” told the BBC that file sharing helped him discover music that inspired him–music which he may not have otherwise heard. “As much music as musicians can hear, that will only make music richer as an art form,” Pecknold told the BBC.

I can’t argue with him (well, aside from the stealing part). The Internet has revolutionized music discovery. It is shocking that the music industry never envisioned that broader exposure to music through the Web could yield some positive developments. Where were the music lovers in the business when the industry stood opposed to the Web?

Don’t get me wrong, something had to be done about Napster. There was a substantial loss of intellectual property happening, and piracy is not excusable. However, there was another way: The industry could have embraced the medium instead of going to war with grannies.

That tactic has been successful before. DVDs are a good example of copyright holders working in partnership with technology companies. It’s an obvious conclusion, but the music industry has made some major missteps with how it has handled the Web. Maybe the pirate artists will help save it.



7 Comments For This Post

  1. JustCallMeBen Says:

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Piracy is NOT stealing. Just because the record companies ASSUME every downloader would have paid for the album if they couldn’t get it for free.
    Of course there’ll always be people that never bit anything and just download it all, but the vast majority of downloaders do buy music… that is: if it’s fairly priced. I myself am one of those people: if I download something and think it’s really good, I’ll buy it.
    The only thing that would keep me from buying a CD then is ludicurous pricing: €20 is too much for a cd. Before piracy went mainstream, these were exactly the prices CDs cost (at least here in Belgium?). But noz, record companies seem to realize that if they are being idiots and ask a frtune for 40 minutes of music, nobody will buy it because they can doznlaod it if they want.

    So imo, piracy is the competitor the music industry never had, and the costumer really needs.

    And after all, piracy really works both ways: customers aren’t hesitating to try something new, thus artists reach new audiences. So in the end, customers buy what they know is good, while they have more music (because they still download), they pay less (because prices went down) and the record companies still sell about the same (the last years sales number stabilized at a healthy level).

    Total: status quo for the companies, more for the people. Tell me again: why would piracy be a bad thing? 🙂

  2. Ralph Pollock Says:

    I think the downloading of music IS piracy, whether it is intended to be or not. The real WAR that has gone on was not about intellectual property, as it should have been. It was about who got to screw the musicians – the rip off agents or the rip off computer companies. There was one helluva battle between Warners and Apple at one time – neither of which knew anything about the actual music.

    So we had two sideliners fighting over something neither of them created.

  3. Get a Song Says:

    It seems the record companies could have been savvier in dealing with something that was ultimately unavoidable anyways. Instead of fighting downloading music so hard they could have compromised a little more and benefited themselves better.

  4. Marc Says:

    In the UK we pay a small amount towards the record companies when we buy blank media, such a CDs. Why on earth the government don’t just slap £5 onto every internet subscription as compensation in the same vein I don’t know. Yes not everyone downloads music, but not every CD is used for copying a music CD, and we still pay for it.

    We can’t go on as we are, music needs to be paid for, yet millions of people are now accustomed to not paying for it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is rising.
    The record companies have shot themselves in the foot buy playing the “big bad guys” – yeah great way to encourage your customers to buy your product, threaten and sue them! It’s all about hearts and minds.

    A few years ago, a friend of mine lent me a CD, on the strength of that one CD I bought the band’s back catalogue (on CD) and seen them live three times, and have three of their T-Shirts. I could have easily copied that CD, but for the same reason I didn’t just download their discography, I didn’t. I wanted something physical.
    I don’t think I’m any different from most people in that respect. In fact today I bought Jason Lytle’s new album “Yours Truly, the Commuter” (it’s really good btw), he put it online for people to listen to, no limits, as many times as you want. All new albums should be available like this.

  5. David Worthington Says:

    great discussion folks!

  6. Marc Says:

    So Virgin and Universal have done a deal so allow customers to download unlimited music for an extra fee (see )
    This is a step in the right direction, but while it’s only one record company, are arguably “only” music (a lot of illegally downloaded media is films and TV shows) it doesn’t offer a superior product to file sharing networks, I think a lot of people won’t see the advantage.

    They are reportedly going to charge around £30 a month, how many people spend £30 EVERY month on music and DVDs? It’s a guaranteed income of £360 per year(!), plus more people listening to more music surely means more people buying tickets to see bands live, and buying other sorts of merchandise.
    The downside for the record companies would be if people feel they’ve already paid for it, then they’re hardly going to want to buy it on CD after downloading the music (as a lot of people who illegally download claim to do) – and would it devalue a CD as a gift if that person could download it at no cost? That would be a shame, as I still have CDs that relatives bought me that I can still look at, listen to, and remember when and where I was when I received that gift.
    Another downside would be households with lots of people in them, that £360 / year suddenly gets divided by 5 doesn’t look so good any more.

    I wonder how many other ISPs, record companies, and even film studios (maybe?) will follow this lead? It’s a good idea in theory, in practise though who knows…!

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