Okay, Illegal Downloads Probably Are Hurting the Music Industry

Tower Records in Japan
by hibino
A Tower Records in Japan that probably still exists.
By Dan Moore

This would have surprised me no matter who had turned it up, but there was a special irony in learning that illegal music downloads "aren't hurting the music industry" from a beleaguered print magazine's free-news arm:

I am a sucker for newsweeklies, which is why--against all odds--I follow TIME magazine on Twitter. They're my own personal twee affectation: Some people smoke a pipe, or only listen to music on vinyl; I read a hundred-page summary of the news once a week on paper. But something about the headline didn't sit right with me, which is why I wasn't surprised to learn that their tweet is a misreading of both the study and their actual article about the study. In their defense, I probably wouldn't have clicked on "Illegal downloads are hurting the music industry, new study claims."

See also: Does Spotify Mean the End of the iPod and Your Music Collection?

It's not the study's methodology I take issue with so much how the question the study asks relates to the question @TIME seems to think they're answering. Here's the question to which they're answering, "No, probably not": Are illegal downloads costing musicians significant numbers of legal downloads? Absent a study to the contrary I'm willing to take their word for it.

But is that the question most people are asking when they're asking questions about illegal downloads? It's a remarkably narrow framing of the issue, like asking a pastor whether prostitutes are really a problem, seeing as they aren't crowding out other kinds of anonymous sexual activity.

The damage recording artists and record labels complain about is the damage downloading did a decade ago--the devaluation of recorded music that necessitates they compete with free music in the first place.

iTunes is only the most successful, profitable reaction to that--and at this point hardly a first-line defense against it. The real competition for the hearts and minds of downloaders has moved to the supply side, where it's more annoying to download music illegally than ever, and to even cheaper forms of fulfilling that demand.

That is, at this point bands are basically competing with leaks by leaking their own music.


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8 comments
thedubmaniac
thedubmaniac

@villagevoice music industry been crying for 30 years now about profits...remember damage "home taping" was doing?....bull

NataliaD
NataliaD

I concur with this article. The decline of physical sales is one thing but when the new outlet of music is solely on the internet we bring that to a halt again with illegal downloads. It can affect certain artists more than others. Obviously a more independent group might take it more harshly than others. Musicians spend a good amount of money creating one song and they want their loyalties. Illegal downloads will always be happening. It's unavoidable, streaming and leaking doesn't help much either. 

wreckingcrewdirector
wreckingcrewdirector

The industry has wasted 100 million dollars going after illegal downloaders in the last 2 years alone, and got back around 5 million for their troubles. Those lawyers are cleaning up! Fighting a new business model so long has only proven they will destroy their own industry to keep their jobs. It isn't just music, the movie industry clings to the model from the silent era, "rent the seats sell the sweets". Movie theaters give up 90% to 100% of their door for top pictures sometimes for weeks. Imagine if you will, people leaving the film AVATAR- and DVD's for sale in the lobby. Suddenly the theater owner is making 40% of the sale price to add to the bottom line, and if people going home could go to ON DEMAND and NETFLIX and watch it. Can you even imagine how much could have been made as teens continued to re-watch the film anyway at the theaters? The music industry has learned downloaders buy more music than people that don't download! Gee what a surprise! I myself grew up listening to music for free and then buying what I liked. IT WAS CALLED THE RADIO!

The music industry is undergoing a revolution, and just as it ignored every major change in music it continues to play the reactionary. Today without the help of reviews or interviews or major labels DJ music has swept festivals and is growing with no end in sight. Yet the industry isn't signing them, news media isn't interviewing or reviewing them as they do rock. Music kept alive by fans for years and now storming the mainstream- yet very few are being approached by major labels. The smell of money is everywhere, WHERE IS THE INDUSTRY? 

When I was 16 years old I lied about my age and got a job with Decca records in the PR department. We had THE MOODY BLUES, ROLLING STONES so many bands. But we also had country music. I was taught to write press releases for country fans who hated hippies, and rock fans who hated country. But we knew and understood the two camps. Today rock writers rarely review a DJ show. Labels have not signed DJ's in numbers anywhere near the numbers they did rock bands back then, even as the gaming division keeps going to them to license music while ignoring the bands on their own labels. 

Being stupid is one thing. Committing suicide is quite another. 

OnYourTurntable
OnYourTurntable

@villagevoice and how long before google is called to the stand, thank god music has it's own hit-squad coming the net

BevHillsLive
BevHillsLive

@villagevoice Yes, but now creative artists will get paid what they are worth, have nice shit, and share the Wealth and the Music :)

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