I recently read an article that suggested some 95% of music that is downloaded on the internet is illegal. If this is true, we are rapidly approaching the tipping point beyond which recorded music has no commercial value. Once that point is reached, it’s game over for record labels as we know them.
Speaking as someone who just about managed to scrape a living as a musician for a few years, there is no immediate cause for concern about the future of music. Recorded music is promotion for the live show, and the live show is promotion for the t-shirt. The profit margin on t-shirts is breathtaking, and goes straight into a band’s little red cash box. Maybe for awhile in the 80s, sales royalties mattered, but no band signed to a major in the last ten years seriously expects to recoup their advances, unless they’ve missed out on Steve Albini’s arithmetic lesson.
Bands might not get so big, exposure in the press will be more difficult to come by and fame and fortune via a guitar may not seem so appealing, but musicians will always make music, and people will always want to watch them do it.
The death of commercially recorded music is nobody’s fault but that of a greedy and arrogant industry. I haven’t bought a CD in a shop for about two years, but until recently I was one of the 5% who paid for music downloads via iTunes. Not any more.
I’m sick of being rewarded for my honesty with inconvenience. Until content providers realise that DRM punishes, alienates and insults the intelligence of honest consumers of their media, there is no hope for the dinosaurs that are clinging onto archaic copyright laws that are no longer relevant.
Obtaining media via bit torrent is free, quick, and easy. However, there are a good number of people who can still be swayed towards paying for stuff, but the way to do this is not by treating them like criminals. There is currently no incentive to pay for something that you could get quicker, easier and BETTER for free.
My choice as a consumer seems to be between free and easy, or not free and a pain in the ass with my intelligence insulted.
Fuck the iStore. Fuck their low quality, uni-format DRM’d files. Fuck software dongles. I have to waste a valuable USB port in return for giving you my money, while people who use cracked versions don’t? What a great idea! Fuck those DVDs that make you sit through anti-piracy ads you can’t skip before you get to the menu. The only way to make your products less appealing would be to find a way to give people an electric shock when they open your packaging.
The way to make digital media profitable and mainstream again is to offer ADDED VALUE, not reduced value. It seems so obvious I can hardly believe it needs saying, but I work in the digital media domain, and it seems to me the members of the board of the major entertainment companies have no conception whatsoever of how transparent their contempt for you is, and have no plans to counter it. So, with regret, I’ll see you on Pirate Bay.