The Effects Of Illegal Downloading On The Music Industry

The Effects Of Illegal Downloading On The Music Industry

Dictionary.com defines piracy as “the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book, recording, television program, patented intervention, trademarked product, etc.” while The Economic Times narrows it down and claims piracy is “the copying and distributing copies of a piece music for which the composer, recording artist, or copyright-holding record company did not give consent.”

Illegal music sharing started back when the phenomenon of CD-burning was introduced. It was a much cheaper option that came, however, with slow copying time and provided a level of inconvenience.  Eventually, Napster became the presented and preferred option in the early 2000’s where users were afforded the privilege of downloading songs for free and got the chance to reproduce them. The peak user subscription for Napster reached 57 million users and it became the first of its kind. By the time it was shut down after much controversy and debate, it had set off thousands of similar websites such as Limewire that allowed peer-to-peer sharing over torrents. Sharing music illegally grew in leaps and bounds and reached dimensions that even governments and institutions were unable to control.

Did you know that 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded between 2004 and 2009? According to the Recording Industry Association of America, music sales have dropped by 47% ever since Napster made its debut. RIAA, which is made up of large companies that oversee the recording and distribution of music, revealed that the music industry suffered 12.5 billion in losses by 2012 and also disclosed that over 71 000 jobs have been lost. The positions that have had to be cut include people who once worked as songwriters, producers, engineers, technicians, marketing support and artists.  Record companies were placed in the unfortunate position of having to lay off employees as they suffered profits loss and couldn’t afford personnel anymore. This still remains the case across the music industry as the availability of free music continues to increase.

Illegal downloading has also caused the music industry to have less funding options and opportunities to recruit and develop new talent. Record labels are now forced to focus their finances and time on artists that are established instead of scouting for new artists.

This means that new artists face a harder time and have to look for outlets to create and promote music on their own, such as selling it off directly online. Artists signed by record labels are not any better off as they barely receive any compensation. Record contracts include provision for both royalties and advances to artists. Advances are paid out before the release of a recording and when the album or songs bring in enough sales, the record companies recover the money they paid out in the advance. If the sales don’t amount to enough money, they write off the loss. As the music sales decrease, record companies are forced to offer fewer and lower advances. Royalties on the other hand, are also paid to artists for each song purchase. When we illegally download an artist’s work, neither the record company nor the artist receives compensation. This will likely reduce the opportunity to access good music in the future as musicians may then turn to other alternatives for making a living.

Additionally, illegal sharing of music has also impacted how the music industry chooses to market and promote its artists. Illegal downloading and the introduction of Napster assisted in bringing in an era where accessing singles has trumped having a full-length album. The music industry has adopted new tactics such as ringtones and digital licensing music to sites like YouTube and Pandora in order to expose its artists to wider audiences. Touring and promotional deals have become more worthwhile and beneficial for the music industry than selling songs.

Several artists have spoken about against illegal downloading and have expressed how it has affected their livelihood and careers. The late Prince, who was an American singer-songwriter and record producer, said “The industry changed. We made money before piracy was real crazy. Nobody’s making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. I’m supposed to go to the White House to talk about copyright protection. It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. There’s no boundaries. I’ve been in meetings and they’ll tell you, ‘Prince, you don’t understand, it’s dog-eat-dog out there’. So I’ll just hold off on recording.”

“I’m sorry; when I worked 9-to-5, I expected to get a paycheck every week,” Eminem, American rapper, record producer and actor said. “It’s the same with music; if I’m putting my heart and all my time into music, I expect to get rewarded for that. I work hard and anybody can just throw a computer up and download my music for free. It could kill the whole purpose of making music.”

At the end of it all, illegal music sharing is something that is still going to continue, unfortunately. People will always choose to go for the cheapest option available.  Also, with the involvement of common search engines, it will remain an undeniable practice. What the music industry can depend on now are services such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple music who are finding flexible and creative ways to deal with this problem.

Let us know what your thoughts are concerning illegal music downloading and how it affects you as an individual with an influence in the music industry.

Another way to make sales is to make certain your have a loyal fan base that supports and buys your music. Read How Focusing On Your Core Fans Equals Success too!

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