Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Stage in the game: Why giving away music for free doesn't work for everybody

A recent trend in music piracy literature concerns the 'stage in the game' for artsts. Effectively, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to distribution music anymore.

It's far more complicated.

Indeed Regner, Barria, Pitt and Neville (2009) illustrate that different business models appear to be optimal at different stages of an artists’ career. Furthermore, David (2010) references six case studies, citing different practices for bands starting out in the business, presently superstars and ‘beyond that stage’ (p.154). Additionally, piracy has been shown to affect artists differently (Piolatto and Schuett, 2012; Mortimer, Nosko and Sorensen, 2010).

This finding, in conjunction with the overwhelming volume of ways in which to access digital music makes for a thoroughly complicated machine indeed.

With reference to his successful distribution of Ghosts I-IV and The Slip, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor states: ‘The steps we’ve taken.. I think, have gotten closer to something that approaches a business model. It doesn’t work for bands that nobody knows yet’ (Ryan, 2009).

So how do new bands go about distributing their music?

For a case study of Nine Inch Nails' innovative distribution methods (which explores this question in some detail) keep your eyes peeled for a paper entitled 'Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails' (Brown, in press). For a case study of Radiohead's innovative distribution methods, consult Harbi, Grolleau and Bekir's (in press) paper, listed below.

A link to David's book on Amazon can be found here.

Twitter feed now live @musicpiracyblog with daily updates.


Brown, S.C. (in press). Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. Empirical Musicology Review.

David, M. (2010). Peer to Peer and the Music Industry. London: Sage.

Harbi, S.E., Grolleau, G. and Bekir, I. (in press). Substituting piracy with a pay-what-you-want option: does it make sense? European Journal of Law and Economics.

Mortimer, J. H., Nosko, C., and Sorensen, A. (2010). Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances (Working Paper No.16507). Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research website:

Piolatto, A. and Schuett, F. (2012). Music piracy: A case of “The Rich Get Rich and the Poorer Get Poorer”. Information Economics and Policy, 24(1), 30-39.

Regner, T., Barria, J.A., Pitt, J. and Neville, B. (2009). An Artist Life-Cycle Model for Digital Media Content: Strategies for the Light Web and the Dark Web. Electronic Commerce Research And Applications, 8, 334-342.

Ryan, K. (2009). Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails [online]. Available from:,32806 [Accessed Feb 12, 2011].

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