Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The true cost of music piracy in USA

Check out this link from the RIAA website 'Who Music Theft Hurts' to find a 'credible' study from 2007 on the economic impact of music piracy.

Typical of much research into this aspect of music piracy, it makes some bold claims (with big numbers).

As discussed throughout the short history of this blog, piracy is very difficult to measure. It is for this reason that estimates are used when calculating figures. Interestingly, this particular study draws from figures generated 'based primarily on a review of confidential sources' (p. 7).

Without transparency, it can't be taken seriously.

Given the challenges facing music piracy researchers though, will this ever be possible?

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Licensing songs to be used in film, television and commercials: A response to music piracy?

In his quite wonderful 2012 book How Music Works (much cited on this blog), David Byrne explains how he still sees "more money from licensing songs to films and TV" than from actual record sales. Now, this isn't in a greedy sense. It's in an I'm-a-full-time-musician-and-need-money-to-live-just-like-you-sense.

Going into some depth, Byrne explains that one licensing deal can in fact generate more income than an entire tour.

I'm in two minds about this.

Take one of my favourite songs, The Long Road by Pearl Jam. Really taking the time to think about this, I'm not sure if I've ever listened to it in the company of others. Seldom played live, this non-album track means the world to me and features as the opening track on quite a few of my most-listened to playlists.

Now, if this song were to feature as the theme tune to a new HBO show that everyone was watching, it would instantly lose its magic for me. Now, that's not going to happen. Pearl Jam aren't into that and for good reasons. Frontman Eddie Vedder doesn't want fans perceptions of songs to be skewed (where they rarely even produce music videos). This, is what I'm talking about.

The other me, however, wants my favourite artists to earn a living and enjoy the commercial success they deserve working in a tumultuous industry that demands taking great risks, often making great personal sacrifices in the process. Licensing, cover songs, being sampled (maybe a future blog entry in there somewhere?) all offer great ways to help this along.

Record sales only go so far (where Byrne breaks down a typical $10 album download resulting in $1.40 for the musician/s) and some artists aren't able to sell out London's 02 Arena (nor would they necessarily want to). Money has to come from somewhere in between new releases and tours.

Reflecting on my weak Pearl Jam analogy, I can't recall a time where my love of music has ever been spoiled through licensing (where Pearl Jam in actual fact used their excellent b-side Yellow Ledbetter in the final episode of sitcom Friends to a spectacular effect). In actual fact, music heard in this way can inspire awareness of new artists. Moby, famously licensed all 18 tracks from his acclaimed 1999 album Play. It's hard to judge, but it might very well be the case that had he not done so, someone, somewhere, might not have been to a Moby concert and had one of the most positive experiences of their lives.

In the right context, and to isolate licensing in film,  familiar music used in a movie can be extremely powerful and emotive. Indeed, some of the most memorable scenes in cinema history stem from the successful partnership of sound and vision. Pre-loaded with associations with a particular piece of music, filmmakers can manipulate your emotions, creating memorable cinema experiences.

The problem is the emotional attachment we feel to certain pieces of music. We often don't want that shared. It's the same process that upsets people when a band become 'mainstream' (think: Kings of Leon).

In summary, I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Arguably, it has become necessary.

Perhaps more importantly, we need to stop probing how much musicians make here, there and everywhere. Strangers to you and I, why are we so interested?

When was the last time you asked a friend or relative how much money they earned last year?


Byrne, D. (2012). How Music Works. Canongate: Edinburgh.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Monday, 25 November 2013

Recommended journals #4 'Popular Music and Society'

In the fourth of this ongoing occasional series, we have the rather excellent 'Popular Music and Society'.

Selected mainly in the interests of promoting the fine 2012 'Special issue on Copyright', the journal features regular 'special issues' built around a particular theme which makes for a splendid read.

Notable also for it's book and audio reviews, this journal is guaranteed to stimulate interest amongst readers on a broad range of topics. A recent article by Berg (2013), for example, discusses issues concerning copyright and ownership amongst fans of the Grateful Dead (or 'Deadheads', if you prefer).

With five issues a year, you won't be bored.

Check it out.


Berg, J, (2013). On the Removal of Download Access to Grateful Dead Soundboards from the Live Music Archive. Popular Music and Society, 36(2), 175-193.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music [book review]

Given a secondary goal of this blog is to promote my own research, I feel no shame in an entry on a book review I published recently, over on the journal Rock Studies.

Having discussed Nine Inch Nails on multiple occasions on this blog, it's perhaps no surprise to find I am a fan of industrial music (though the author of the book itself argues Nine Inch Nails isn't industrial...)

Technically, the review isn't 'out yet', but you should be able to access it here. You might not be able to read it in full (without payment), but you will get a good taster of Reed's (2013) title just the same.

It's an immersive read, and goes into a lot of detail on different 'scenes' through the relatively short history of industrial music. Along the way, there's frequent lists of bands to check out which was a fun part of it, given how easy it is to seek out and compile playlists of tracks on music subscription services. 

Well worth a read if you're into industrial music. 

Got a separate book review pending in another journal soon which is more in line with the aims of this blog, and that is David Byrne's quite remarkable 2012 book 'How Music Works' which seems to weave it's way into almost post on this blog (do a search). Will post it in due time.

Tweets between meats @musicpiracyblog


Brown, S.C. (2013). Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music. Rock Music Studies.

Reed, S.A. (2013). Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Economic studies on impact of piracy

Thanks RIAA.

They might get a bad reputation for various things, but no complaints from me for posting links to a variety of studies exploring the economic impact of piracy. The website hosts other relevant links including this one about the law.

Could be doing with updating, in my mind.

Go on, have a look. 

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The beauty of the internet; where music and technology meet


I recently discovered Massive Open Online Courses, or 'Moocs'. These are free online courses delivered by academic institutions and available for all to consume.

Over 7 weeks, I had the immense pleasure of watching Professor John Covach (University of Rochester) explore 'The History of Rock Music'. Part of the appeal for me was discovering all of these old rock n' roll bands that I might never have found out about.

Now, despite the canonised tour of rock music through the ages, copyright law meant that no music was played in the video lectures. John notes the ease of hunting down the music cited online as a viable substitute. This is what I want to talk about.

Firstly though, and importantly, I love making playlists and compilations. I have almost 400 playlists on my i-Tunes. Most are expanded versions of my favourite albums, with b-sides and live cuts, etc. I take immense pleasure in putting them together. It's one of my hobbies.

As the online course moved from Bing Crosby to The Beatles via BB King, etc., I pledged to put together some stellar playlists. And so I did. But, not without a little help from my friends...

Someone else, a chap called Rick Leanord who I will never meet or get to thank, took the liberty of putting together Spotify playlists of all of the songs mentioned in each video; week by week. I couldn't believe it. Now, I have recently moved from Spotify to Deezer to fulfil my music discovery needs and thought 'what now?'. Well..

A few clicks and I was stunned to learn how easily it was to copy playlists from Spotify to Deezer. As in, super simple stuff. And, with a premium Deezer account on my phone... I'm up and running with hundreds of songs spanning some 70 decades of rock music. On demand. Whenever I want. No big thing? Let's back track.

The Process

For free, I was treated to a distinguished Professor teaching me all about the History of Rock.

For free, a selfless Spotify user collated the music cited on the video lectures to playlists.

For free, I used software to copy the playlists to another subscription service.

For free, I can listen to these playlists on this service (Deezer).

The Outcome

I am now in a position where I have a staggering volume of recorded music at my fingertips. It not only cost me zero pence, but virtually no time at all. Along the way, an untold amount of people I don't know (and don't know me) made this possible. It's unbelievable.

Concluding remarks

Accessing music has never been easier, or cheaper. It's everywhere. You don't even need to be particularly savvy online to find it. People take it for granted, but remember, the internet is not some living organism but a tool which allows people to come together in creative ways. It's people who post that YouTube video about how to wire a plug.

People help other people, they always have; they are social creatures. People love music; it's a social phenomenon. The case study above is illustrative of the beauty of the internet when music and technology come together; and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 25 October 2013

Recommended Journals #3 'Convergence'

Continuing the new series of recommended Journals, this entry concerns the excellent multidisciplinary publication 'Convergence'. Like the previous recommendations, Convergence also published a special issue ('Special issue on online piracy') which was the subject of a previous blog entry here. Dating back to just February 2013, this is one of the most recent special issues.

Published via Sage, the Journal includes articles 'ahead of print'. One of the perks of publishing in the digital era, this allows research to be widely read before it is formally printed in the paper versions (and digital versions) of the actual Journals. Linking back to the first blog entry in this series, this relatively speedy process represents one of the main benefits of publishing in Journals over books - the speed with which you can get your research out there.

Convergence will be of interest to anyone with a general interest in technology, with articles exploring a variety of issues exploring the impact of new media technologies.

Check it out.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

'Official bootlegs'

Further to a previous blog entry 'Is bootlegging piracy?', this short entry explores 'official bootlegs'.

What's an official bootleg? Well, it's essentially a fancy word for a live album. Nothing more. It's a clever fancy word though (think 'b-sides') beyond being an oxymoron as it conjures up ideas of illegitimacy.

Pearl Jam are the market leader in the land of official bootlegs, making high-quality recordings of live shows available to fans since their 2000 Binaural tour. That is, EVERY show (with a few exceptions) can be listened to by fans. Think of how awesome that is, especially if you were at the show (Indeed, I picked up official bootlegs of the 2012 Manchester shows I was at for that very awesome reason).

Pearl Jam, as a live band, essentially capitalised on the fact that fans were trading unofficial bootlegs of their shows by offering them high-quality audio recordings of their shows at a relatively low price. Now trading in digital recordings, Pearl Jam offer even more reasonable prices for these recordings (hence why I bought digital bootlegs and not physical ones, with expensive USA to UK shipping. TRIVIA: This was the first digital song/album I bought and for this reason alone).

There hasn't been much research into official bootlegs, where the most relevant articles are discussed in this article. Importantly, they offer bands a way to advertise themselves in a live context; provide a means for fans to re-live their live concert experiences and presents an additional source of revenue for artists.

They are a good thing - for everyone.

As such, it's no coincidence that more and more bands are monetising recordings of live shows (check out Tori Amos' Spotify profile), with some even including purchases immediately after the show.

Will it roll out into common practice in the future?

We shall see (or hear...).

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Recommended Journals #2 'Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services'

In the second of this new series, another Journal with an entire special issue is recommended to ease blog readers into this way of reading up on music piracy research.

The Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services is an excellent resource, who (as promised) have a special issue 'The future of music retailing'. Published in early 2011, this issue is still one of the most important publications I have come across which is notable for its use of qualitative methodology and general multidisciplinary approach (both lacking across the board).

A really accessible read, this one will really get you thinking about where we are, how we got here and more importantly, where we are going.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

International Federation of the Phonographic Industry 'Views'

Updated every month or so, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) website has an excellent 'Views' section with contributions from everyone from the RIAA to managers of bands like U2 (and a few months ago, me!).

Often posing more questions than answering them, these little nuggets are a breath of fresh air and are well worth checking out.

Note, links open as PDF documents so you will need Adobe Reader to view the files. They also open in a new window.

Check it out here.

Tweets when I'm not experimenting with different salad dressings @musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Keep a hold of your CD's: Is it worth it?

You always get retro. People always look backwards, especially with technology. There will always be a nostalgia for old formats of whatever it is.

CD's SHOULD be no exception.

They have dominated the music market for far longer than the 10-year life cycle of previous formats and still offer great quality music, compact storage utility with artwork, liner notes etc and in some instances, supplemental content like music videos or even original multi-track files to remix your own versions of songs.

I like CD's.

But, it's hard to compete with digital music on many fronts, where the reduced cost of manufacturing and distribution is perhaps its best advantage. It also trumps on storage utility and general convenience, which is what the consumer is always after.

I don't think there's any question that the future of the music industry is digital.

In the last few years, the volume of CD re-issues, re-masters, deluxe boxed-sets etc feels like the last act of a dying man in a way, capitalising on the current generation of CD lovers' preference to hold their music.This is most likely the case, and you can't blame the move. Don't want it? Don't buy it.

I do feel though that tangible special edition versions of albums will find a place in the future, with increased personalisation through technology ultimately adding value to such relics.

In the future, there will be options.

For now, keep a hold of your CD's. You never know. They might be worth something in the near future.

At the moment, a casual glance on a leading trade-in service in the UK shows sums of approximately 20-30p for CD's and DVD's. Hardly worth the hassle.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Recommended books #4

Some more titles I have stumbled upon recently.

Elkin-Koren, N. and Salzberger, E.M. (2013). The Law and Economics of Intellectual Property in the Digital Age. Routledge: New York.

This title benefits from being recent, and goes into some depth over SOPA and the likes. It also critiques research from law and economics.

Bently, L., Davis, J. and Ginsburg, J.C. (2010). Copyright and Piracy: An Interdisciplinary Critique. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

I got alot out of this book. With distinct sub-chapters from different authors, it's easy to dip into what is most interesting to you where the book ends on a high with chapters going into depth on piracy in Jamaica. It also raises interesting questions throughout, with criticism over how well equipped criminologists are at studying piracy.

Both well worth a read.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 19 July 2013

Is music ownership dead?

Considering the rise in the popularity of vinyl, it's a hard one to call.

A good place to start thinking about this seriously is a look at Wikstrom's (2012) paper (linked here). You might recognise the name from one of the recommended books on this blog, his 2009 title 'The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud' (second edition due later this year).

In his 2012 paper, Wikstrom introduces three distinct music distribution models:




He explains that the music industry is moving away from ownership models to context models, citing recent examples of enterprising artists who do things differently to give fans room to 'do things' and not simply consume. 

The article calls to mind 'Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails' (Brown, 2011) which was explored in some depth on this blog, exploring how to 'increase the value' of music.

With the rise of broadband penetration, smartphones (including all-you-can-eat data), cloud storage and subscription services, the concept of music ownership is indeed one which is changing.

Who knows where we will end up.

It's an interesting though, given the recent debate surrounding Spotify as a weak business model for new artists.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Brown, S.C. (2011). Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. Empirical Musicology Review, 6(4), 198-213

Wikstrom, P. (2009). The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Wikstrom, P. (2012). A Typology of Music Distribution Models. International Journal of Music Business Research, 1(1), 7-20.

Monday, 15 July 2013

[In response to] Atoms for Peace Vs. Spotify

The past 24 hours have been interesting, but hopefully not as interesting as what is likely to follow.

Essentially, bands we know and love affiliated with Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame) have actively removed their music from music subscription service Spotify.

The best run down of events can be found over on NME.

Now, I don't know too much about the revenue artists make from these services. Mostly, because musicians don't talk money very often. That is why I am so excited to see Thom and Nigel discussing this.

As Godrich explains, Spotify can benefit musicians with an established back catalogue. He argues that it is not likely to help new artists, though. And it is on this point that I would like to make my point.

As I have discussed in both a previous blog entry a year ago and in more depth recently over on the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry website,  an artists 'stage-in-the-game' now largely determines the best way for them to distribute their music. There is no one set way of doing things anymore.

Thom and Nigel may or may not be absolutely spot on, but I applaud them for having the balls to speak up about this. Their observation of 'old bands' and 'new bands' I think is an important one, and one that deserves more mainstream attention.

For now, hop on over to the links above to be enlightened by some music piracy research; which expands on this distinction.

Tweetology @musicpiracyblog

Monday, 8 July 2013

Recommended journals #1 'Information Economics and Policy'

With some recent blog posts straying away from the aim of this blog on music piracy research, this entry represents the first in a new series which rests alongside the popular 'Recommended books' entries.

Let's first of all get right back to basics and explore exactly what a journal is (in case you are unfamiliar).

A journal is a periodical publication which used to be primarily in print form, but now often includes digital versions (and digital only in some instances). Different authors publish articles in these journals, which are reviewed by an editorial board. With quality control therefore paramount (to all concerned), journals represent an excellent resource for research findings with the additional benefit of often being published much quicker than as a book. This is of particular value with digital piracy as it is a fast moving area overall.

Articles are not always as readable as books, but are worth soliciting if you are really keen to read up on the latest and greatest music piracy research.

A good place to start is Information Economics and Policy. Not only are 2 of the 3 most downloaded articles specifically related to digital piracy, but they have two special issues of particular interest. The December 2010 issue 'Special Issue: Digital Piracy' features 11 articles and the February 2012 issue 'The economics of digital media markets' features 8.

Consider these special issues as great little books.

And all great little books, they deserve a good little read!

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 5 July 2013

Giving life back to music promotion and distribution: A closer look at Daft Punk's Random Access Memories

Despite high-profile returns to the stage this year from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie, 2013 is likely to belong to Daft Punk.

Going into some detail on the promotional strategy employed by Daft Punk with their hit album Random Access Memories, an article over on the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) provides 'a detailed review of all the hullabaloo'.

Oh, and it was written by me.

Inspiring a trend for pre-release-i-Tunes-streams-with-pre-orders, the article explains why the approach used by Daft Punk is NOT a recipe for success. Instead, drawing from academic research, it is proposed that artists would do better capitalising on a seldom explored phenomenon...

Check it out.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Monday, 1 July 2013

Why pirates are not immoral, and why it does not matter

Over a year ago, the morality of music piracy was a focal point on this blog.

Expanding on this article, is a new feature in the British Psychological Society magazine 'The Psychologist' (July, 2013). A cheeky open-access version of the issue can be accessed here (if you're REALLY keen).

Drawing from a wealth of recent research into the morality of digital piracy, this new piece explains how pirates know their illegal behaviours are immoral, but they do not care. Crucially, this immoral behaviour does not translate to other behaviours offline.

Oh, and it is also written by me.

An important and timely article, it summarises the research findings into morality to date and frames them in the context of anti-piracy strategies/deterrent approaches to amending piracy behaviours.


Brown, S.C. (2013, July). Digital piracy and the moral compass. The Psychologist, 26(7), 538-539.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Vienna Music Business Research Days (conference review)

One of the events listed on the 'Events' page, the annual Vienna Music Business Research Days celebrated its fourth year last week, focusing on 'the future of music licensing'.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event and was impressed by the enthusiasm from the speakers, which included individuals from all over the world and from a variety of backgrounds (including academia, politics and industry).

Young scholars also presented challenging research papers on a variety of topics.

An informal and welcoming event, it comes recommended for anyone in mainland Europe who would like to get up close and personal on informed debate over changes in the music industry. They do a live stream, which is rare. So if you CAN'T make it next time around, there's no stopping you getting involved all the same.

A beautiful city, Vienna is easy to get to and even easier to get around once you're there.

I will certainly be back next year (when I will be better prepared for the weather...)

Check out the PDF of this years programme to get more information on individual speakers and their work.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 28 June 2013

'What is piracy?' A TED talk

Love TED talks? Interested in piracy? You came to the right place.

Check out this recent presentation titled 'What is Piracy? by Jean-Philippe Verge which is entertaining and informative (as is the TED way!). Having some issues which prevented a convenient embedded video. Apologies.

It's not just digital piracy under discussion here, so strap yourself in on this one.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Monday, 24 June 2013

Is Hollywood reacting to movie piracy by charging MORE for theatre tickets?

It's not a bad idea.

Strap in folks, we're going to the movies...

Everyone is talking about this, where perhaps the best breakdown of events can be found in Time magazine.

In a nutshell, $50 got moviegoers a ticket to see the new Brad Pitt movie World War Z ahead of release, with the ticket money incorporating merchandise and a future download of the film.

A pretty package.

Is this a one-off promo? The film was delayed for some time, so little stunts like this generate a bit more hype (think: Daft Punk). If this was rolled out universally in the future, it could really interfere with kids going on first dates...

The real interest in this event as a news story stems from the timing: just days after Directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg speculated over a new pricing structure for movies. Lucas, you may recall, was innovative enough to build an entire franchise around merchandise. He also champions an alternative release strategy for movies to cater for different audiences: releasing them in theatres and on home video on the same day.

So should listen to them? Hell yes. They know what they're talking about.

If less people can go to the movies and pay more, then not only does it counterbalance the revenues (at the minimum), but the people who do choose to go see new releases can (in principle) have a better time.

There's a million different options to listen to music now to cater for single-download demand etc., what's to say it wont work for movies?

Movie piracy is still a really big issue, especially in USA. It's no coincidence that the most pirated movies every year are the ones that aren't available legally elsewhere (hence Lucas' simultaneous release strategy). Shaking things up a bit, without making people like me with glasses wear another pair of glasses can only be a good thing.

It's all about innovation.

Speaking of which, prescription 3d glasses anyone?

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 21 June 2013

International Journal of Music Business Research

For those of you emailing complaining that you are struggling to access articles on music piracy... this post is for you. For I have been digging around for you.

Hop on over to the International Journal of Music Business Research website where you will find a rare open-access journal which offers some tasty articles on topics related to this blog.

As well as bi-annual issues with articles, the website acts as a central hub for The International Association of Music Business Research (IAMBR) and acts as a glorified blog as well with regular content of interest.

Check it out!

Tweets @ musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Quote of the month

 Because sometimes, someone else has just put it so much better.

 From the truly excellent book 'How Music Works' (2012), former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne explains how:

 “A century of technological innovation and the digitization of music has inadvertently had the effect of emphasizing its social function. Not only do we still give friends copies of music that excites us, but increasingly we have come to value the social aspect of a live performance more than we used to. Music technology in some ways appears to have been on a trajectory in which the end result is that it will destroy us and devalue itself. It will succeed completely when it self-destructs. The technology is useful and convenient, but it has, in the end, reduced its own value and increased the value of the things it has never been able capture or reproduce.

Technology has altered the way music sounds, how it’s composed, and how we experience it. It has also flooded the world with music. The world is awash with (mostly) recorded sounds. We used to have to pay for music or make it ourselves; playing, hearing, and experiencing it was exceptional, a rare and special experience. Now hearing it is ubiquitous, and silence is the rarity that we pay for and savor” (p. 136).

Easily one of the best books I've read in years, you can buy it from Amazon here.

Twitter feed @musicpiracyblog