Here are the largest misconceptions and/or excuses for accepting music piracy, and why I so whole heartily disagree. I am even going to go a step farther then just explaining my opinion. I am going to give you resources so you can also make an informed decision which are available at the end of this post 🙂
The biggest misconception of music piracy of late I have run across is that any promotion is good promotion.
Stop and really think about this. Is it good promotion for you at work, to get drunk and puke on your boss? What? You say no, terrible idea right? But wait thats promotion! The Boss will remember you forever! Ok so it is not always exactly that bad but you get my point.
Promotion is great, but sometimes promotion, especially that projects a negative view, is not beneficial to you or the image of a company you are trying to promote.
If I am a music artist, and I know that despite having just spent $5,000 dollars on equipment, software, hardware, plugins and 5-20 hours of my life and putting everything I have into a track, that if I release it, the label is just going to shrug its shoulders and let my music be given away for free, why bother using a label at all? I can just go on soundcloud and give it away for free all by myself. So really ask yourself as a producer, do you really want to work with a label that is not going to take your music as seriously as you do? And if you do not take it seriously and see no problem with piracy, please just give your tracks away for free and leave more room on the market for artists who do care. And please, do not make the mistake of thinking that being pirated is the same thing as being famous. Seeing your name on google does not mean as much as having people who genuinely love and appreciate your musical style and talent.
There is one exception to this I believe, and that is if you are an active DJ. By an active DJ I mean at least getting paid for gigs a couple of time a month. Having your music out there, especially for free can be great to raise more interest, but then again why worry about making sales from your release when you make a thousand times more DJing? Something to consider on this side though is, as there are more “DJs” who use auto sync and pirate all their music, there are fewer clubs willing to pay reasonable amounts to bring in talented DJ’s. Why pay for a DJ that half the club is not going to know is good or bad when you can get one for free or for half the price because that DJ does not have to worry about the overhead cost of good equipment and actually purchasing music. Piracy does effect the whole realm of electronic music world, which is something people seem to not realize.
On a side note, yes completely the more popular you are, the more your music is going to get pirated (just keep in mind just because you get pirated it does not mean you are famous). But don’t believe for a second the music pirates are doing this on your behalf for loving your music. More on that later though 😉
The second biggest misconception I have run across about piracy is that it does not hurt sales.
The first question I have to ask people when they say this to me is, have you actually done a test to prove this hypotheses?
I have, and from what I have seen, from a small labels perspective is YES without a doubt it effects our sales. I can also say, being involved with a fairly recognizable Deep House producer, that when we take down illegal download sites for him, it can make all the difference between making it into the top 100 and not. Maybe this does not hold true for all labels or artists, but I can certainly say for my label we have more lost revenue (my estimate would be about a third of what we could be making instead goes to piracy) then we get fans in return for this “free” promotion.
Now one of my favorite misconceptions! The pirates are people who just love your music and want to share it with their friends!
Ok look, I am totally not going to freak out if you get super excited about a track you made you are going to release with such and such label and share it with your close friends. Nor am I going to become upset if you share it with your mother, your dog or girlfriend. I am not even going to become all that upset about you uploading a youtube video of an entire track because you love the song so so much and think more people need to become exposed to it.
What I am going to get upset about is when people buy stolen credit card numbers off the internet, totally screwing up someones life, then uses them to go to beatport and buy every release (which beatport then of course when the credit card is reported stolen has to take back that “revenue” from the release) then turns around and uploads it to an upload service. Which then in turn makes them money for every single download of the items they uploaded. Or even better, hosts an FTP server that you pay to use and again they are making money for doing nothing but ripping off the artist and the label. These guys are not your friends and they are not doing it out of appreciation of the great music you make, they see you as a great way to get paid for doing nothing. They make great money off of this, don’t kid yourself. Ever notice on upload/download sites the “get paid for your uploads” areas? Yes, that is how through setting up illegal downloads makes them money. Hmmm you know that might be a thought for labels, we can just upload all our tracks on these sites and make more money then we are now 😉
Another thing I think should really be addressed, goes back to one of my favorite sayings “Why buy the cow when you can get the Milk for free?”
Yes having your music everywhere and for free may introduce you to a ton of new people, who may fall in love with you as an artist or a label. But if they already have the track, do you REALLY think they are going to love you so much they are going to buy the track again? If so you might want to check your ego there for a second and think if you would go out and purchase something you already got for free. I am normally a really optimistic person but never to the point I can completely forget about human nature, which is not always as pretty and cheery as I wish it was.
Some piracy is unavoidable, I understand that, I accept it. And yes sometimes tracks and release are going to get pirated no matter how hard you work to avoid that happening. Yes it can raise your profile, but would it not be better to just set aside some works just for that purpose? Free music is great, and sometimes letting things go is best, but if someone gets a track of yours and falls in love with your sound or your label… maybe next time they will purchase your new track if it is not so blatantly their for the taking.
The most important thing we can do to effect the rampant music pirate industry:
Educate the masses!
Educate your friends, your families and acquaintances. Give them the real facts on whats going on behind the music piracy, what the motivation is and the effects it is having on independent music.
Everyone is aware of the power of peer pressure, so through education of the topic lets make it socially unacceptable to obtain the mass majority of your music library illegally. If you do not try to make a difference, it is certain you will not. So stand with us to take the music back into our hands, let us support the artist that truly have talent, the artists we genuinely love and not allow others to profit while the musicians and music world suffer.
If you would like to read more on how piracy effects the music industry you can check out this POST and if you want to know how to handle taking down pirated links and sites you can check the one HERE.
Articles and Resources pertaining to how I arrived at my opinions on Music Piracy:
Two lengthy articles on research conducted about the effects of music sharing. The first (which seems slightly flawed to me and not exactly fitting to the electronic music world does offer many good thinking points and information). The second calls the first out on their research methods and missing links and assumptions made in the first article.
At the bottom of the page on this article he makes a great point about how cheating once (in our case illegally downloading music) makes it that much easier for a person to do it again, and again – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/predictably-irrational/200907/coffee-shops-the-honor-system-would-it-work
Articles about the Costs of Illegal Downloading & What it can cost you to illegally download:
About 95 percent of music downloads in 2010 were unlicensed and illegal, with no money flowing back to artists, songwriters or record producers, according to Alex Jacob.
Where peer pressure comes from and why it has a real effect on music sales and piracy, especially important to understand Self-serving bias and how people who illegally download do just this in their decision making:
Another psychology concept that applies to the world of music piracy and people feel it is acceptable:
Where the concept of illegal downloads being good promotion comes from: