Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Piracy Debate...

I've been seeing arguments for and against piracy ever since the Napster-era on the Internet. It's not going to go away anytime soon.

It's still making a bunch of headlines as our 44th President Barack Obama sides with the RIAA in getting rid of piracy.

Piracy has gotten to the point where radio stations follow the most popular songs being downloaded on Peer to Peer websites on Big Champagne.

First, I'd like to make the argument against...

Let me say first of all that even though I may seem critical of labels for many things, I am not completely against record labels or the business. When a record label gets behind their artists correctly, they can flourish in the business.

I feel that Flyleaf is a perfect example. Here's a new active rock band that from very early on had high profile tours and gained fans little by little. I know fans got tired of seeing them promote the same album over and over, but the upside to that is that they eventually earned a platinum album and can pretty much demand headlining dollars now.

The argument against piracy is that when you don't buy CD's that you take away the advertising, marketing, and promotion money needed for an artist to succeed.

I can see that. It just seems like these days that nine times out of ten that artists don't get promoted or advertised well enough to maintain any type of success. A lot of artists that have been signed to these major label deals are either "one and done" or done before they even get to one because the label doesn't see a profit being made from them.

There's also a compelling argument for piracy.

There's a case being made that piracy actually gets people to buy more music.

Quite frankly, I can see that too. 

While there are a lot of pirates that tend to just download any and everything and not support an artist at all, there are also fans of artists who download advance copies of their favorite artists' albums and then turn around to either buy the album or go to shows. Also, there are music fans that just want a free listen to an artist to find out whether they're worth spending the dough for or not. More available music to find would generally lead to more music to buy.

A problem is that record labels don't see "good" pirates and "bad" pirates, they just see pirates.

I think that there are things that record labels can do and have done to avoid the problem as best they can.

One good thing that they have done is put out album streams a week or more before the album. I can't tell you how many times I've used this personally to buy a new album.

But they can do more.

Based on the Norwegian Twitter incident, I feel that labels need to open up their markets. I don't know how easy that's going to be, but in this digital world, there are still labels that release songs and albums exclusively to the US.

Granted, there are some artists that don't tour outside of the US and Canada, however, they are still popular outside of the country.

I also feel that the same is true vice versa for foreign artists. The digital world has made the world smaller and has given people a reason to buy music overseas and from small, independent artists worldwide.

Another idea that I made good use of is an immediate digital release. Let me explain...Halestorm made their album available last month even though the physical release was six weeks away. What this did was that it made it possible to get the album as quickly as possible. No waiting for a purchase it and get the album immediately. Apparently, the same holds true for Amanda Palmer when you pre-order her album.

I like this idea because it benefits fans the most. Fans want to have the music as quickly as possible and want to support their artists. Once a song (not a demo) hits Myspace, it should be available for purchase. Myspace does have Amazon and Snocap helping with downloads, but I think that Myspace should also have their own service, especially for independent and smaller artists.

An album generally leaks anywhere between two weeks and two months before an album comes out either externally (from music stores) or internally (from the label).

If labels grab hold of that idea, they can still promote an artist traditionally to the radio and they don't have to put such an emphasis on first week sales when an album is sold physically.

In the age of Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter, fans and friends of fans will know that an album or song is for sale and will generally purchase it.

This is the age of instant gratification where people want stuff now now now.

One idea I would like to see is another version of "try before you buy". 

I'm pretty sure that digital music technology is to the point where you should be able to download a song onto your player and "rent" a song or album before you decide whether to buy it or not.

I think that the services that the labels were trying to push like Spiralfrog and Qtrax could have been useful for this if they had more choices available.

There should be a service out there with a subscription service where you rent songs between a week and a month with no pressure and then from there decide to buy them.

As I said before, I think that labels are still useful in the sense of marketing and promotion, but I think that in an age that requires instant gratification that they should free up markets so that fans of music around the world can enjoy music at the same time without feeling guilty about it.

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