Online Pirates: Plunderers or Purchasers?

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm

In recent years, the debate over the topic of internet piracy has been one of much controversy for the world of music. Major music labels report staggering losses in sales due to the the act of internet file sharing each year. These losses have drawn major labels to band together with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to prosecute offenders of these acts to the largest extent possible in hopes of curbing the practice. This measure, along with the simultaneous legal actions taken against facilitators of the file-sharing movement (see The Pirate Bay) has sparked much discussion, both online and elsewhere, about the legitimacy and effectiveness of this practice. Opponents of the RIAA’s efforts claim that “pirates” still purchase music, and that they use “piracy” to find new types of music that they then will buy. Until recently, these claims were seen to be nothing more than cover up for illegal activity.


Pirates: legitimate customers or online bandits?

A recent study indicates that about 1 in 10 people admit to pirating music online. This number is quite high, though not surprising when noting the music industry’s recent preventative measures and claims of revenue loss. What is surprising, however, is that those who admitted to pirating music reported and average of $126 of yearly music purchases compared to just $72 for those who do not pirate music. This data prompts questions about the RIAA’s recent string of prosecutions, namely the question of whether or not criminally charging one’s most valuable customers is a smart business decision.

In current times of revenue loss at major music labels, and with illegal file sharing running rampant online, the independent music community has found an opportunity to shine. Purchases of independent music are actually up recently relative to their major-label counterparts, but why? One possibility is that increased access to information is allowing musicians without major label backing an opportunity to reach out to listeners in a whole new way. Blogging, interacting with fans, and releasing free songs online are not uncommon practices by today’s indie musicians, and these tactics seem to be translating into eventual purchases by consumers who like what they hear.


Perhaps the RIAA and the entities it represents are taking the right approach, and the results have simply not yet come to fruition, or perhaps they need to rethink their methods. Prosecuting the portion of the market that makes up one of the largest groups of legitimate music purchasers does not seem conducive to the achievement of sales objectives, but then again neither does allowing the world at large a free pass to take your products without paying for them. Regardless of what they choose to do, major music labels and the RIAA must think very carefully about their next course of action if they wish to reverse the current trend. Until then, independent artists and labels will continue to thrive as they employ tactics more in tune with today’s internet savvy population, and major music labels will continue to scratch their heads while wondering where “the glory days” have gone.

  1. It’s really stupid of the riaa. The times are changing. I personally believe the future will be fans buying cds only after they’ve heard/dowloaded all the songs and loved them. CDs will become like things for fans. I’m even expecting the televison and radio industries to change. Or I’m just dreaming. Lol

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