Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Sixteen Years Since Napster

“A virus that ends up eating the host”Phil Collen’s description of illegal downloading – Def Leppard 

“I think the term ‘piracy’ is absurd. Piracy is people boarding a ship with violence and killing people and physically stealing material goods. Equating somebody downloading something on his iPhone with that is preposterous.” 

Steve Albini 

“I know that bands like Ratt, that sold millions of records back in the day and then put a new album out in this era, consider an album that sells 50,000 to 60,000 today a success. There’s just so many outlets out there these days to get free music by illegal downloading. I honestly don’t know how that gauge is these days, but I’m about to find out.”

Steve Whiteman – Kix 

When it comes to illegal downloading and piracy I always think of the words that came from Nicko McBrain in the “Flight 666” video, about Iron Maiden’s popularity in the Middle East, Asian and South/Central America. For a band that have not sold many albums in these regions, Iron Maiden have no problems selling out football stadiums and arenas.

Brazil is a country the mighty Maiden machine goes back to time and time again. Downloading music and movies illegally in Brazil is high. 

However, when fans of entertainment are provided with access at the same time as the rest of the world, guess what happens;

People turn to legal means.

Netflix launched in Brazil in 2011 and at the moment it is the fourth largest market for Netflix with 69 million subscribers. And it all comes down to pricing. The cost of a monthly subscription to Netflix is the same as one movie ticket. Instead of charging for ONE movie or ONE SONG, people want access to a vast archive of songs and movies.

And guess what Netflix also did.

“Netflix also had to work hard to adapt to local consumer habits, such as issuing pre-paid cards, and getting partnerships with local banks to allow payment for users who do not have credit cards.”

Now would the “entitled” record labels and the movie studios have done all of that.

“You listen on a streaming platform because it’s CONVENIENT.”

Steve Albini 

And fans of music have decided that streaming is good for them. But greed still continues to dominate in music, and it’s funny to read stories about superstars withholding their new albums from streaming services.

The death of Rdio streaming service is an example of greed. 

 As the article states;

“The economics of streaming music are brutal. Record labels have nearly all the leverage, and take most of the gross revenue from streaming services. The only way to win is to achieve a massive scale — which is why Spotify has raised more than $1 billion, spending heavily to add subscribers in hopes they will lead to a sustainable business.”

Adele is the latest artist who has decided to withhold her new music from streaming services. It seems that she forgets that within 24 seconds of her album being released it will be all over the internet and YouTube for people to access illegally. Coldplay had their album off streaming services for a certain period of time. Their viewpoint was to capitalise on sales, however what they did capitalise on was illegal downloads. Taylor Swift is off the free Spotify service but still on the free YouTube service which pays even less. Withholding or gating any release is leaving money on the table.

So it’s sixteen years after Napster and the record labels still can’t get it right. They think it’s all about them, when in fact the artists they are meant to represent are competing with all the different entertainment products out there for mindshare.

It’s always been about listens for the artists, not sales. The more listens, the bigger the cultural impact. Sales in music is a metric designed and controlled by the labels. If sales guaranteed success then RATT’s albums that came out in the nineties and two thousands, would have gone platinum.

Let me tell you that I purchased all of the RATT albums from a second hand record store, which means the person who purchased the albums in the first place and chalked up that sale metric for the record labels, didn’t like the albums and sold them to the record store.

The first Van Halen album I purchased was “Balance”. I had the others dubbed on cassette tape. The debut album, “1984” and “5150” I had dubbed more than 5 times from the same person (who purchased the album because he like to collect music and never really listened to it). I listened to these albums a million times as I tried to figure out the guitar parts and not one of those listens made the record label any money. Once I had more disposable income, I would go back and purchase the earlier albums, but that didn’t happen until the mid to late nineties. 


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