The Pirate Bay (TPB) is going to turn 14 years this year.
From its inception, it was a facilitator, spreading the disruption caused by Napster years earlier to even larger audiences. It showed the entertainment industries how they needed to change. But they didn’t change and it took companies like Netflix and Spotify to make this happen. And they did it by using the same technology made famous by The Pirate Bay. But while Netflix realised that money is in producing your own content, Spotify and other streaming providers have not. Licensing content from someone is not a satisfactory business model. Just ask HBO, formerly known as Home Box Office. Their early business model was all licensed content and they lost money year after year, while the movie studios got richer. It wasn’t until HBO went into original content, that they started making some serious cash. As soon as Spotify, Apple, YouTube and Pandora realise that they need to enter the recording business to produce their own content, the music industry will change and disrupt even more.
TPB had to stand strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. It has stood firm against government officials (loaded up in lobbyist dollars) trying to prosecute it. It was taken down, raided and it still survives. And it keeps on innovating even when court orders become the new normal, requesting ISP’s to block the web address or domain registries to deny any applications for TPB domains. Even in it’s home country of Sweden, court appeals and cases are still ongoing. Google was even pressured to alter (in my view censor) its search algorithm, so TPB doesn’t come up.
But TPB is still alive. It has become a vessel for people to access content they normally wouldn’t have access too. In the process, it has made the world a better place.
Metal music in general has grown to all corners of the world. Suddenly, every country has a metal scene and the larger metal bands that have the means to tour are suddenly hitting markets they’ve never hit before.
The high rates of software piracy in Eastern Europe caused an IT skills explosion.
Romanian President Traian Basescu, once told Bill Gates that digital pirating helped his nation build a budding software industry.
REUTERS Article on Eastern European Piracy
The high rates of music creation software piracy led to the electronic dance explosion coming out of Europe.
In the process, artists have gained decent followings. However, while bands in the past had followings, it was assumed that every single follower had purchased recorded music and that the band had made money. But that was not the case in the past and it still isn’t today.
I had music recorded on cassette tapes and video tapes to begin with.
- If the radio played a song I liked, I recorded it on cassette. I did this by pressing record every time a song started or was about to start and if I dug the tune, I kept the recording going. If I didn’t dig it, I stopped the recording and rewinded the tape to the last song, so I can start again. The rewinding part was easy when the tape was new, but when you started to record after a previously recorded song, you had to rewind to that point in time. The same process was carried out with video tapes. I was explaining this to my kids and they didn’t look amazed at all by my rewinding abilities.
- I had friends of my brothers who had dubbed music on a cassette from someone else who copied it from someone else who copied it. So on some occasions the music I got was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. It sure sounds like mp3 downloading to me.
- My brothers had one friend who purchased a lot of music, but he wouldn’t let no-one copy it. I remember one time I borrowed the “Fireworks” album from Bonfire and “Blow My Fuse” from Kix from him, without asking or telling him. He reckons I stole it. What kind of thief am I, when I returned the borrowed goods?
So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?
The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works. With social media, it can spread even faster. But you need to be able to follow it up, quickly and with quality.
- Volbeat got traction in the U.S in 2012 on the backs of a song they released in 2008. This in turn started to bring attention to their previous albums. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases, much later.
- This is very different to say, Galactic Cowboys. Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed them to a deal and just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high-profile marketing campaign. The marketing budget was huge, the recording budget was huge, but the public just didn’t take to them. There was no word of mouth. No one spoke about them and when you brought them up in a conversation, it was a “who”. In saying that, I thought the band was innovative and excellent.
The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing and replenishing.
- For the thousands that stop using the service, another thousand start using the service.
- For the thousands that stop listening to Metallica, another thousand started listening to Metallica.
- For the thousands that stop listening to Ratt, another 10 started to listen to em.
You do the math as why certain things get bigger or remain bigger, while other things reduce in scale.