from the 34%-of-statistics-are-made-up dept
If anything, Apple's announcement of iTunes MusicMatch has made opposing sides equally uncomfortable (a sign of disruption?). Whereas some are concerned about its possible use as a tool to identify infringers, others are more concerned about it 'legitimizing piracy' and are not afraid to pull numbers out of thin air to back up their claims.
One of these people is PRS for Music's chief executive Robert Ashcroft. Ashcroft claims collection societies like PRS for Music could experience an 80% drop in online licensing revenue if unauthorized downloads were to be admitted in locker services and then legitimized. It seems very unlikely that collection societies would even exist if one innovation would cut 80% of their business, but I'm very curious to see evidence to back up this claim.
I've been trying to come up with a scenario that would warrant this 80%, but most would be too far-fetched for a non-fiction blog like Techdirt. The existence of these locker services would have to lead to governments deciding there is no reason to keep downloading illegal. Then either new 'pirate' platforms would have to start outcompeting already existing platforms or most legitimate platforms would have to decide there is no value in having good relations with the artists and labels their users adore. Then most users must stop spending money on music. Why is this not realistic? Despite the increasing convenience of unauthorized downloads, authorized platforms such as Netflix are beating piracy in terms of traffic. If the suggested 80% decline would be realistic, it would have already happened. It didn't.
He further stated that:
“We are at a turning point. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else there is an admission you can’t get fair value from the internet, which would lead to lasting damage to the music industry.”
No, just no. Either the internet becomes an economically viable replacement to CDs or else? The internet is a revolution in computer networking and communication - it was never intended to be a replacement to CDs. The internet is a disruptive technology which among many great things has helped thousands (if not millions) of artists and musicians reach global audiences they would otherwise not have reached. It has helped artists gain exposure and popularity to generate the licensing revenue which helps pay for the salary of collection societies' staff. For this reason the new generation doesn't blame the internet (although sometimes they forget where they came from). Just recently I interviewed Para One, a successful French electro producer, who said:
“I personally see the internet as a blessing. It would be unfair to hate it, since it pretty much kickstarted our careers through forums, then MySpace, etc, a while ago.”
Let's just label the part where he says that the internet should be a CD replacement "or else" as the FUD that it is and move on. Actual research into this suggests there's actually money to be made for the music industry. Of course that remains to be seen and depends on a few factors such as how good consumers are at predicting their own behaviour. It's also dependent on the moves of other competing platforms such as Spotify and Google Music.
However, these are intelligent platforms, built in a reality where they have to compete with free and in which they must convert 'free users' into paying users. This is why I cringe when I hear people from a less reality-based side of the business say "piracy" needs to be stopped in order for these startups to succeed. A piracy-free internet would have to be so restricted (three strikes is not enough) that it would devastate these startups and most other future innovation along with human rights.