RIAA Reports Music Industry Is Making All The Money Just As New Study Says Piracy Has Never Been More Widespread

from the hmmm dept

As much conversation as gets logged on the topic of copyright infringement, or piracy, you may not have noticed that there are not that many arguments against piracy. Certainly there’s a volume of voices, particularly those coming from the entertainment industry, but those voices are typically making only one of two claims. The first claim is that piracy is morally wrong. This claim typically devolves into something along the lines of “but piracy is theft”, and relies on the intuitive notion that downloading, say, a song hurts the creator of that song by depriving them of income. If there was no income deprivation, there would be no moral wrong. The second claim skips the first part of that equation and simply asserts that piracy harms the entertainment or content industries, depriving them of the income they need in order to create more content. You will notice that, ultimately, there is actually only one argument against piracy: its effect on the income of the content producers.

With as much as entertainment advocacy groups like to pantomime Chicken Little on this topic, you might be surprised to learn that the RIAA recently came out with its 2017 Year-End industry report, in which it gleefully notes both how much money the music industry is making and, importantly, how that revenue is growing rather than shrinking.

In 2017 revenues from recorded music in the United States increased 16.5% at estimated retail value to $8.7 billion, continuing the growth from the previous year. At wholesale, revenues grew 12.6% to $5.9 billion. These increases were driven by more than 35 million paid subscriptions, a 56% growth year-over-year. This is the first time since 1999 that U.S. music revenues grew materially for two years in a row, while gaps in core rights continue to distort the marketplace and deprive recording artists and songwriters of the royalties they deserve.

So, we have two years of growth in music industry revenue in America, even as the RIAA is also still complaining about market distortions and artists not getting enough royalties. The full report notes that streaming revenue is way up, digital downloads are down, and physical product purchase revenue has been mostly flat. Note that this is all for the American market. Nowhere in the full report does it flesh out exactly what the RIAA’s complaints about artist compensation are based on, although piracy/infringement is almost certainly the answer.

The problem for that argument, which is again the only real argument for focusing on piracy as some great evil, is that another report just came out from MUSO, a group that tracks piracy, indicating that piracy is more popular in the public right now than it ever has been.

Piracy tracking outfit MUSO has documented the piracy landscape with data from tens of thousands of the largest global piracy sites. In its latest report, the company recorded more than 300 billion visits to pirate sites last year alone. This is an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2016.

More than half of all these visits (53%) are going to streaming sites, making that the most popular piracy tool. Torrent sites and direct download portals still have a significant user base, but follow at a respectable distance. Most of the pirate visits came from the United States, followed by India and Brazil. Despite the various pirate site blockades, the UK also secured a spot in the top ten, ranked at the bottom with nine billion visits.

A couple of things to note in the report’s details. Again, America had the highest instances of piracy by far, nearly twice as much as India, which came in third. Also note that, while streaming sites for television was the most popular method of piracy in the public, pirating music came in second. So, we have two data points. The RIAA says that the American music industry revenue has risen two years running. MUSO says that Americans pirate more than anyone else, that they often pirate music, and that piracy levels are at the zenith and rising.

The “piracy hurts the music industry” mantra just took a credibility hit, no?

The explanation for this isn’t difficult to understand. Those that pirate music also buy music, go to concerts, and support the bands and music industry through all kinds of other purchases. They also likely subscribe to streaming services and pirate what they can’t find there, or what they discover there. The point is that music pirates are often fans of music and may purchase along with pirating.

In other words, the simplistic attack mantras from the RIAA don’t make a great deal of sense alongside the RIAA reporting that the music industry is making gobs of money, and increasingly so.

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Comments on “RIAA Reports Music Industry Is Making All The Money Just As New Study Says Piracy Has Never Been More Widespread”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, they have a habit of doing such things, as do others in the entertainment industry. They fought against audio cassettes, they fought against MP3 players, the movie industry fought home video, all making claims of massive losses. When that failed and they had to embrace the new technology, they managed to make lots and lots more money than they had before the new tech.

It’s a tiresome and predictable cycle, and it boils down to one thing – when these companies like the amount of money they’re getting, they don’t want to change. But change is inevitable.

Ninja (profile) says:

How long has it been since they started predicting music death again? Reminds me of gramps who predicted his own death in every Sunday lunch for 15 years before somebody got fed up and said “I wonder why you haven’t died in all those years?”. Then he stopped doing it. And took another 8 years to finally die.

I’d much like the legacy players actually die, along with copyright as it is today. But at the very least I hope they aren’t like gramps heh

Anonymous Coward says:

losing by winning vs. winning by losing

Mike Masnick deserves a prize for predicting that this very thing would indeed happen.

It’s rather ironic that the music industry is now making record profits from the very thing –digital music as a service– that they insisted could never be successfully monetized.

It’s taken a long time, almost two decades after Napster, and it seems that one reason its taken so long is because the music industry has won all its court battles (while losing the war), compared to the Hollywood film industry, which lost a massive court battle early on trying to eradicate home video tape machines, and then having no other option, immediately embraced the technology, and basked in the shower of profits that resulted.

Had A&M Records v. Napster been lost by the record industry instead of won in 2001, (or MGM v. Grokster in 2005) then it’s quite probable that the profit surge the industry had in 2016 and 2017 would have happened nearly two decades earlier — and perhaps without embittering so many devout customers by massively suing young children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: losing by winning vs. winning by losing

Had A&M Records v. Napster been lost by the record industry instead of won in 2001, (or MGM v. Grokster in 2005) then it’s quite probable that the profit surge the industry had in 2016 and 2017 would have happened nearly two decades earlier

Oh, sure. Nothing leads to success for creators like rampant piracy!

Sheesh. I bet you actually believe that, too.

You’re at very least omitting practical fact that availability of broadband had to be much increased, as "streaming" at 2.3K bytes a sec isn’t practical.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if they checked out the whois for IP address?

“Most of the pirate visits came from the United States, followed by India and Brazil.”

Considering the DNS and other factors going on right now in Canada, and the EU. I’m wondering if any significant portion of the US addresses are actually coming from US based VPN providers. I’m sure many people are using them not only to watch Netflix’s full catalog, but also to pirate as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Angry? Far from it. By the RIAA’s own data their revenues are increasing despite a simultaneous increase in piracy. This means any time some RIAA fanatic screams about piracy throwing millions of people out to the streets I can cite their own data to tell them when they shouldn’t be taken seriously. Thank you!

Anonymous Coward says:

like the rest of the entertainment industries, the RIA doesn’t want to make ‘gobs of money’, it wants to make ALL THE MONEY! it doesn’t want anyone else to make a cent, including the artists, wants to stop independents from even being able to make, let alone release any music, wants to stop any and every type of uploading/downloading unless the RIAA is in control of them and can charge and definitely doesn’t want any customer, anywhere, to own anything, only able to rent media, with the proviso that protections cannot be circumvented in any way, at any time and format shifting, therefore is punishable by death!! think i’m joking, research what ALL these fucking industries want and see the truth!!

Anonymous Coward says:

As a person living in poverty, whenever I want access to government services or NGO charities, I often have to prove that I’m in a low income situation before I can get the help I seek.

Maybe the RIAA should prove they’re going poor before bitching and moaning for people to help them with their problems, too. That would seem fair.

Anonymous Coward says:

Music Industry Making Money and Piracy Widespread,

are not actually exclusive, you’re just implying so.

However, the ongoing efforts all show that whenever piracy is reduced, the “Music Industry” gains.

For instance, when Megaupload was shut down, “Hollywood” sales improved by about 10%. (Easily confirmed so no link: Just Go Google Yourself!)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'These two things are unrelated. These two things are.'

For instance, when Megaupload was shut down, "Hollywood" sales improved by about 10%. (Easily confirmed so no link: Just Go Google Yourself!)]

I see, so the fact that copyright infringement is more popular than ever and the recording industry is raking in the case have nothing to do with each other, yet you want to assert as fact that when copyright infringement takes a temporary hit then the recording industry magically gets a boost, because those two are obviously related.

As for your ‘find it yourself’, nah. To that I merely say: Hitchen’s Razor.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Music Industry Making Money and Piracy Widespread,

Citations needed. No we’re not doing your work for you – you make a claim, you provide the evidence you’re basing that claim upon..

“are not actually exclusive, you’re just implying so”

You may wish to learn for to read properly, as that’s not implied at all. The point is, if piracy is up and sales are up, then it’s further proof that the “a download = a lost sale” bullshit they spread is not true.

“However, the ongoing efforts all show that whenever piracy is reduced, the “Music Industry” gains.”

Not really. There’s temporary spikes when certain major outlets are shut down, but these often also coincide with major releases and so there’s not usually evidence that any increase was purely due to the site shutdown and not other factors. They’re also usually very short lived – IIRC the MU case you’re claiming only lasted a week or two.

But, you know what does provide long-term sustainable increases in revenue? Meeting customer demand, something that these labels have been fighting against for the last couple of decades. A site shutdown may give a brief uptick in sales, but an iTunes or Spotify represents actual revenue growth over the long term. Perhaps they should stop fighting against lucrative new technology.

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