Music Industry Execs Debate Brokep From The Pirate Bay

from the and-who-wins? dept

Over in the UK, on Thursday evening, there was a music industry panel discussion that involved a massive number of panelists (ten -- which seems a bit too many) covering a wide variety of viewpoints from the music industry. Mostly they came from the traditional parts of the music industry, but the interesting participant was Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, aka brokep, from The Pirate Bay (and now Flattr), taking part in the discussion with a group of folks who regularly call him all sorts of unfriendly things. Stuart Dredge, over at Music Ally, ran a nice live blog of the conversation, which mostly went down about as you would expect. Dredge noted that it was mostly an "industry" audience, and he worried that "there’s a bit of a kick-the-Pirate-Bay mood bubbling" in the audience.

Thankfully, it doesn't look like things got that far. Mostly it was the typical back and forth. Industry folks whining that they can't compete with The Pirate Bay... even as they were talking about the variety of ways they were competing with The Pirate Bay. Basically, what becomes clear is they would prefer competition that they control, rather than competition that consumers drive. Tragically, innovation doesn't work that way.

Peter made the point that a lot of people were confusing the music industry with the recording industry, and mocked them a bit for not actually talking about culture or music:
"Most of the things we're talking about today are about the record industry, not about the music industry. Everyone is talking about percentages... nobody is talking about music. It sounds like most people here could be selling diapers instead!"
While technically true, the discussion was about the business of music, so I think it's fair to be discussing some numbers and the business angle. But there is a larger point to be made here. With studies showing that more music is being created, the complaints about the "death" of the industry are clearly misplaced. The real complaints from the industry types are that they aren't able to make money off of it any more -- but that doesn't mean the music industry is in trouble at all. Instead, it's thriving. In fact, Peter also made that point:
It's not a right for the record industry to make a profit.... Technology has come that has made most of the record industry less valuable. We need to just move on, it's sort of an evolution... It might not be good for people working in the record industry, but the music industry is better than ever."
The industry folks on the panel still seem to be living in a state of denial at times, talking about how they should milk the 40 and 50 year olds who are still buying CDs, rather than really understanding the changing marketplace. My favorite laughable quote came from Guy Moot, of EMI Publishing, who said:
"The joy of ownership is a very different thing from the joy of a digital download or stream..."
Sure, it is, but the record labels have worked very, very, very hard to make it clear to people that they don't get to "own" anything. How many times have been told "you just get a license." If we really got to own stuff, there wouldn't be so many complaints.

There were so many people taking part, it's difficult to cover them all. Will Page (whose interview we recently posted) made some good points, and Jeremy Silver, from the Featured Artist Coalition (who's also a very interesting guy to chat with about these issues) comes off as being quite sensible in saying that file sharing of unauthorized works is here and not going away -- and the industry should take some of the blame for sitting on the CD cash cow and never innovating. Rather than complaining about it, it's time to look forward.

On that note, it seemed like the most reasonable speaker may have been David Stopps, who spoke from the perspective of an artist's manager. He noted that the it's absolutely possible to "compete with free," talked up the importance of touring to make money and using the music to boost those revenues and also played down the "demise" of the record labels, by noting that "they still have the back catalogue" to milk for a long time and that their job has become a lot easier thanks to technology:
He says A&R is becoming easier for labels, because sites like Hype Machine and We Are Hunted are where A&R guys are looking to see "who's listening to what music". It's less about "taking a punt" than in the old days. "Artists are building up fanbases themselves… and that can be monitored."
He also brings up the band Metric as an example of a band that has "gone all the way" without a record deal, noting that they turned down a variety of major label deals with massive advances to "do it on their own" and that it's working:
"They're doing a fantastic job, they use Topspin to sell their music, and that seems to be very successful for them. We're gonna see more of that..."
Along those lines, he also notes that The Pirate Bay can be a really great way for people to discover new music, and monetize them elsewhere, pointing to Imogen Heap, who discovered tons of people in Indonesia downloading her music in an unauthorized manner... but when she went there, she was able to sell out a 4,500 seat arena, making "a lot of money."

Finally, he also knocks BPI and others in the industry for still thinking that DRM is a reasonable solution -- pointing out that it's totally anti-consumer:
"The problem is, nobody really asked the consumer," he says, about attempts to put DRM on CDs. "They absolutely hated it. You put the CD into the computer and it wouldn't play... In the future, we've got to bring the consumers into the business model. In fact, they already are part of the business model."
Geoff Taylor, the head of BPI (basically the UK's RIAA) comes off as about what you'd expect. He trashes The Pirate Bay repeatedly, claims that it's "destroying national cultures" (with no proof, of course) and says that there needs to be "disincentives" to dealing with unauthorized file sharing.

It's the same story as usual: they're so focused on negative incentives for people doing stuff they don't like, they never seem to care about creating positive incentives for those they should be targeting. That's BPI's problem. Not The Pirate Bay.

Anyway... given the participants, it was about what you would expect, and didn't seem to get quite as nasty as some feared before the event. I doubt anyone's mind was changed about anything, but it still sounded like a pretty good discussion.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 6:36am

    "...they would prefer competition that they control, rather than competition that consumers drive. Tragically, innovation doesn't work that way."

    And in reality, competing with yourself is not really competition.

     

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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 7:28am

    Trying to break it down into bullet points

    • It is music that is the art.

    • It is the fan among the musician's audience that will pay the artist to produce it.

    • It is the performance and the recording of the music that the fans want and will pay for.


    Where people are coming unstuck is in conflating the copy with the recording. The copy is not the recording.

    The copy is not the recording.


    Kids can make copies (and do). This is why, despite the 18th century privilege of copyright that has enthralled us, there is no longer a market for copies.

    That's why neither the music industry nor the recording industry is doomed.

    The industry that is doomed is that of the copy manufacturers/distributors/retailers, and those record labels among them that assume they can still exploit their anachronistic and ineffective monopoly to sell copies (that kids can make for nothing) for what they believe the market should bear.


    • People still want music to be made - the market for music will continue.

    • Musicians and their fans still need and want studio performances to be recorded - the market for studio recordings will continue.

    • Fans can make and distribute their own copies - the market for copies is collapsing (into a residual market for nostalgic vinyl copies).



    It's childsplay, BUT:

    • Kids can't make the musician's music - the musician has no worries.

    • Kids can't record the musician's studio performances- the recording studio has few worries (apart from ever better home studio setups).

    • Kids CAN produce their own copies of released studio recordings - the record label's future is in selling the release of their back catalogue (that isn't already in wide circulation)

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    DRM

    DRM is the best reason ever to go to the pirates.
    If they want to provide disincentives for dealing with the unauthorized, a huge step would be to remove all DRM possible.

    I bought a game for the PC a long time ago that had Securom. I didn't know why stuff on my computer started freezing shortly after. Took me awhile but I figured it out. Haven't bought a PC game that has Securom, or any other DRM for that matter, since. The pirate stuff comes without the nasty spyware. Why Anti-Virus don't decry it foul is beyond me. Just because its meant to protect something legitimate doesn't mean it shouldn't be treated as a virus since that is what it acts like.

    Yes I know my little anecdote is about a PC game and this article is about music, but it is that event that completely shaped my views on DRM long before I ever started visiting TechDirt.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    brokep is in a simple position. he has made his (apparently hidden) fortune off the pirate bay, all of it by facilitating and aiding in the widespread violation of copyright, piracy, and misappropriation of non-public materials (such as unreleased movies). expecting his moral compass to point anywhere except to the abyss is pretty much out of the question. ask a law breaker about laws and they will tell you the laws suck. no news here.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      Rosa Parks: LAWBREAKER!

       

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      PaulT (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      Of course, none of that addresses the overpricing of digital goods, regional restrictions, the refusal to allow some albums to be sold at all digitally, windowed releases and a whole litany of other pointless and artificial restrictions that the labels impose upon themselves at the expense of their customers.

      Just because you don't like brokep's history (and apparently assume that he *must* have been making a fortune because there's no other reason for TPB's existence - what a small world you live in!), that doesn't make him wrong. In fact, it's quite common for forward-thinking companies to take advice from ex-criminals in order to determine ways to lower their costs and losses from crime. You'd think that someone who was so successful in supplying a black market would have some relevant insight as to why that market exists, wouldn't you?

      He was capable and willing to help service a market that the labels refused to address. That he did so while technically on the wrong side of the law does not detract from the lessons that the industry could learn, if only they were willing to do so.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      The phone company is in a simple position. It has made its fortune off the phone lines, all of it by facilitating and aiding in the widespread violation of laws!

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      I thought Peter Sunde was already rich long before Pirate Bay was even started?

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 30th, 2010 @ 12:02pm

    Here is a quote for you ....

    "Music has become a loss leader for selling other stuff."

    In the future you will be only able to make money off of music streaming, radio air play, as part of other media (movies, tv, etc), and convinience sales but at a greatly reduced level of profitab. A level of profit that makes the record labels unsustainable in their current form.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 30th, 2010 @ 12:51pm

    Wow, somebody actually thinks that you have to be 40-50 years old to still be buying CDs? I just turned 27, and I will take CDs any day. Until all music can be purchased in high-quality, standard, DRM-free format, I refuse to give in. And by high quality, standard, DRM-free format, I mean 320kbps MP3s, which can be played on virtually every PC and portable music player in existence, and freely copied to all your devices. And yes, if it's less than 320kbps, I can hear the difference, because I have sensitive hearing. If not for significantly higher disk space requirements and lack of portable music player support, I would be jumping to loss-less formats like FLAC.

    I will admit that I've purchased three (3) songs from iTunes over the course of my lifetime, because it was quick and convenient. They're in AAC format, which I believe my new Android phone will play, but unfortunately I bought them before iTunes went DRM-free, and I refuse to pay Apple to un-DRM music that I already legally purchased, and should have the right to use anywhere. I learned my lesson, and am staying away from any type of digital music that will lock me into some kind of closed system. When I buy music, it is mine, and I will do what I want with it, short of letting others freely copy it for their own personal use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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