Studies

by Zachary Knight


Filed Under:
file sharing, mainstream



New Filesharing Index Shows Filesharing Is Now Mainstream

from the you-can't-fight-culture dept

By now, many of you have probably read about Musicmetrics' new Digital Music Index. Musicmetrics took a whole bunch of filesharing data and approximated the location of each downloader in order to get a better understanding of who shares music. What it found isn't really surprising. A whole lot of people download music. While that in itself is marginally interesting, what is even more interesting is the idea that music filesharing has become mainstream.

With the numbers and locations that the index shows, you can see that despite the harsh penalties imposed on those caught filesharing, people still don't care.
The data shows just how mainstream filesharing is now. It isn't just members of Anonymous sitting behind their Macbooks downloading the obscure doom metal of Sunn O)))) the culprits are your next door neighbours, your relatives, your own kids and perhaps (probably) even you. That's the problem for the record labels who, along with the government, have tried to stigmatise the practice as much as possible. But those who have grown up getting whatever music they want for free are not suddenly going to become nostalgic vinyl-heads who are willing to pay £11.99 for a CD – to them it makes no sense and the rose-tinted memories of buying a physical record from an actual person don't exist. And the message that filesharing is stealing and equal with nicking a car doesn't hold much water when so many people are busy doing it.
If so many people are filesharing despite the best efforts of groups like BPI to demonize the practice, what is there to be done? What do the actual musicians think? Well, this is where another interesting aspect of the index comes in. Not only does the index report on the location of those sharing, it also indexed the most downloaded artists. Using this data, Musicmetrics found that Ed Sheeran was the most downloaded artist in all of the UK. So what does he think? It helps him sell tickets.
I've sold 1.2 million albums, and the stat is that there's 8 million downloads of that as well illegally.

Nine million people have my record, in England, which is quite a nice feeling.

I'm still selling albums, but I'm selling tickets at the same time. My gig tickets are like £18, and my albums £8, so ... it's all relative.
If the record labels and the BPI were correct, Ed here would be slowly dying in a gutter somewhere, not selling concert tickets at £18 a pop. But the fact remains, he is. He is succeeding because these filesharers are becoming fans and want to support him. But why do they download instead of buy? What is stopping them? There are too many barriers or not enough options according to the Guardian.
iTunes has been successful but it depends on a user having an Apple product to put the music on after they've paid for it, and an average kid doesn't have money lying about for an iPhone. Streaming sites like Spotify for music and Netflix, which offers a similar service for film and TV, are an interesting idea and growing rapidly, but at present they are still nowhere near popular enough to challenge torrents, filesharing and the attraction of free music.
The recording industry has itself to blame here. With the high licensing fees it requires from online services like Pandora and Spotify, these services just can't grow to where they can actually compete. This is holding back the music industry more than it helps it. If people can't get the music they want from legal services, they will go to something else that is culturally accepted even if it is not legal.

We have already considered what an alternate reality would look like if the music industry had actually accepted change and innovated instead of following its current fight-and-impede approach. By sticking with its current approach of fighting the will of fans, the industry has not only left money on the table, but has made itself culturally obsolete. The fans have already moved on from what the record industry is offering to something better. They have built up a culture around filesharing, and that culture has become mainstream.

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  1. identicon
    CK20XX, 20 Sep 2012 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    To be fair, I think I understand your concern. I am reminded of the great video game crash of 1983; one of the major contributors to it was a glut of software that gave consumers too many choices. No one could tell what games were good and bad, so people stopped buying them, and the market died until a nobody named Nintendo revived it single-handedly.

    But things have changed drastically since that disaster. The internet takes care of everything single-handedly in a much more generous way than The Big N was forced to go with. Don't know what's awesome and what's crap? Do a web search and you'll find out instantly. It's actually OK now for an uncountable number of people to be selling music without gatekeepers because the people finally have miraculous tools with which to refine their decisions. They don't have to wait every month for Nintendo Power or something; they just have to dance their fingers across their keyboards. And with many songs being less than a buck each, the lifestyle of a hoarder isn't so financially intimidating either.

    I'm not certain that gatekeepers are obsolete either. There's still great comfort in the idea of being able to let a publisher handle promotion and hype so one can focus more on producing music/writing/whatever. The problem is today's gatekeepers can't even be bothered to do what they're supposed to do in the first place. That's why so many people today are calling for their deaths; they're selfish and deceitful businesses with decades of customer and artist abuse as their legacy. Hopefully any new ones that appear will know better and not self-destruct like that.

    Oh, and you're completely wrong about the labels being the source of worthwhile media. That's the artists, who more often than not don't get any help from their labels these days. Open up your mind to the transforming world around you, and furthermore open your heart to the love and support that comes with file sharing. If your stuff is spread throughout the internet, it means people love it and can be encouraged to buy it.

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