Lots of attention is being paid today to an article in the Guardian about a new study claiming that illegal file sharing has collapsed in the UK
and is being replaced by streaming music found on YouTube and through services like Spotify. The premise of the article is that now that kids have alternatives, they're willing to dump unauthorized file sharing and get by with streaming. While I don't doubt that it may be true in some cases, I'd take these findings with a pretty large grain of salt for a variety of reasons:
- It's not based on actual usage data, but on survey data.
- As more and more attention is being paid to people getting sued and fined for online file sharing activities, people are certainly going to be less willing to admit on a survey that they participate.
- This is especially true in the UK, where there's been a tremendous amount of attention on the recent Digital Britain report, which claims, as a goal, to reduce illegal online file sharing activities.
That said, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that some users have modified their behavior due to the ease of use from online streaming platforms. When I was in the UK, I got to play around with Spotify, and I could see how many people might start using that as a replacement for file sharing much of the time (and demos of Spotify's mobile app that include syncing features when there's no internet connection make it look quite compelling for even offline music playing).
However, even if we take what the article says as proof, it seems quite likely that the industry will muck this up too. Already, we've seen that Spotify is running into licensing problems
, and the company is nowhere near being able to turn a profit. And, of course, the industry is pushing for increasingly unsustainable
webcasting rates. That's why YouTube and PRS still haven't come to an agreement
over all that streaming music in the UK, and even as PRS has tried to lower its rates to make a deal, some of the record labels are actually demanding
the rates be pushed back up.
This is how the legacy industry kills anything even remotely positive. The second that the industry sees anything that's working
, it suddenly smothers it by demanding to get a bigger and bigger cut. We've seen it for years. As soon as iTunes started to be successful, the labels pushed to get a bigger and bigger cut from any sale (and to push the prices of each song higher). More recently, with the massive success of video games like Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
helping to promote music (and making musicians a ton of money), the labels have been demanding a bigger cut
Rather than understanding how to create and foster a healthy music ecosystem, it seems that some of the major label bosses have learned how to do one thing only: squeeze each tiny baby lemon as hard as possible until it's dry, never giving it a chance to actually grow. And then they wonder how come each new revenue stream doesn't make as much money as their old way of doing business.