from the it's-not-so-hard-to-compete dept
A common complaint from the legacy movie and music industries is that when people Google things like "watch movies online," unauthorized sources rank higher than legitimate ones (for some crazy reason, it seems like people prefer comprehensive libraries of unrestricted links over stale selections of geoblocked videos). Moreover, they complain about autocomplete terms like "torrent," completely missing the fact that those are caused by people searching that exact thing, not the other way around.
So it's great to see the people at Bandcamp doing the exact opposite and celebrating the prevalence of those dirty pirate keywords. They looked at their own analytics and noticed a lot of sales being generated by search terms that would send your average RIAA lobbyist running to Congress:
For example, just this morning someone paid $10 for an album after Googling "lelia broussard torrent." A bit later, a fan plunked down $17 after searching for "murder by death, skeletons in the closet, mediafire." Then a $15 sale came in from the search "maimouna youssef the blooming hulkshare." Then a fan made a $12 purchase after clicking a link on music torrent tracker What.CD. Then someone spent $10 after following a link on The Pirate Bay, next to the plea "They sell their album as a download on their website. You can even choose your format (mp3, ogg, flac, etc). Cmon, support this awesome band!"
That last part is another example of how Mike described Louis CK's recent experiment: be polite, be awesome and be human. CK's video was also available on the Pirate Bay, and as someone here pointed out, it spurred several users to comment with links and encourage people to buy, while others offered explanations for their decision to use the torrent. Though there can be no doubt that in both cases some "hardcore" pirates just didn't give a damn, there are far more people who just want to be polite, awesome and human and support the artists who do the same.
Bandcamp recognizes that people who search for torrents and file locker links are, at the core, just fans looking to get some new music. By focusing on serving those fans, they don't need to worry about illegitimate sources -- after all, in most cases they already provide a superior option:
We see these sales as proof that Bandcamp can effectively compete with filesharing and other free distribution platforms by a) giving fans a clear, easy way to directly support the artist, and b) offering them a better user experience. Our favorite recent example of this was an $8 sale that started with the search “milosh flac -torrent.” So here was a fan looking for a Milosh record, wanted a high quality flac, but didn’t want to have to sift through a bunch of torrent sites. And that led them right to Bandcamp, and right to putting money in the artist’s pocket. Beautiful.
Beautiful indeed. When you tear down walls instead of constantly building new ones you can actually turn search terms like "torrent" to your advantage, rather than resorting to SEO-by-lawsuit. Bandcamp is yet more proof that you can "compete with free," if you give people an attractive alternative.