In Rockista Craze, Janette Toral wrote a piece about the impact of piracy on our local music industry. It’s well-researched, as usual, and has some nice factoids previously unbeknowst to me. Check it out then come back here for my unscientific response:
This debate is nearly as old and tired as the one about abortion, so i’ll just add a couple of thoughts from the opposing camp to round out the discussion.
1) there’s a logical leap in the observation that piracy is at fault when it comes to the poor success of the record industry. nobody has data that proves this, and the statistics listed above are beside the point. why? because in order to say that piracy is hurting the music industry, you have to first assume that all of the people who pirated music would have otherwise _bought_ those CDs had piracy not been any option. that’s a huge assumption, and it’s the cornerstone of all anti-piracy arguments. the truth of the matter is, people who pirate consume more music because it’s free. if they had to pay for everything they listened to, they would consume less, or not at all.
2) CD sales are going down worldwide, so this is not a phenomenon that is local to us. there are many reasons for this, and piracy is simply the most convenient scapegoat. the biggest reason in my mind is that the CD is an obsolete technology, and it is going the way of vinyl and VHS. (I’m sure the 100m+ iPods out there have something to do with this.)
3) there’s a sea change going on in the music industry right now, and piracy is a syndrome, not a cause. the real cause is that digitization has reduced the cost of production to near-nothing, and consumers know it. they understand that the true cost of a CD is tiny, and that the Internet makes major record labels irrelevant. let’s not kid ourselves about how piracy is stealing money from the artists. _labels_ are stealing money from the artist; they take over 80% of the cost of each record sold. if you removed (or reduced) the role of labels in the distribution process, artists would be more appropriately rewarded for their work, and the price of music would still go down.
4) which brings me to another reason for weakening music sales: the Internet, in general. music delivery over the net is near-instantaneous depending on your connection, and the variety is truly overwhelming. people are awakening to the fact that there is more music out there than their local industry or record store can provide, and they are finding new alternative venues that cater to their maturing tastes.