According to New York Times, 2011 overall music sales increased marginally by 1.3 %, despite the ongoing trends of illegal downloading and the free dissemination of music via services such as Spotify and Pandora, for example.
This increase is mainly ascribed to Adele's last album 21, which sold 5.82 million copies.
With reference to rock/metal, the corresponding increase went up to 1.9%, according to Billboard.biz. Rock sold 105.7 million in 2011, that is 2 millions more than 2010.
Sales in digital music showed the biggest increase, namely 19.5% with respect to 2010. 103.1 million copies were sold and 1.27 billion tracks were downloaded. For the first time in history, digital music sales overcame those of physical copy format, as 50.3% of all albums and singles was distributed digitally.
Sales of vinyl rose by 36%, while the decrease in CD sales persisted in 2011 as well. Taking 2010 as a reference, the rate of decline in 2011 was significantly smaller than the corresponding one for 2010 compared to 2009 (5.7% over 19%).
"According to New York Times, 2011 overall music sales, increased marginally by 1.3 %, BECAUSE OF the ongoing trends of illegal downloading and the free dissemination of music, via services such as Spotify and Pandora, for example."
Eventually the reality of the Internet will force the laws to change, too. One way or another the
music labels will eventually surrender, and recorded music will be free.
Until it is, I refuse to feel guilty for downloading and sharing music. Every time I listen to a song,
or share it with a friend, I’m doing the labels a favor. One that eventually I should be paid for.
Until that day comes, don’t even think about trying to tell me that I’m doing something ethically
wrong when it’s considered quite legal, with the labels’ blessing, in China.
What is different about the world wide web, i.e. cyberspace, that gives these consumers the feeling that they are entitled to download music and movies through mechanisms like BitTorrent without compensating those who created such product? What are these people thinking?
I think the answer can be found in the writings of Plato. In the second book of his Republic, Plato’s student, Glaucon, poses the illustration of the “Ring of Gyges.” In the story, Gyges is a shepherd who finds a magical ring in a chasm created by a lightning storm. The ring gives him a cloak of invisibility. Using his newfound power, Gyges seduces the Queen of Lydia, murders the King, and takes the throne, gaining power, wealth and fame. In the Republic, Glaucon argues that given a similar opportunity, any person, whether or not they were previously just or unjust, would use the power to commit as many crimes as necessary to get what they want [Book II, 359d]. Glaucon was responding to Socrates’ refutation of arguments put forth by Thrasymachus in Book I of the Repbulic, i.e., that “justice is nothing but the advantage of the stronger” [Book I, 338c].
I believe Glaucon’s experiment in thought informs us as to why someone who would not normally steal a tangible object in the physical world is nonetheless more than willing to download music or movies, intangible objects, on the Internet for free: because the fear of being punished or getting caught is eliminated in the evanescent world of Cyberspace. The Internet, like Gyge’s ring, confers upon its users a seeming cloak of indivisibility as it were. As one astute commentator surmised in response to an interview with Alice in Chain’s lead singer, Sean Kinney, “The real reason people steal music is that they CAN and very easily.” That this is a truth is evident from the plethora of “how to” guides on the Internet, teaching people “How not to get caught.” There you have it in a nutshell. All of the commentary about how the record industry has been thieves and how the RIAA unjustly goes after the defenseless people, these are mere justifications for actions people otherwise know in their hearts are wrong.
Another relevant opinion is offered in the excellent blog article found on arbiteronline entitled Illegal downloading: The real cost of ‘free’ music.” In that article, a student at Boise state, Ammon Roberts, is quoted as saying:
“I don’t do it because I don’t feel it’s right. If I were making the music, I’d be upset if people were downloading it for free.”
For these two students, following the rules is not about whether or not they’ll be caught, it’s about doing the right thing. It’s about honoring, i.e. compensating, the people who created the music. This illustrates Plato’s point precisely: a just person understands that even with a cloak of invisibility, doing the right thing makes a person happy or, in the words of Roberts, makes the person “feel right.”
The Internet is also very much the Land of Oz. In addition to this cloak of invisibility endowed on us by the Internet, it also deceives us with illusions of anonymity – not so much that the user is anonymous, as that’s merely another form of invisibility – but in the sense that it’s difficult to know who’s behind the curtain. As Trent Reznor said in an interview, “there is a perception that you don’t pay for music when your hear it . . . on MySpace.” Because of its sheer vastness and its mysteriousness, Cyberspace gives people false perceptions that their actions on the Internet do not affect real people. This, in turn, creates an illusion that “resistance is futile.” Everyone is doing it, so I can too. In other words, Cyberspace alters our reality in that it makes the real people behind the music an amorphous, anonymous entity. The result is that it’s much easier to steal from an amorphous, anonymous entity – the man behind the curtain – than it is from a struggling songwriter, particularly when all your friends are doing it.
I truly believe that most of the people who are illegally downloading music from the Internet have no idea who they are affecting or how widespread the effect is. Most of these people would not even think about walking up on stage after a singer/songwriter in a nightclub takes a break and stealing his guitar, but that very same person doesn’t think twice of taking that same singer/songwriter’s song from the Internet. They wouldn’t steal the filmmaker’s camera, but downloading the movie doesn’t phase their consciousness. In fact, many who contribute to the dialog would argue that these two thefts are not analogous. But one analysis conducted by the Institute for Policy Innovation states otherwise. The report indicated that music piracy causes $12.5 billion of economic losses every year. It further concluded that 71,060 U.S. jobs are lost, with a total loss of $2.7 billion in workers’ earnings. Such reports abound throughout the industry, yet many of the people guilty of illegal download continue to view these reports as industry-driven and, therefore, skewed.
But what this illusion of anonymity, and such misguided opinions, miss is the fact that very real people – not amorphous masses – are being affected. And the effect is devastating. I have clients who are songwriters who are no longer creating art because they are forced to take odd jobs to support their families. The performance royalties they used to receive from ASCAP, BMI or SESAC are down by half or more from a few years ago. Their mechanical royalty checks are virtually non-existent. They simply cannot afford to create simply for the sake of creation. And now, working sometimes two jobs, they don’t have the time to create. What will become of the art of songwriting if Mr. Arrington has his way and all recorded music is free? I believe we will not have the quality of music in this country that we have enjoyed throughout the last millennium. In this instance, I do not believe that resistance is futile.
Now, getting back to Plato and the Ring of Gyges, in answer to Glaucon, Plato would say that the root of all trouble is unlimited desire. How true is that in this world of Cyberspace, in this world of rampant illegal downloading. The wheels really fell off the wagon when the RIAA sued Diamond Multimedia, bringing the MP3 into society’s field of view. Then, Napster exploded and almost everyone found that almost every song they ever loved was available for free. It’s as if they were Harrison Ford and discovered the treasure room in an unknown, ancient tomb: everything your heart desires is within your grasp. It’s yours for the taking. With its cloak of invisibility and its illusion of anonymity, what the Internet has done, in short, is to return the power – i.e., the control – back to the people. Everyone is now a creater, a publisher, and distributor. No one needs the conglomerates anymore – the people have the power. But, as Lord Acton said, beware: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
So what does this mean for those of us who have chosen to make our living in the world of creation? Does it mean the end of our industry? Does it mean an end to copyright law as it exists? If we examine the origins of copyright – i.e., the protection of an original idea expressed in a tangible format – as passed down to us from our forefathers, we find a concept on which we can continue to build. In the now famous Radiohead experiment in which Reznor and crew allowed consumers to pay what and only if they wanted to, 18% of the consumers chose to do so! That to me, is an encouraging statistic, and one that confirms a believe in the viability of creating art.
While piracy steals money from the artists/record companies/etc. it also gives a whole lot of it right back because artist popularity--->ticket sales----->merchandise sales would be lower without it. And even record sales themselves, while reduced by piracy, are also boosted from it because of the increased exposure for the artists.
I feel like that is one thing that is always conveniently ignored when anti-piracy people talk about numbers.
If any of you haven't, you should really read up on SOPA and why it needs to be shot down. I think rock paper shotgun has a good article, but there's discussions in a million other places. The main problem with it (which has almost nothing to do with piracy, actually) is that the wording is way too vague. This would allow the US government to interpret the bill however it wants (which could have dire effects on the internet/internet companies, and would set off a pretty crappy domino effect following that).
Read that whole article. Definitely sounds like something you've written before and chose to share. It was interesting, absolutely, and I agree...but first, I'd like to point this out:
"In the now famous Radiohead experiment in which Reznor and crew allowed consumers to pay what and only if they wanted to, 18% of the consumers chose to do so!"
Trent Reznor was never a part of Radiohead. You mean Thom Yorke...though I'm certain Reznor supports that decision (and has even done something similar).
Anyways...to the main points of the article, I agree with your assertion that people tend to make the case that "you shouldn't have to pay for music anyways" simply to lessen their own guilt about stealing it. It bothers me that people use that argument, not only because it implies a misguided sense of entitlement ("we should have the right to listen to this music simply because it exists"), but also because it ignores that unmistakable human element of the entire creation process: this art is mine, I want recognition for this art, and if you want me to keep making it in lieu of having a more stable means of support, you damn well better compensate me for it. There are outliers, of course--folks like Bomb The Music Industry!, who make their music in support of, well, having the music industry bomb, but yeah, most people, when they put their time and effort into their craft, will need to live somehow.
The second point was interesting, too, and that was a thought that had never occured to me--that people view the internet as just a void as opposed to a person, like a soulless machine...and because there's no face attached to it, there's no one there to make us think twice about taking stuff we should be paying for. I'm guilty of this one; I don't have any illusions that I'm helping anyone except myself when I download music, but it's a lot easier because it's on the internet, there for the taking, instant gratification, and no face to hold a look of deep resentment/disappointment/sorrow. Interesting point....
A good read, if nothing else. Very thought provoking.
I also forgot to mention that I really don't like the RIAA. I don't hate musicians who make music for
the money (even though I'll probably hate the music they make), but I do hate the NON-musicians who
shape pre-fab McBands to play a certain style simply to make more money. It dilutes the art, IMO.
iambandersnatch - "While piracy steals money from the artists/record companies/etc. it also gives a
whole lot of it right back because artist popularity--->ticket sales----->merchandise sales would be
lower without it. And even record sales themselves, while reduced by piracy, are also boosted from
it because of the increased exposure for the artists."
I disagree. Sputnik and other sites on the interent help me discover new bands,
ZunePass/Last.fm/Spotify/Pandora/YouTube/Grooveshark/Rhapsody/MySpace lets me listen to them (and
most of those are absolutely free). Piracy isn't NEEDED to spread the popularity of a band, I
promise...not with those sites in existence.
As I said in my tl;dr post up there, I download albums for free, too, but I don't hold any illusions
that I'm helping anyone but myself.
Uh, first off, why do people use the word 'torrent' to describe any illegal download?
Second, the funny thing with digital media is that if someone who would've never bought the item if they had the money pirates it, the artist/creator/whatever technically doesn't lose anything. The only money that is lost is money that a person decides to hold onto because they can just download the album for free. That's why, in the case of digital media, pirating is not always exactly the same as stealing because one party isn't always benefiting from the loss of another.
(I'm not trying to justify pirating or anything, just saying that it isn't always stealing.)
"One way or another the music labels will eventually surrender, and recorded music will be free... Until that day comes, don’t even think about trying to tell me that I’m doing something ethically wrong when it’s considered quite legal"
It's not necessarily a matter of "record labels surrendering", and it's not a matter of ethics. I base this whole issue on a principle of something "being worth what it cost to make,". Ten years ago, music cost a considerable amount of money to make - there were costs for studio time, equipment hire, hiring a producer and a massive range of large costs. In those days when music piracy was at its minimum (Limewire was in its infancy) record sales were a legitimate source of recouping those costs and hopefully producing some income for the artists, labels and other middle men.
Let's compare Deftones' White Pony (made in 2000) and Cloudkicker's Beacons (made in 2010). White Pony is said to have cost about $1.5 million to make. That's not including promotion and other variable costs. This is what it cost to make for the band to go into the studio with a producer and everything else they would need to create an album and go through the process. With the right amount of promotion and touring, those costs could be recouped and the band could continue to make music at a relatively free rate in conjunction with their record label.
Look at Cloudkicker's 'Beacons' - this is a record that I feel equals the production value of White Pony (or has the potential to, as with anybody with a good set of ears and good standard recording software/hardware). This is an album that cost nothing to make, and costs nothing to buy. It is essentially music in the purest form - the creator makes and shares the music with those who want to listen, without any monetary variables on either side of the equation. There are no middle men, no deadlines, and not really any pressure but that which is exerted by the artist onto him or herself.
Unfortunately, with the latter option, the only opportunity to make a substantial enough income to wholly sustain the artist financially. About 1 in 15 people who download a 'Pay What You Want' album choose to pay for it, with a few rare circumstances generosity, of course. However, with no cost to make the music, only time, effort and energy are factors in the efficiency, frequency of output and speed of the creative process without the concern of money. It may be argued that with the substantial costs associated with producing a record of sufficient (major label) standard, there is little opportunity for actual income for the artist. When the artist starts at the end of the creative process owing money to their label, they have to recoup that money before they can actually make anything, which is often hard unless they sell a huge number of copies. As referenced in Steve Albini's article, 'The Problem With Music', a band can sell 3 million copies of their album and by the end of the promotional cycle have made about a quarter as much as they would have working in a 7 Eleven store. The cycle starts again and the entry into the realm of ultimate fuckdom begins when the artist doesn't recoup the money spent with the money earned. In that case, they're in real trouble. Or in the words of Steve Albini, "they're fucked,".