Sunday, 25 May 2014

Piracy on the high internets!

A little story on Sonic State recently debated the age old problem with so called media "pirates". There has been enough ink spilled on this subject already, though sufficed to say I agree with the basic premise that people deserve to get paid for the work they produce.

When music is concerned, publishers should be all over technology to further the market for their product. From the very first wax cylinders that stored the first music (transforming music from a performance to a reproduced and marketable commodity) to the bits and bytes of MP3, formats have only ever been a positive thing for artists to have their music heard of by a wider audience and for both publisher and artist a source of income separate from performance.

I think the tipping point that we saw with the Napster age says it all - we live in a time when anything can be reproduced and distributed cheaply to any computer with an internet connection. And literally anyone can do it - just download a client and off you go. First with music, books and film and now more recently whole objects on Pirate Bay's 3D printing blueprints, it takes power away from the publishers with their traditional methods of distribution. In a world where production can scale instantly to fit demand (just look at popular magnets and torrents), it's a rare thing to have scarcity of product except for very obscure things.

It is therefore no surprise to me that people who would usually buy a copy of Game of Thrones see no alternative but torrenting when the only way they can watch an episode is to buy a broadband or cable television service. Given that this is usually on a subscription or contract basis this seems unreasonable to buy if only to get access to one show. It's a similar thing with the wait for DVD releases after film or tv series screenings, although I have noticed a large majority of titles coming out only two months after screenings (sometimes even when the show is still running in cinemas). it's good to see this artificial scarcity being broken down, though the cynic in me sees it more as a way to recoup original production costs as soon as possible.

Which brings me back to my original comment. People should be entitled to payment for their work and I think musicians are starting to get back on track. While digital production and distribution means anyone can release a track online, it has devalued individual track releases somewhat. The fears that iTunes would drive down the price of MP3 have been realised but again, those who were clamoring for higher prices were those taking the biggest cut - the publishers. However this does no end of good for tracks featuring on mix and compilation albums, further spreading the name and music of the artist.

While it still irks to have music taken and spread, today's thriving music scene is proof that home taping never killed the music industry it is bow come to the point where people are more willing to see their favourite acts live, building on the marketing power of music spread quickly through blogs and social media. It's almost as if it has come full circle where live performances are more profitable as an impermanent form of someone's music - here one minute and gone the next.

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