Recently the Pirate Bay has been in court in Sweden. Which is kind of a big deal because Pirate Bay is the largest bit torrent tracker and Sweden has some pretty lax laws regarding copyright protection. If you search Wired there are dozens of articles on the whole thing. For any of my readers, all 3 of you, who don't know what that is, a bit torrent is a downloadable file such as a music album or movie. What makes them unique is that the actual material (often copyrighted) is stored on user's computers, so the actual copyrighted material never touches a bit torrent trackers servers. The trackers such as Pirate Bay just point you towards the users who have the file. When you download a bit torrent you download it from several people at once. Hence, it creates a nice legal shelter.
EDIT (I misrepresented this quote): "Yes." - Per Sundin of the IFPI and Universal Music when asked if "people would have purchased every music track they got [for] free file sharing."
I wonder if he actually believes that? What a ridiculous thing to say.
I've pondered the whole pirating thing for a long time and haven't come to many substantial conclusions. I mean, it is stealing in the sense that it costs money to produce an album and the artists should get paid, but at the same time they're shoving an antiquated business model down our throats.
Here's what I've noticed with myself:
1 - My music taste is much broader because I am exposed to so much more online. I've noticed this with others too.
2 - Because of my increased musical palate I attend more shows. A lot more. This brings in far more money for a band than me purchasing their CD's.
3 - I don't buy CD's at all. Who plays CD's with any regularity?
4 - Downloaded music is popular because of the variety of choice, ease (you don't have to leave your house and it comes in MP3 format), lack of DRM, and if you don't like the music at least you didn't waste any money on it.
Going off of #4, I'm sure many people download music illegally mainly because it's free, but I feel like the vast majority of people do it for the other aforementioned reasons. What this signals to me is that people are pirating media in large part because illegal downloads offer something that their legal counterparts do not. It seems painfully obvious that this industries business model is dead. The iTunes store may be closer, but I say they fail too. What don't these people get? You must offer a superior product, a cheaper price, or preferably both. iTunes isn't any cheaper than buying a CD for the most part and a CD certainly isn't a better product. You have to convert it into an MP3, and how many people don't know how to rip a CD?
Regardless of how you feel about the legality of it all one fact remains. These companies exist to make money and right now they're contracting. What they're doing isn't working and they need to adapt or disappear. The album is how you get people to buy merch and go to shows. Therefore, make it as available as possible. If I were in charge I would experiment with pay what you wish album sales, free album downloads, extremely cheap album downloads ($1-3), and I'd send my bands out on far more tours. The last shows I've bought tickets to were: The Books (sold out in a week, show added, sold out), Iron and Wine (sold out the same day before I could get tickets), Kings of Leon (sold out, tickets were going for 5 times face value), Beck and MGMT (sold out, tickets were going for 3 times face value), etc, etc. If shows are selling out that means they're missing out on revenue; deadweight loss anyone? And the fact remains that I don't own a single tangible copy of any of these bands albums. That's right music execs, illegal downloading brought you my business and I bet I'm not unique.