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Piracy: A Rant by Yorke

First off this is not a research paper nor will I be backing this with any statistics or graphs. This is merely my own feelings, and how I perceive things. If it turns out I am way off the mark, then I will change my views. If anyone feels the need to yell, “Hey man, you don’t know anything about this!” then I’ll have to refer you to the title of this site.

The debate about piracy around the web has been going around for a long time. I am not the first to comment on it, and I will not be the last. There are convincing arguments for both sides of the debate. “Piracy” is becoming the “abortion” of the digital age (I’ll stop the similarities there at them both being hot, sensitive issues).

Is piracy a bad thing?

The record companies will tell you that it is killing the album sales. CD sales are at their lowest in years!! What the record companies neglect to mention is that digital sales are soaring. If you look at total numbers sold, the industry is actually coming out ahead.  (If you don’t believe me there are several article out there and you can google them or just take my word for it.)

Ok, fair enough Yorke. You pointed out that the record companies are skewing things to fit their argument, but you aren’t addressing piracy. Maybe those digital numbers could be higher.

You know, I think I can agree with you digital numbers could be higher, but I don’t think it has to do with piracy. I’ll get back to this in a second.
First off, there are studies out there that show people that download music “illegally” buy more than those that don’t. there are also studies that say otherwise. I’m gonna say that people that download “illegally” are also the ones that are more likely to purchase music through legitimate channels. Let’s go step by step through my thought process.

  1. People can “sample” or preview full albums not snippits of songs before buying.
  2. I can decide if I think the album is worth buying.
  3. If it’s not worth buying, I probably wouldn’t have bought it without listening to it, so either way the record company doesn’t get money.
  4. IF it turns out I do like it, I may end up buying this album or others by the artist (I found a lot of indy bands I would never have found without pirating. They have since received lots of my money).

I do believe that “pirates” download a lot more than they buy. However, they end up buying more than the average Joe. I’m gonna pull some numbers out of my ass to use as an example. Mr. A doesn’t download anything. He buys 2 albums a year. Mr. B downloads 20 albums a year, but he buys 4. One could argue he didn’t pay for 16 of those and that is true, but he wasn’t going to buy them anyway. He did end up buying 2 more than Mr. A.

Still confused with my logic (maybe it’s flawed)? Over the course of a year Mr. A hits on one girl at a bar and he gets lucky and takes her home. Mr. B. hits on 50 girls (not in the same night) and is able to take home 5 of them. Who was more successful? Mr. A with a 100% pickup rate? Or Mr. B and his 5 girls? I would say the winner is Mr. B. Yeah, he didn’t get them all, but if he didn’t talk to them he wasn’t gonna take them home.

The record companies are afraid to lose anything, even if it means an overall gain. I think it’s funny because my mental image of a record exec is a womanizing douche of a dude that is probably the one hitting on girls twice his age and taking them home.

Ok, so let’s say you are right Yorke. You said that digital sales could be higher, but it’s not because of piracy?

Yes, I did say that earlier. Let me talk about that now. Digital sales could be higher if the record companies/retailers weren’t sending people back to pirating.

Despite shitty music being produced, Napster was able to single-handedly destroyed the record industry and Metallica. For myself and many others Napster, was a great place to get lots of free music. The only problem was a lot of the songs were poor quality rips or some tracks were cut off. Nothing better than listening to “All By Myself” and having it cut with a minute left in the song.

So here we were downloading crappy quality rips of songs. Even as a poor student in those times, I would find myself discovering some stuff I liked and buying the CD, because I wanted to enjoy the music in better quality. Along comes Apple with iTunes (and other companies with their services). Now you can download full albums (slightly cheaper than a CD) or just the individual tracks you want, and in better quality. People were still pirating, but when you have something at a cheap price and makes getting music easier than removing spyware, that’s a recipe for success.

So we have iTunes and people still pirate. Why are they still pirating?

First, I already mentioned some people like to preview stuff. Itunes offers a preview of songs, but to be honest I want to hear the whole song.  The reason I think a lot of people continue to pirate is they don’t like the DRM. I don’t like it either. If I buy a product from Apple, then I can only use it on an Apple device. That’s all fine and nice now while I’m using and iPod, but what if in the future I use a different mp3 player. I would to be able to listen to my music on it too. Sony CD players don’t only play music released on Sony CD media, so why should an mp3? Recently this isn’t too much of a problem since iTunes+ songs are DRM free. If it’s DRM free I usually just go ahead and purchase it (or rip it from my own CD).

Some people will continue to pirate no matter what though. I think that the industry needs to look at the quality of what they are releasing as well as looking at overall growth in sales (not just CDs). For the artist, a lot of money can be made doing shows. I read an interview with Lady Gaga last month, and she said she didn’t care if people downloaded her music for free. She asked the interviewer if she had any idea how much Gaga made off concerts. Ms. Gaga pointed out if artist really want the cash then do shows, because it’s a gold mine (She said she uses a lot of that money to produce her concerts, which in turns makes more money. Lady Gaga you are a well oiled lubed machine!).

I’m not sure how much the record execs make off live concerts, but honestly, fuck ‘em. They are antiquated middleman. There is a reason the ruling samurai class in ancient Japan put merchants below peasants and artisans in their caste system. It’s because they don’t actually contribute to society but mooching off the work of others.

I was gonna keep writing about movies and other forms of piracy, but I’m going to wrap it up since I will most likely just be repeating myself. If people want to get rid of piracy then you need to make it easier to get things through legitimate channels, and offer it at a price people are willing to pay (Netflix comes to mind). Perhaps companies should look at internal reform rather than complaining. Treat the problem, not the symptom.

Closing Rant: For us people overseas, movie execs might want to think about global release dates. I have to wait six months for a movie to come to Japan and pay over $20 to see it in the theater?! Same with TV show released to rent on DVD in Japan (they put half as many episodes on a disk than if you were to rent it stateside). I know there are regional companies that own local distribution rights, but well you can negotiate shit.