Music Industry Claims Victory – But at What Price?

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents hundreds of record producers and distributors around the world, is claiming a breakthrough in its ‘battle against illegal music downloads’, saying that they are seeing a large migration of people moving away from the ‘illegal’ downloads, and to the ‘legitimate’ online music purchase arena.

“The number of music files available illegally on the Internet at any one time fell by 20 per cent over the past nine months to 800 million in January 2004, having doubled to one billion through 2002 and early 2003”

Yes, but the ‘legitimate’ services – led by the Apple iTunes business – has only just come on the scene. One reason people used pirate systems was because there simply wasn’t an alternative. The web has been around for 10 years now, and music networks for probably close to half of that in one way or another. So it’s taken the music industry 4 or 5 years to get their heads around the issue, and their response was typically traditional. Prosecute people not conforming to their historical view of what is ‘right’, and perpetuate their business model by licencing companies to offer music for sale, track by track, album by album.

Look at the numbers – hundreds of millions of files available for swapping, tens of millions of people swapping them. And the best the music industry can do is just more of the same. Distinct lack of imagination. It’s only going to take one enterprising person to dream up a viable model, and the music industry will be back to square one. It happened with Napster, and Kazaa, albeit they both bore the brunt of the industry backlash. But they were the pioneers, the first ones to put their heads above the ramparts and invite the slings and arrows. More players will inevitably emerge, armed with the knowledge and experience of the pioneers, and new ideas with which to lay siege to the music honchos.

Shawn Fanning, the creator of Napster, has been beavering away quietly for the past few months, with funding from one of the original investors in Napster, on a new business called Snocap.

“Snocap’s plan, which involves identifying music files being traded through file-swapping networks and then attaching a price tag to them, is resonating well with music industry executives. “

Fanning changed the world with Napster, and it’s odds-on he can do it again.

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