Follow Up: Lessons from Illegal Music Downloads

To curb illegal music downloads, The Economist argues that it is more effective to offer alternative ways of distributing music rather than focusing...

Francisco Hui
Francisco Hui on November 23, 2009.

After our post last week about the effects of illegal downloading on recorded music and live shows, we noticed the Economist had an article on the lessons we can learn from music piracy.

To curb illegal music downloads, the Economist argues that it is more effective to offer alternative ways of distributing music rather than focusing on litigation and suing users. The rise of alternatives that range from safe and affordable downloads like the iTunes store, to subscription based music streaming services like Spotify, have deterred illegal downloads.

The Economist reports:

All of these different, legal music services offer the “celestial jukebox”—whatever you want, right away, from the internet—that made Napster so compelling when it appeared on the scene. True, revenue from these services will be less than from CD sales, but it is much better than nothing. The recorded-music industry will get smaller—but it will not disappear.

That is because there is growing evidence that this plethora of new services adds up to an attractive alternative to piracy for many (see article). In June a poll of Swedish users of file-sharing software found that 60% had cut back or stopped using it; of those, half had switched to advertising-supported streaming services like Spotify. In Denmark, over 40% of subscribers to TDC’s broadband-plus-music package also said they were making fewer illegal downloads as a result. In a British poll published in July, 17% of consumers said they used file-sharing services, down from 22% in December 2007. Music executives reckon people are moving from file-sharing networks to Spotify, though they may continue to download some music illegally.

PSFK has previously written about access to music becoming more important than ownership.

Are these ideas and lessons that the movie and video game industries can learn from? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

The Economist: “How to sink pirates”