How the middle-class pirates stole Christmas… from the music industry

30-second recap:

So my friend, the pirate, doesn’t like to pay for things he can acquire free, unless paying for those things gives him a clear benefit. Stardock gives good benefits on software, with frequent updates and instant downloads. Sometimes Amazon’s “unbox” TV service is worthwhile (though torrents are really tough to compete with – they’re really only lacking in speed and sometimes quality of video). Sometimes, streaming episodes and movies (hulu, fox, abc, nbc, sci-fi, and many others offer this) are worthwhile, but lack of availability of all episodes often makes it far better to torrent anyway.

Music

The music industry is either slowly catching on or faking it fairly well. More and more DRM-free options have been showing up, and while there’s a long way to go, it is finally getting to be friendly for the consumer again.

DRM is generally just a poor way to treat the kind folks who actually pay for your stuff, so it’s really nice to see that iTunes has gotten more DRM-free options, and Amazon’s MP3s are fairly worthwhile as well.

There’s always a “but”

But the music industry is still going to suffer from piracy, and quite possibly more than the other industries. Why?

  • Getting high-quality pirated music is just so damned easy. The files are small, even for exceptional quality, compared to software and video.
  • People are used to their music being free due to radios, MTV (back when they played music every once in a while, mind you), and internet radio stations like last.fm and pandora.
  • There’s a very strong sense that “the little guy” doesn’t see anything from music sales, so it’s much easier to justify piracy.
    • In software, the developers usually get a meager, but not insignificant, royalty from the publisher.
    • In television and movies, the same perception of the big guys keeping all the money is there, but quality is sometimes iffy on torrents, the downloads are large, and the cost-per-minute is very cheap compared to music.
  • Music is often a background thing — you don’t focus all your attention on a song like you do software or a TV show, so the high price of music seems even higher.

I can’t stress those last points enough. A 5-minute song that costs me 99 cents is much harder to justify than a 45-minute episode of Battlestar Galactica for under $2. Yes, I’ll listen to the same song quite a bit over my lifetime, but it’s still such a passive activity that the cost feels really high. Most people will pay for songs at that price (in fact I think the music industry would have caved by now were that not the case), but this series is about stopping piracy. That will of course never happen, but slowing it down is possible, and I think the price is an important factor.

Internet radio stations are an okay option for some of us (I can’t get enough of Pandora), and Napster is all right for those who have a bit more money, but for the vast majority who want to own their music free and clear, the music industry really needs to raise the bar to make torrents a less attractive option.

They’ve done all right so far, but only time will tell if they can keep it up or if “piracy paranoia” will get the best of them.

Final Thoughts

Middle-class piracy isn’t destroying anybody or causing mass job losses. Does it cost some amount of money? Of course it does. But the figures we hear are complete lies. You cannot measure the true impact because you cannot trace piracy. The propaganda is entertaining for sure, but the real issue is the providers of the content. The only piracy they can turn into money is the middle-class lazy jerks like my friend, the pirate, who could afford to pay if it were of benefit to them.

So make your software suck less. Don’t treat paying customers like criminals. Offer up all episodes of your shows online, for free, supported by ads. Then make your paying customers feel “special” by giving them something extra when they buy those same episodes. Lower your music prices. And stop being so fucking greedy — pirates won’t feel remorse when they hear about the RIAA trying to cut royalties from artists in the name of bullshit piracy “losses”. (Yeah, sales went down, but there are a lot more reasons out there than just piracy) ((Yes, I’m well aware of the chronology of those two situations — my point is merely that sales go down for reasons other than piracy))


By the way, some moron contacted me via my main site’s contact form, claiming to be an FBI agent and claiming that I should hand over my friend, the pirate’s contact information.

Okay, first off you fucking tool, the FBI wouldn’t fill out an anonymous form. They’d probably just show up on my god damn doorstep. Furthermore, this barely-trafficked site wouldn’t attract their attention, especially from a blog entry about how to stop piracy.

I suspect this fucknugget wanted to get in contact with my friend to exchange \/\/@R3zzz or something. Can’t really figure the motivation otherwise.

But here’s the real kicker: my friend doesn’t exist (this is obvious when you realize I have no friends). As a couple people already figured out, he is a figment of my imagination, built by combining aspects of myself and various acquaintances and coworkers. He was built as the general epitome of what we all are when we justify piracy. I took the attitudes I have seen in myself and others, came up with a stupid label (middle-class pirate), and figured it’d be easier to explain a single person’s perspective than constantly saying, “and another person I know, call him John Doe 354, he pirates music because blah blah blah.”

So, no, you can’t have his contact details.

2 Replies to “How the middle-class pirates stole Christmas… from the music industry”

  1. Very good series of articles. I agree with you in most aspects. I’m from Poland and the industry is faaaar behind that what you are writing about the states. And piracy is a very big issue here.

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