Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unlicensed filesharing unbothered by music industry efforts

The BPI have issued one of their panicked reports claiming that the roof is falling in:

Illegal downloading in the UK is growing, with around 7.7 million people choosing not to legitimately buy their music online, according to new figures.

A report suggests that more than 1.2bn tracks were illegally downloaded last year, costing the retail industry £1bn.
That's the BBC version of the report, straightfacedly accepting that a file downloaded without pay equals a lost sale.

It's worth thinking about this with last year's PRS report into how well and fast the UK music industry is growing as a background, and that it's an industry worth over £3bn. Does anyone really believe that without unlicensed filesharing, there'd be an extra billion quid in the industry?

Of course not.

While it's likely that the availability of free alternatives has meant some marginal customers have taken their money elsewhere, there's two things we've learned over the last decade and a half. The music industry can't stop the marginal cost of tracks dropping to near zero, and all their efforts so to do have probably cost the labels more than they would have lost if they'd just accepted their business had changed and dealt with it.

Instead, here we are, on the cusp of 2011 - nearly a decade since the Pyrrhic victory that closed down Napster - and we're still getting the BPI trying to find a way to return us to 1994:
"It is a parasite that threatens to deprive a generation of talented young people of their chance to make a career in music, and is holding back investment in the burgeoning digital entertainment sector," [BPI's Geoff] Taylor said.
So, Geoff, is the sector being ravaged by "three quarters" of all music being "stolen", or is it "burgeoning"? It can't be both.
Earlier this year the BPI reported that music sales in the UK had grown for the first time in six years.

It said that legal downloads had boosted sales, rising by more than 50% to earn £154 million, compared with £101.5 million in 2008.
And it looks like "burgeoning" is what it is.

More to the point, after fifteen years of consistent reports from BPI saying pretty much the same thing, shouldn't we by now be looking at a music scene completely empty of new bands, new songs, new thrills?

Taylor ends with a plea for more legislation. The BPI always think that what is needed is more unenforceable legislation. The trouble is, with the bunch of turnips sitting in Westminster at the moment, they might get their wish. More time, money and effort trying to buck the marketplace. It'll still fail, though.


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