Sunday, 23 August 2015

Why Virgin Radio's celebrated new anti-piracy strategy will not work

I recently stumbled upon an interesting new anti-piracy campaign from Virgin Radio which you can read more about here.

Essentially, it puts emphasis on the work which has gone into creating popular musical works and bears the tagline: 'If you knew what went into it, you wouldn't steal it'.

I kinda like it, in as much as it is thought provoking and a softer touch than some more recent anti-piracy strategies.

But it won't work.

First of all, it makes the perennial mistake of using the word 'steal', likening piracy to theft when it is not theft but copyright infringement. Put another way, it's confusing.

The main issue however, is that it focuses on musical works by musicians who are dead. Some insight from my recent Doctoral thesis strongly suggests that people are keen to buy music from emerging artists, but less so for successful ones. At the heart of this is where the money goes.

You can't support a dead artist financially.

Also, most of the artists in the spotlight will not strike a chord with the key demographic of interest: young people.

The emphasis should have been on popular contemporary artists - ones who are alive.

Twitter @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 21 August 2015

Recommended book: How Music Works

It has been discussed many times on this blog over the years, and now I can announce a formal book review of David Byrne's 'How Music Works' which you can access here if you are quick, or here if you are not.

It's in its second edition now, and it wouldn't surprise me if it went into its third and beyond.

Clink the links above to read more, and click here to buy it on Amazon. Other booksellers are available.

Tweets @musicpiracyguy

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Cool Idea

Slightly off topic, but anyways.

Was listening to the immersive, joyous indulgence of the new Four Tet album 'Morning/Evening' in a summerhouse in Finland last week and the sound carried across the water in a really strange way that completely changed the 'mix' of the album.

This inspired some experimentation playing some albums I know more intimately from different devices and in different locations and inspired a cool idea: why not offer up alternative mixes of albums on streaming services?

Let me explain.

If albums sounded slightly (or radically) different each time you listened to them, you would have more reason to listen to them repeatedly. In effect, it would be a different experience every time.

Audiophiles are already equipped to do so by varying different levels and customising the sound as they desire, but for your average Joe or Josephine, this might not be such a fun thing to do.

If however, artists streamed multiple versions of albums on streaming services, right down to different vocal takes etc., then it would be a cool way to listen to the album over and over and get something different out of it every time.

That is not to say that I do not think that a final 'album' should not exist, because it should - an artist should still of course release the end product of their labours. I just think, in this new world of exclusive content and all of that, this could be an easy and interactive way to encourage people to stream music from subscription services multiple times.

I guess it would be a different way of listening to early demos and outtakes etc., but in a more subtle way.

Anyhow, just a thought. I have them from time to time. Sometimes I write them down, often I do not.

Twweeeets @musicpiracyblog

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Reflections on a key article from 2010

It's hard for me to believe that five years have passed since the publication of Williams et al.'s key paper 'The attitudes and behaviours of illegal downloaders', from a 2015 issue of Aslib Journal of Information Management (see below).

It is one of the first papers to incorporate meta-analysis methodology, effectively summarising the research into the topic up until that point. In doing so, it argues, convincingly, that the digital world is not the same as the physical world and that new business models are needed.

Critically, it concedes that: "The research, however, shows a maze of contradictions and complexities in this sensitive and controversial subject. More research is clearly needed, especially with a wider demographic population, and with other devices than PCs that can capture and download digital content” (p. 298).

The need for more research persists today. 

Little is known about digital piracy.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Williams, P., Nicholas, D. and Rowlands, I. (2010). The attitudes and behaviours of illegal downloaders. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 62(3), 283–301.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

What about video game piracy?

Was searching for some information on video game piracy and stumbled upon this report by Arxan, an app protection company.

Turns out video games are pirated too.

As a non-gamer, I was not up to date with the volume of online games which are consumed, with knock-on effects on piracy. I figured it was nigh on impossible to pirate video games, and that this was a big factor in their success. As an industry, the video games market is of course bigger than both the music and movie industries.

Digging into the literature just now on video game piracy, and hope to find something more concrete. 

I'm interested in it as music is a big part of video games, with songs released through music-based video games, for example.

For now, Ruri (2013) shines a light on the video games industry as having adapted by diversifying revenue to subscription services for online communities for example. 

The music industry must similarly diversify revenues through not only licensing but by bundling music with other products etc.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Ruri, L. (2013). Business models and strategies in the video game industry: an analysis of Activision-Blizzard and Electronic Arts (Master's thesis).

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Digital Piracy in Canada: Evidence from Real File-Sharing Data

Found this article recently, which is free to download.

Authored by Martin Tetu, it goes into some detail on the sorts of content exchanged on peer-to-peer services in Canada, and finds that much content is unavailable elsewhere.

Though other research suggests that the most pirated music is in fact widely available legally (i.e. what's popular is popular), this article exposes how different people look different places for different things.

Specifically looking at Quebec, Canada, the article argues that file-sharing can promote diversity, advancing culture.

Tweefingers @musicpiracy


Tetu, M. (2012). The Cultural 'Virtues' of Piracy in the Digital World: How Peer-to-Peer Can Contribute to the Propagation of Quebecious Heritage and Cultural Diversity. Ethique publique [Public Ethic], 14,(2), 1-15.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Whatever happened to the carrot instead of the stick?

For some time now, there has been a gradual shift away from aggressive anti-piracy measures to new, softer ones. Many scholars refer to this as the 'carrot' rather than 'stick' approach.

And there are good reasons for this.

Research suggests so-called music pirates spend more on music legally than individuals who do not purchase music at all (Karaganis and Renkema, 2013; Thun, 2009; Watson et al. 2014; and Zentner, 2006). 

And, negative deterrents such as website-blocking can serve to antagonise individuals and increase the propensity to engage in piracy (Sinha and  Mandel, 2008). Positive incentives, on the other hand, are more effective (Moon et al., 2015). 

But, in the space of a week, two news items suggest that this trend has taken a turn.

Firstly, it is now illegal in UK to make a copy of a CD you have purchased legally. This was the case for a long time, but it was overturned in October 2014 to make it legal to transfer music onto your mp3-player, etc. 

It has since been revoked.

It means that you purchase a new CD on Friday, you will shift immediately from a law-abiding music fan to a law-breaking music fan should you then burn a copy for the car, or add it to your i-Pod.

The usual logic that a pirated song represents a lost sale does not apply. It's a duplication of a song you already bought. 

How this will be governed, remains to be seen. What is clearer for now is that this is likely to be extremely widespread, thus shooting holes in any contemporary estimates of the scale of music piracy. It occurs offline too.

Furthermore, the Conservative government in UK now hope to imprison pirates for as much as 10 years.

This is a big leap from the current two years, but it should be mentioned that the emphasis here is on those individuals engaging in piracy on a commercial scale.

In any case, these two laws represent a fork in the road in this ongoing shift towards softer anti-piracy approaches, such as the non-judgemental letters sent out to pirates (from ISP's) to nudge them towards legal alternatives to illegal downloading.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Karaganis, J. and Renkema, L. (2013). Copy Culture in the US and Germany. USA: The   American Assembly.

Moon, S.-I., Kim, K., Feeley, T.H. and Shin, D.-H. (2015). A normative approach to reducing illegal music downloading: The persuasive effects of normative message framing. Telematics and Informatics, 32(1), 169–179.

Sinha, R.K. and Mandel, N. (2008). Preventing digital music piracy: The carrot or the stick? Journal of Marketing, 72(1), 1–15.

Thun, C. (2009). Introducing Hollywood’
s Best Customers Vuze User vs. General Internet: Comparative Data (Research Report). Retrieved from Frank N. Magid Associates website:

Watson, S.J., Zizzo, D.J. and Fleming, P. (2014). Determinants and Welfare Implications of Unlawful File Sharing: A Scoping Review (Working Paper No. 2014/5). Retrieved from Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy website:

Zentner, A. (2006). Measuring the effect of file sharing on music purchases. Journal of  Law and Economics, 49(1), 63–90.