Thursday, 30 October 2014

New e-book on digital music revolution

I haven't gotten round to reading in full yet, but there's a new e-book from music-tech writer Kyle Bylin available now over on digital publisher Leanpub. It's all about how digital startups and youth culture helped to redefine the music industry over the last few years.

It's more of a collection of essays (many originating as blog entries on Hypebot I believe) than a book per se, and it is on the short side; these things might or might not appeal to you. I direct you there as I did get a lot out of his last e-book (which was a collection of entries from different authors).

There's a free sample to download, which should get the ball rolling.

I should note, I plan on using Leanpub in the future. I will keep you all posted in due time.

Tweets and eats @musicpiracyblog

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The big names in digital piracy research: (More) Economists

Further to a recent entry detailing some prominent Economists research digital piracy, this entry collates some more big names for you to look up online.

Felix Oberholzer-Gee
Joey Waldfogel
Martin Peitz
Nicolas Curien
Patrick Waelbroeck
Tobias Regner
Peter Tschmuck

A simple cut and paste job should spawn research articles galore on personal websites, institution web pages, and other sources such as etc. Authors often have personal copies of their articles which they can share, upon request - there's no harm in asking. Tschmuck has a few books you will be able to find easily enough.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 17 October 2014

When living in a world where re-issues of music are more exciting than new music

Call me a sucker.

I've been enthusiastically enjoying the archival projects of The Smashing Pumpkins (and by that I of course mean Billy Corgan) over the last few years, and am very excited at the prospect of the Machina/Machina II reissue next year. I love making playlists and all these rare outtakes and live cuts make for fun compilations of 'alternative tracklistings' and so on. I have put a lot of time into this sort of thing, particularly with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which is my perhaps my favourite album of all time, if not at the very least the most meaningful.

I'm not alone out there. There has been a huge revival of interest in older bands work, informed by streaming services and so on, and many of the big players like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have been enthusiastically getting in on this. Some of the lesser known bands like Slint are also cashing in.

Such re-issues are not however viewed with any skepticism. At least not anymore. Respectable publications include a regular rundown of their best reissue of the month (and even week), such is how built-in they are into the recorded music market today. It's like an alternative greatest hits compilation (which does appear rather unnecessary today), focusing on particular bodies of work.

Yes they are cheap to produce, given these tracks are all pre-recorded rejects, but there's real value in them. The recent 'Adore' re-issue by The Smashing Pumpkins sincerely helped me re-appraise this body of work in a new light, thanks largely to the timing of me revisiting it at the same age of the songwriter. I am also embarassed I never noticed the deliberate echoes of the closing track '17' in one of my favourite b-sides from the era 'Blissed and Gone'. There's a nice transition for me to build into a new playlist..

For loyal 'band fans', they may feel obliged to purchase these increasingly more costly relics (yes I am talking to you now Mr. Corgan) but that's a moot point in a way.

If I do have a point, it's that I very much enjoy these re-issues by my favourite bands and it's the unheard songs I long to hear, not the re-mastered versions of the albums themselves. So, in effect, it is new music I am excited to hear which is fair enough. Yet, knowing the majority of these songs were once considered inferior does sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth (especially when they are shit, as they often are).

For now, I worry as I segue into my thirties I will reliably turn into my Dad and insist on solely listening to old music. I have every song I could ever wish to listen to at my fingertips, including music that isn't even released yet. Why do I insist on listening to the same old stuff?

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 10 October 2014

What about book piracy? #2

In what appears to be the first article on book piracy post-digital revolution (there must be a few that slipped past me over the last few years), Nkiko (in press) discusses wide-ranging issues surrounding book piracy in Nigeria.

Proposing that: "it destroys creativity, denies the authors economic benefits, and makes publishing unproductive and unattractive", this is a nice addition to the literature on digital piracy to date in as much as it formally introduces book piracy into academic discussion.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Nkiko, C. (in press). Book Piracy in Nigeria: Issues and Strategies. The Journal of Academic Librarianship.

Monday, 29 September 2014

The future of movie piracy

In what is a bit of a departure from the focus of this blog, I direct you to this excellent article over on Empire, the best movie magazine in the world.

Discussing the ongoing fight against movie piracy, the piece centres on what is often referred to as 'the carrot' rather than 'the stick' in appeasing consumer preferences; by this I of course mean rewarding good form rather than punishing bad form. To this end, the article discusses releasing movies on the same days in different territories as a means to minimise the demand for pirated movies and the rise of VOD services.

There are strong parallels with music piracy trends and I credit the writing style for being informative and entertaining at the same time, without slipping into the usual sort of anti-corporate rhetoric so common from similar sources.

Tweets @ musicpiracyblog

Friday, 26 September 2014

Thom Yorke, bit-Torrent, and the act of the surprise

It was a normal Friday, processing some words on a leading word processing programme. Then, Twitter changed it all.

Twitter is amazing. First of all, it brought to my attention that Radiohead's Thom Yorke had released a new album digitally via bit-Torrent. Then, it brought to my attention that this sort of thing is relatively common using new features on the file-sharing software. Who knew? (lots of people, seemingly)

On Monday, I downloaded my first ever digital album (Syro, by Aphex Twin). And now, on what has been a huge week for new music for me (new soundtrack for 'Gone Girl' by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross streaming), I have downloaded my second. I'm so 2014.

Released via bit-Torrent, I had to download the software after paying a modest $6. It was alien to me. But very easy. I understand the appeal of instantly being able to listen to the music. Like that.

I have never used bit-Torrent before, nor any such software. And my research into music piracy conjures up negative associations with the software, hence my surprise when I read about the new album 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' being released this way. As I mentioned though, others have experimented with this strategy, but oor Thom might just popularise it. Like Radiohead did the pay-what-you-want model on 7th record 'In Rainbows' in 2007.

As an expert of music piracy who also knows nothing about actually engaging in music piracy (perfect conditions for an academic), I can only assume this programme on my desktop is not a pandora's box of pirated content just waiting to happen and that they thought this through. 

And so, but a mere week-or-so after U2's efforts to distribute their latest album in an innovative way (and receiving widespread criticism in the process), it looks like Thom Yorke is back to save the universe.

Ultimately, from reading the blurb over on the official Radiohead website, it is clear the move aims to bypass the likes of Spotify which he and producer Nigel Godrich routinely slam in the press as bad for business.

Let's not forget, to return to my 'stage-in-the-game' hypothesis that has featured on many a former blog entry (and summarised in the context of Daft Punk well here) that what works best for one artist is not the same as what works best for another. Thom has a legion of fans he has earned on the back of conventional business practices in the pre-Napster '90's. This move will not catch on. Major record labels have more of a strangehold than ever before, despite appearances. 

Anyhow, let's see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Is the artwork for the new Aphex Twin album a satirical tribute to music piracy?

The new Aphex Twin album 'Syro' is a 2014 highlight for me. And it's not all about the music.

The artwork details a lengthy series of costings for the record, from 'Online advertising in Norway' to 'Leah's taxi from Warp office to radio station', and offers a breakdown of associated costs that most people (including myself) would never have considered with a new release.

It's all very tongue in cheek, and the actual costs remain a mystery: Does it really cost £0.02286 for 'Digital mastering including studio time, running parts and upload'?

The list even includes the cost associated with dealing with illegal uploads of copyrighted Aphex Twin songs.

It's easily my favourite artwork in some years. And a decent album too.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog