Tuesday, 16 September 2014

U2, Apple, and you too: A beautiful day?

Admittedly, I am not a U2 fan. I feel the need to put that out there.

Bono single-handedly ensured he would never see a dime from me when he flew his favourite hat across the atlantic for a show (this was obviously before he knew or cared about global warming and climate change).

But anyhow, his band U2, on the back of the most profitable live tour of all time, have released their new album for free via Apple where 500 million users discovered the collection of songs in their libraries whether they wanted it or not.

I'm not too bothered about the alleged invasion: it's easy enough to delete. I'm more concerned about yet another huge band giving music away for free which adds to the perception that music is in fact free. U2 will recoup all costs from making this album if they haven't already done so a hundred times over by simply attaching themselves to Apple. Sales of their back catalogue have also increased in the last few days (albeit modestly) and I'm sure 2015 tour dates are on the cards..

Don't forget, musicians make more money from live music and licensing than they do from recorded music revenue. In this interesting article about the U2 deal, Pinar Dogan explains how more money can be made from giving music away for free.

Tim Ingham, editor of Music Week shares my concerns and his interesting back-and-forth debate with journalist Andrew Mueller on the Guardian website is one of the best articles written on the topic thus far.

Reactions have been largely unkind, and this article over on NME sums it all up by explaining how the stunt "is as damaging as piracy".

It will take some time for the dust to settle on this to see what it all means, but for now, it has gotten people talking about the value of recorded music, the relevance of the album format etc. and that keeps me stimulated.

Shame it wasn't a band I like though. Big fan of free stuff [insert gag about working pro-Bono...].

Tweet and greet @musicpiracblog

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reflections on the distribution of research into digital piracy, by academic discipline

Over the last few months, I have been posting lists of prominent scholars engaged in research into digital piracy. They have been the most viewed (by a mile) entries on the blog to date, which is encouraging news to me that blog readers are up for the challenge of doing their own research. This makes me happy.

I feel, given the interest to date, I should elaborate on some points raised and answer some questions I have been receiving via email.

Firstly, the list of names is non-comprehensive. These are names that have either a) appeared regularly during my literature searches over the last 4/5 years or have b) contributed, in my opinion, particularly important additions to the research to date. The list has not been collated in a particularly systematic way such as using h-indexes (a measure of research productivity and impact).

Secondly, and following on from the first point, the list is likely skewed with my own reading being tailored to my own research interests (digital piracy is a very broad area of research). This is most notable with just one Lawyer present in my list of around 30 scholars. There are plenty of research articles exploring legal sides of digital piracy, but I just haven't read most of them! They are out there, I assure you.

Thirdly, I have NOT been paid to promote anyone's research. I don't even know where to begin pointing out holes with that speculation. I have only ever been in the same room as a few of these individuals; I don't know any of them. The lists were simply intended to give readers a heads up on some key search terms to guide them to good reading materials on digital piracy research, as is the ultimate aim of this blog overall. To date I have received zero pounds and zero pence to maintain this blog - it's an entirely voluntary pursuit.

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce I will be publishing a similar series in 2015 mapping out key journals for you to sift through on your own time. It's an encouraging sign to see the readership of the blog grow over 2014 which is perhaps due to my efforts to post more and actually try and use Twitter effectively. There is only one of me though, and other life events and workloads mean I will probably have to rely on more of these sorts of posts where I direct you elsewhere. I get the vibe from the recent series however that this will work out just fine. Fully committed to the blog until at least next April.

Thanks for the support, and happy reading.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Sunday, 31 August 2014

I (really) love Deezer

And why wouldn't I?

It seems in UK everyone who uses a music subscription service uses Spotify. When I mention I use Deezer, a lot of people have seemingly never heard of it.

I used to use Spotify for years, shifting from the free version to the paid version and then back again. I gave Deezer a spin about a year ago, and soon discovered a promo for their £9.99 version for half price; the offer lasted 6 months. I went for it, and over 6 months found Deezer to be superior in various ways. The principal edge it has for me is the mobile application; it looks and feels good. This is what music industry commentators would refer to as the context, not the content (roughly equivalent on both Deezer and Spotify). It also feels more plastic, with eye-catching features and third party apps that genuinely draw your attention to different content.

The mobile app also offers some degree of customisation with the levels to enhance bass or recreate the sound of a studio or concert hall etc. With good headphones, the audio quality is stellar. 

Most recently, I tried out their 'Flow' feature which is the same idea as the Apple Genius feature. Shuffling up a playlist built around my listening habits, it kicked off with 'Ceremony', by New Order - a spectacular start. From there, it shuffled around songs from recently added albums and playlists I haven't really listened with a healthy sure fire 'favourite' song of sorts every now and then. It was a pleasant and elegant experience, and I am impressed.

I am now on a different promo with Deezer, and feel that when it expires, I will stay put. I have invested a lot of time and effort into building my library on Deezer with (lots of) playlists I couldn't replicate elsewhere.

Deezer, you have won. Luckily, I love you, and I'm happy to continue paying for your product.

P.S. I recently found out I had been paying for two different Deezer accounts. That is how much I love it!

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 22 August 2014

New article on the seldom discussed issue of porn piracy

There, I said it: porn.

In the latest issue of the new journal 'Porn Studies', a new article of mine ponders why researchers have paid so little attention to porn piracy. It's one of the few open access ones in this issue, so it's free to download and enjoy.

The article unpacks reasons why engaging in porn piracy might carry unique motivations (when compared to music piracy, for example), and considers the unique challenges rights holders have in fighting porn piracy.

The article discusses the recent 'Pay For Your Porn' campaign, which adds some colour to proceedings and generally makes links to recent news items. It's a hot topic.

Whether or not you approve of it, the porn industry is an industry like any other and employs lots and lots of people across a range of roles 

The new issue of the journal itself contains a few articles on censorship and related topics which might also be of interest to readers of this blog.

Check it out, unless of course you are too scared to be caught 'reading' about porn..

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Brown, S.C. (2014). Porn piracy: An overlooked phenomenon in need of academic investigation. Porn Studies, 1(3), 342-346.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The big names in digital piracy research: Various disciplines

On the back of blog entries detailing the contributions of Economists and Criminologists, this entry aims to capture a broader stretch of researchers from across multiple disciplines.

A wee Google search of these scholars should be a profitable exercise, where you will find a few key books as well as dozens of research articles.

Patrik Wikstrom (Media and Communication Studies)
Ian Hargreaves (Journalism, Media, and Cultural Studies)
Jonas Andersson Schwarz (Media and Communications)
Ram D Gopal (Business)
Lee Marshall (Sociology)
Simon Frith (Musicologist)
Matthew David (Sociology)
Stefan Larsson (Law)

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 8 August 2014

Who are the music pirates and what do they want?

I recently discovered the quite excellent resource The Conversation, and you can find my first contribution titled 'Who are the music pirates and what do they want?' here.

In the short piece, I review research into who illegally downloads music and why, with discussion focused on young males. It also includes a number of links to other online resources which are all free to access.

Check it out, and get lost in the website while you're at it - thoroughly recommended reading, with excellent contributions on issues relating to copyright and the digital economy.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Brown, S.C. (2014, August). Who are the music pirates and what do they want? Retrieved 5 August 2014, from


Thursday, 31 July 2014

What is the contemporary relevance of the album?

I keep reading about musicians questioning the validity of the long-player album format, but then releasing albums. What's going on there?

Let's look at a few case studies.

Radiohead are notable for long criticising the format, but then releasing The King of Limbs as an album a few years ago (even if it was on the shorter side). Subsequently releasing a more songs digitally from TKOL sessions including the sublime 'The Daily Mail', I can't help but feel that this was their compromise and that alongside the remix album which followed (and the revelation of the hidden tracklising of blending OK Computer and In Rainbows together) that fans were to create their own tracklistings from the 13 songs released from this era - I know I did. Twice.

Smashing Pumpkins, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, are systematically releasing individual songs to be packaged as 11 4-track ep's as part of a mammoth 44-track 'album'. The idea is to focus on the songs themselves and allow fans to be a part of the process of the project as well, seeing how it all develops over time. Subsequently releasing 2012's well-received Oceania album as a conventional full-length release billed as 'an album within an album' and one cannot help but think that this project has been abandoned. 

Pixies released three 4-track ep's of new material ahead of collating them into their first new 'album' in over 20 years. The critical response centred on the content not being a new 'album' at all, but merely a collection of songs from their ep's, calling into question what a 'collection of songs' even is anymore.

Are we stuck between a rock and a hard place where musicians no longer desire to release songs in the conventional way, but not quite prepared to take the plunge? It appears so.

Consider the new single-download culture which hit the headlines last year with astronomically high downloads of hit songs from Daft Punk and Robin what's-his-face. It's big. I have also read convincing arguments that more revenue can be made from releasing singles and not albums (more money for less work?) which is suggestive of this trend continuing, if bands bothered to release singles anymore - many don't bother at all. It's all changing. Again.

As David Byrne explains in his excellent book 'How Music Works', technology has always dictated how long music releases are. From old shellac records through to CD, the length of a particular work was only as long as the format would allow. That is, until now. We are still stuck with the notion that an 'album' ought to be around 50 minutes, plus or minus 10/20%. Digital mediums mean music can be infinitely long (and indeed a song designed to run for 1000 continuous years is now in it's 14th year).

Complaint's that Radiohead's The King of Limbs was 'too short' highlights the fixed notions about what an album is and how long it should be (it was in fact only about 5 minutes shorter than the previous album In Rainbows; this is about the length of one Radiohead song).

I like short albums, long albums, and everything in between. Though I make my own collections of songs in the form of personalised playlists, I still consider albums as the authoritative compilation of songs as constructed by artists themselves and the order in which they wish the songs to be heard. My own compilations act as companions to albums, not replacements.

Am I alone here?

Tweets @musicpiracyblog