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

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

How music piracy is changing the music industry landscape

For my latest contribution to The Conversation, hop on over to this piece which charts the changing relationship between recorded music and live music. I specifically consider if the rise of the live music sector is influenced by music piracy, and consider rising ticket prices in the process.

There are some links to good resources including books, which I recommend checking out.

I aim to commit more posts over on The Conversation in the future, as well as some guest posts on other websites. I will keep you posted.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

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