Thursday, 26 March 2015

"If you like my new album, then check out my old one": The influential role of new releases on motivating purchases of old ones

And here's another lost gem.

In this important article published in the Journal of Political Economy (you can download a free version here) authors Hendricks and Sorensen explain how new music releases, and specifically those which are a hit, motivate sales of albums in an artists' back catalogue.

Sounds fairly obvious, but don't forget that research has an important role to play in defining basic assumptions about the world and the use of a substantial dataset of sales data from hundreds of artists over years and years goes a long way in setting this one in stone.

And if that's not enough, consider how in the days after U2 force-fed i-Tunes users with their new album, 26 of their older releases shot up the charts (though not to an extent particularly worth shouting about).

It's a tough read given the methodology used (you will know what I mean when you open the PDF) but the lengthy introduction to the paper is very well put together and easy to understand.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Hendricks, K. and Sorensen, A. (2009). Information and the Skewness of Music Sales. Journal of Political Economy, 117(2), 324-369.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Recommended journals #2: Music Psychology

In the second of this occasional series, I aim to bring the exciting world of music psychology to your attention.

Distinct from other branches of psychology, music psychology uncovers the powerful role music plays in our lives by exploring a broad range of topics including the increasing role of music in our everyday lives, thanks to our dear friend technology. To this end, much research explores the role of music on health and wellbeing.

A good dig around will also yield interesting insights into human cognition by considering emotion, language, memory, etc.

The three journals below are a good starting point if you're interested in doing some research of your own.

Psychology of Music
Musicae Scientiae

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

Friday, 20 February 2015

Rage against the hyprocrisy machine

Something that most people don't realise/don't think about when they engage in illegal file-sharing is that in doing so, someone, somewhere, is profiting from copyrighted media that they are not legally or morally entitled to.

Yes, when you download a song or album from a band you yourself are not making money off of it: you are saving money from not buying it. But, someone else is often making money from this transaction. Like the guys from The Pirate Bay, for example. And it's not just a few pennies here and there.

Notably, research highlights that your common garden digital pirate who downloads copyrighted media finds that piracy-for-profit is 'wrong'. But, in downloading music or movies, you are enabling this very action. You are, as they say, part of the problem.

With this in mind, I was struck by a video I found on YouTube where someone compiled songs from Rage Against The Machine into a 'greatest hits compilation'. Rage Against The Machine don't have a greatest hits compilation.

Now, there are countless such videos on YouTube, but in this one, the YouTube user inserted (lots of) advertisements in the video. He or she is actively trying to make money from copyrighted works they had absolutely no involvement in, and out in the open. Many users have, quite rightly, expressed fierce criticism over this bold move.

It's indicative of a general lack of respect for copyright laws, and this extends to Google themselves (who own YouTube).

It also illustrates that: a) so-called 'pirates' are not one unanimous group with a collective identity; and b) when piracy-for-profit is made explicit, this becomes clearer.

Crimes which are perceived as victimless tend to encourage the perpetrators to not consider themselves as criminals. And until concrete evidence is brought forward that digital piracy poses a real economic threat to the creative industries, digital piracy will continue to be thought of as a victimless crimes. And digital pirates themselves will not think of themselves as criminals.

For now, remember that digital piracy makes criminals out of someone. Every time. You might not care about it, but it is important to acknowledge that this is true.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Movie Piracy, and the myth of 'try before you buy'

Strumpf (in press), drawing from file-sharing data between 2003 and 2009 finds that movie piracy had a modest impact on box office revenues. And yet, other research has come to wildly different conclusions.

Zentner (2010), for instance, finds that DVD sales dropped by some 27% from 2004 to 2008 and this substitution effect has been found elsewhere (see Bai and Waldfogel, 2009 and Rob and Waldfogel, 2006).

However, other research, such as that of Martikainen (2011) and Smith and Telang (2010) does not arrive at the same conclusions and does not find a substitution trend.

So what is going on here?

Well, it's down to our old friend again: research methods.

Digital piracy is incredibly difficult to measure, and the different approaches used makes it difficult to draw comparisons across studies (as I tried to do above).

So when someone asks you if watching movies illegally acts as a 'try before you buy' sort of sampler, you can tell them 'I don't know, because neither does the research'.

Certainly the trend is that digital piracy harms sales, and this is intuitive. It does not however make it correct.

Sparing a thought for the poor box office performance of films which were leaked ahead of release (think: The Expendables 3) and you can't help but feel like it is the case.

If I watched a pirated movie, regardless of whether or not I actually enjoyed it, I can't see what motivation I would then have to then go and spend money going to see it again at the cinema.

But that doesn't make it so.

Check out the research.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Bai, J. and Waldfogel, J. (2009). Movie Piracy and Sales Displacement in a Sample of Chinese College Students (Working Paper).

Martikainen, E. (2011). Does File-Sharing Reduce DVD Sales? (Working Paper).

Rob, R. and Waldfogel, J. (2006). Piracy On The High C's: Music Downloading, Sales Displacement, And Social Welfare In A Sample Of College Students. Journal of Law and Economics, 49(1), 29-62.

Smith, M.D. and Telang, R. (2010). Piracy or promotion? The impact of broadband internet penetration on DVD sales. Information Economics and Policy, 22(4), 289-298.

Strumpf, K. (in press). Using Markets to Measure the Impact of File Sharing on Movie Revenues (Working Paper).

Zentner, A. (2010). Measuring the impact of File Sharing on the movie industry: An empirical Analysis using a Panel of countries (Working Paper).

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Documentary film on Napster (excellent!)

Directed by Alex Winter (who for me will always be Bill from Bill and Ted fame), I stumbled upon a documentary film called 'Downloaded' all about the Napster Wars.

All the principals are interviewed and it's exciting to hear them discuss their naivety, with extensive footage covering the inception of the file-sharing service and the ensuing legal battles.

There's loads of footage from musicians like Metallica, Dr. Dre and Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, all offering different takes on music piracy.

The most fascinating aspect of this particular documentary is how affable and well-meaning Shawn Fanning, Shaun Parker etc. are, especially when compared to the guys behind The Pirate Bay, as captured on the recent documentary TBP: AFK.

I found 'Downloaded' on Netflix. I'm sure you will be able to find it somewhere similar in the world of VOD.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog


Winter, A. (Director). (2013). Downaloded [motion picture]. United States: VH1.

Monday, 19 January 2015

New professional website, with links to music piracy research

Took a while to get round to it, but I finally created a new website which acts as a central hub for my own empirical research and associated works.

In doing so, this frees up this blog to continue to comment on the research of others.

If you hop on over to you will find links to my various written works for academic journals and beyond.

Been aware that my online presence has been quite fragmented recently, with content on a lot of websites I do not manage myself and are not updated often: this new website ought to remedy that.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Do music fans now spend more on live music than recorded music?

Well, it wouldn't be difficult: live music events are now incredibly costly. And recorded music has never been cheaper.

But you won't find this detail in here where Music Week's Tim Ingham discusses findings from a new report from Neilsen which suggests that music fans in USA now spend more money on live music events than CDs, digital downloads, and music streaming combined.

It wouldn't surprise me.

It represents an ongoing shift in the music industry where for most musicians, the bulk of their income is from the live music sector.

The report of course deals in averages, but a good question to consider is this: if you could add up how much you spent on recorded music annually say 10 years ago, and how much you spend today, would it be more or less? Undoubtedly less. Then, if you could do the same for live music, would it be more or less? Most likely more, assuming you enjoy going to live concerts and do so when you can.

There's more concerts on the go more regularly and by a larger variety of bands than ever before, so it makes sense that people are spending more money on them.

It's where things are going, because artists can secure financial rewards from live performance (as much as 85% of revenues in fact, compared to around 10% for recorded music).

Tweets @musicpiracyblog