Industry Sees Rays of HopeThe International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) just released a digital music report , and the music industry is picking out a few aspects with praise and hopefulness . One encouraging sign for the industry is the decrease in the number of “infringing” music files on the Internet. In April of 2003 the tally was one billion files. Now is stands at 870 million. They’re also quite cheery about the increase in consumer involvement with legal online music. The report says 31% of downloaders said they are likely to download from a legal online service, and 55% said they will download from a legal online service.
Lawyers On Call
In related news, the president of the IFPI, John Kennedy, told the annual music industry conference MIDEM that its anti-digital piracy lawsuits would continue in 2005. “None of this makes us feel wonderful,” he said, adding that the lawsuits were a last resort that followed efforts to educate and raise awareness, and that those at the IFPI “look forward to the day when they won’t be necessary.”
France Down Two Touchdowns
France’s music market dropped 14% in 2004, says Billboard.biz. That is, in no uncertain terms, cause for alarm for consumers, labels and legislators. While legal online music stores will continue to flourish, and may help convert some piracy into sales, I can’t help but think that the double-digit loss will result in panic on the part of the industry and, due to lobbying and similar concerns, the French government. If the loss were in single digits the push might not be so strong, but 14% is a number that leads to desperate acts by desperate people. When a football team is down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, its normal strategies just aren’t employed. Time for an onside kick and a Hail Mary?
The Air of Legitimacy
As do most people, I loath pop-up ads, but without them I wouldn’t have come across something I had never seen: a pesky pop-up from BullsEye Network that listed a number of legal online music services and P2P download services in one of those faux search engine result pages that seem to be so common these days. The list alone is probably enough to make some believe a download site like MP3Downloading.com is legit. After all, it’s near the top of a page that features two of the kind of online music services that are featured in the news and in banner ads all over the Internet: AOL Music and RealRhapsody.
Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link to MP3Review.com. It claims to be a “review of the best downloading sites.” Factors like “easy navigation” and “large variety of music and movie sources” are used to rate various download sites. Again, P2P sites were mixed with legitimate online music stores. Napster, the P2P site that has been transformed into an RIAA-approved online entity, is reviewed between MP3Advance.com (which claims to offer “fast, safe and secure” access to over one billion files) and FileSharingCenter.com.
Seeing this made me think of the distressed, almost helpless comments given to reporters by some of those file-sharers unlucky enough to have been sued by the RIAA and settle out of court for, on average, about $3,000. Too often the only excuse they could muster was something like “I didn’t know” or “The site said I could download all the songs I wanted.” Is it any wonder they were confused? Websites like BullsEye Network’s have the look and feel of legitimacy, enough to convince some that file-sharing is a risk-free Internet grab bag. This air of legitimacy is only aided by the fact that Napster, RealRhapsody and AOL are commingling with these P2P sites on pop-up ads.
After all that has been written in the press, after all the water cooler conversations, and in light of the incredible attention given to the topic of file-sharing in the last few years, I would have hoped by now that the average computer user knew the difference between P2P and online music stores and services. At this moment, if I were a gambling man, I would sit out this hand.
Glenn works in the music industry in New York City. He writes about the industry and music in general at his blog, Coolfer.