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Insightful post. This might just stem from my love of live music, but I think the future of the music industry (at least relating to the monetary aspects of it) is based on what music has primarily always been about: Gathering and performance. In other words, I think artists (and labels, in the instances where they actually have a clue about how to help the artists) should be striving to create enjoyable live shows; while recordings can be (and is) pirated and easily found, and while there are of course many benefits of recording music and releasing it, the concert experience is something that is bound strictly to being-there.


Igor Stolarsky

A few years back Boing Boing posted a link (http://boingboing.net/2006/03/18/canadian-recording-i.html) to a Canadian music industry study that concluded P2P wasn't actually bad for business, but it seems that the link in the BB stub isn't valid any more. I think there have been others on there since then, but I can't be bothered to find them at the moment.

I think your last point finally hits on the uncomfortable truth that all of us musicians/artist/creative people have been trying not to admit for the last few years. If people don't want to pay for the stuff we make, they won't, and we can't force them to. All we can really do is try to make our art something that people DO want to pay for.


no longer a live article link. Can you provide again?
thank you. NW


Hey Jonathan, thanks for the post. I respect your view as a musician with a dog in the fight (and I like your music too).
For whatever it’s worth, we’ve seen a lot of data out there that shows how harmful illegal downloading is to musicians. Check out official U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data in our blog post here: http://www.riaa.com/blog.php?content_selector=riaa-news-blog&blog_selector=Illegal Downloading_Fewer Musicians&news_month_filter=7&news_year_filter=2010&searchterms=Illegal downloading = fewer musicians&terminclude=&termexact=
It shows a direct link between music sales and number of people working as musicians/artists, and when the former declines, so does the latter.

Anyway, food for thought as we all ponder these issues…

take care


Hey Jonathan,

Fantastic post!!! I was wondering what your thoughts are on the difference (or commonality) between "Illegal" downloading and 2nd hand record stores.


Jonathan, first, extreme respect to you and thanks for posting.

I don't buy the "make it easy to buy" argument, at least for music. Movies, yes. Music, no. Music is available from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Rdio, Mog, Spotify Rhapsody, and almost every carrier, plus 40 others. It is easy to get from the over 60 legal outlets in the US, and that is clearly not the problem.

In terms of piracy being bad for everyone, labels are just VCs for artists. Everyone in Silicon Valley gets the importance of VC money, and while not everyone needs it (e.g. yourself), if the label money dries up, there will be fewer people able to make music as their day job. Other than you (you're smarter, probably), most major artists without label backing today needed a label to get there.

Why does this matter to silicon valley? A significant portion of internet companies depend on the existence of high value content (music, movies, etc) for relevance.

Music is probably over 1/3rd of the revenue generating content on Youtube. Who has the largest followers on twitter? What are people discussing and liking on social networks? How popular is "lyrics" on Google as a search term (answer: more popular than "sex" in the US http://www.google.com/trends/?q=sex,+lyrics&ctab=0&geo=us&date=all&sort=0 )? Would Apple be as huge today if it wasn't for the iPod?

Internet companies depend on the existence of content to make them sticky and relevant and (often) profitable. If high value content starts to dry up due to piracy, that's not good for them either.

Please don't throw my computer in the garbage.


"And if you can stand me sounding even crazier, here is this: making money from art is not a human right"

You are sounding a little crazy :-))) because IT IS actually a human right, it's part of the Declaration of Human Rights You have the right to be protected from piracy and other people illegaly profing from your work and making money out of it, such as Megaupload.

From the United Nations Organisation website : http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
Article 27/(2) "Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author."

Please don't throw my computer in the garbage.

Mike Frei


I've been interested in this issue for a very long time now and I actually wrote my bachelor study in economics about music and filesharing. And I'm from Switzerland. And I am a musician, playing and singing in the band BluePearl (www.facebook.com/bluepearltheband).

So I read a lot about it and I studied around 20 studies, of which the majority says that filesharing does not have a negative impact on the music industry. Most of them even say it had a positive one! The definition of "music industry" is the crucial point. The industry, that's not only the labels but also for example the concert agencies, festivals, music sellers and of course the artists. And the whole part of the industry have grown for the last ten years.

So what I found out in my studying time were three things on this topic:

1. The big labels lost their control over the distribution channels. And they want them back no matter what it costs.
So what's their thinking? They just want to really kill all the Internet industries like iTunes, Google and so on because they doesn't favor the major label's artists that much and they earn much money the labels want to have by themselves.

2. The artists have never had such a power
Today an artist can reach much more people if he/she is really good. So it's never been as easy for an artist to all do it by himself/herself. The labels are sometimes simply obsolete and useless. That kicks them into a very weak position if they want to get a successful artist. So they want to get the power in negotiations back.

3. The labels and the big associations of the music industry still fight against the Internet than to work with it.
@swiftindie: It's unfortunately completely untrue that all music is available everywhere. For example in Germany there are still a lot of YouTube-videos banned and here in Switzerland you search for many songs on iTunes and can't find them. So if the music was really available everywhere, a lot of piracy would be banned.

In a lot of surveys in the studies, the people are claimed to be simply too lazy to search for the legal music if they can just type the song's name into a searching field and will find it a few seconds later for free downloading.

So in fact, this issue is far to complex to just being regulated by such unfair laws like SOPA and PIPA, especially for the artists, too. I don't really agree what MegaUpload did but I completely agree with the argument that people more likely should listen to your music than never have any possibility to get to know you, because they cannot pay anything for your music.


P.S. let me just answer a few comments here:

@StephenCabbs: I agree with you. The live music has grown incredibly for the last ten years! It's absolutely the future!

@Cara: just take a look at your link and you'll see who's really had an important influence on that study.

@Ghostwriter: I think just if everyone has the right to protection of his music does not actually impement that everyone has the right to earn money from it. Otherwise the hedgefonds should get the right to profit, too ;-)!

Maurice Denoble

Good post. Suck on this fact; since Megaupload was shown the exit, my downloads and streaming income have gone up 3 to 5%. Coincidence? I think not. I really like to see iTunes overall sales figures for the last 5 days. If they spiked, I'd say there was some correlation. Can anyone access that information?


Hi Jonathan,

You raise constructive points. Allow me to share my basic view on the crux of your points:

1) Today 26 Jan 2012, I believe to be a point in time in which we are trying but still do not have fully clear and shared commercial, practical and legal norms for OCFs (Online Content Facilitators such as Youtube, Megaupload, Spotify, I-tunes, Piratebay etc...). A lot of effort is there but no ideal resolution yet ;-)

We should conscientiously strive and continue to work towards such norms.

2) The MVC, Music Value Chain ( I intentionally will limit myself to music here) will remain in "shake-up mode" or "in a state of disruption" until these shared norms materialize.

3) I understand and respect that the process towards those norms will take time and disruptive pain !!!

That's how our current free market works. Looming at the end lie all the benefits of the great and exciting new innovative Internet ways of content distribution in the MVC.

I call upon all people to agree that it would be beneficial and good if we could all just respect the disruptive process we are in and should be in. It’s the only way in a free market economy.

4) Finally, I believe that it would help clarify, shorten and optimize the current disruptive process, if all key stakeholders would always first answer the following 2 basic questions:

(a) Which stake do I primarily represent ? and
(b) What do I see (for my stake) as my ideal ultimate Goal and mission for the MVC ? (Music Value Chain aka the Music Industry)

From that base, a great discourse with great opportunities lies ahead !

( I am on Twitter as @ElShaifo )


"@Ghostwriter: I think just if everyone has the right to protection of his music does not actually impement that everyone has the right to earn money from it. Otherwise the hedgefonds should get the right to profit, too ;-)!"

I think you misunderstood. I'm saying exactly the opposite of what you wrote.

Mike Frei

I'm sorry. I really misunderstood it.


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