How Innovation Can Sink The (Music) Pirate Ship
With many traditional revenue sources for musicians upended by the pandemic, now is the perfect time to look at new revenue streams as well as to tackle stream ripping and other forms of music piracy.
Guest post by Paul Sampson, CEO at music licensing company Lickd
Music piracy in its various guises has plagued the industry for years, but its impact in 2020 has the potential to be more keenly felt than ever before. COVID-19 has devastated the income that music creators generate from live performance and has rendered them more reliant on streaming revenues to support their work.
Even before coronavirus, streaming revenues amounted to over 20% of music creators’ income. And in recent years the situation has been getting worse, not better, with stream-ripping services in the UK increasing by a colossal 1390% between 2016-2019. It’s an incredibly important issue, now more than ever, but regrettably, one that’s particularly hard to solve.
Legal action has proved successful in the past, with major stream-ripping sites like YouTube-MP3 and Convert2MP3 agreeing to cease operations following industry-led litigation. However, hackers always seem to be one step ahead of the law, working quickly and with less red tape than the companies they exploit.
To date, technological intervention has also had limited success. For example, when the music industry used geo-blocking technology to crack down on BitTorrent sites, initially their numbers more than halved but stream-rippers quickly diversified and turned their attention to ripping directly from legitimate music providers. Now, sadly, YouTube and Spotify have become the music services most exploited by stream-ripping.
Stormzy & Little Mix
There’s also work to be done in terms of educating consumers of the harm illegal downloads cause to their favorite musicians. Recently, incredibly popular artists like Stormzy and Little Mix received press attention for how badly music piracy has affected them, however, this sort of news coverage is not common. The exploitative nature of stream-ripping culture and the impact it can have on artists needs to be more widely understood in order to change consumer behavior.
I’m not claiming to have the magic bullet that cures us all of stream-ripping forever, but innovation is central to the fight against it. Some UGC platforms have built or are building audio recognition tools to help the music industry but across the board they need to do more to prevent illegal streaming. UGC platforms like YouTube and TikTok continue to grow and more will soon arrive, plus, with the impact of coronavirus putting extra strain on the arts, now is the time to put copyright tech innovation first and start out-smarting the hackers that are plaguing the industry.
All relevant parties need to pull together to find creative solutions – technologically, legally, and culturally – to make illegal music distribution a risky, difficult, and overwhelmingly unattractive prospect, for users, those creating piracy-enabling platforms, and the advertisers who fund them. Of course, this will not be achieved overnight, but to create meaningful change, innovation must be championed and anti-stream-ripping
solutions kept top of mind.
In the meantime, there are ways that artists can become less reliant on streaming revenue. Though live concerts are a thing of the past for now, virtual performances like Fortnite’s in-game concert series are skyrocketing in popularity. Over 12 million people tuned in to watch Travis Scott’s live concert in April – a record number that no real-life venue could accommodate. Official merchandise and brand deals continue to drive revenue and innovative new ventures like my own business, music licensing platform Lickd, are creating new ways to bolster artists’ income.
Lickd actually utilizes the copyright security systems already in place on YouTube (Content ID) to provide a new revenue stream for artists. For the first time, YouTube creators can quickly and legally license chart music to use in their videos without forfeiting their ad revenue. The music industry gains both a new revenue stream (from creators who previously avoided using chart music) and thousands of new music promoters.
Lickd is just one example of how innovation breeds innovation. As UGC platforms evolve, new ways to monetize content will arise and artists won’t be so reliant on traditional streaming to support their work. This, combined with innovation from within the industry will be key to unlocking a fairer future.