Reading the recent Fortune article "Happiness is a Warm iPod" I was struck with the realization about the future of all music, not just the bands the author calls "luddites."
The Beatles held out against the sale of their music online (not to mention waging war on Apple Computer), as have AC/DC, Garth Brooks, and Led Zeppelin. The 'Luddites' comprise those three plus the Beatles, and NPD Group estimates that there are 32 million illegal downloads of those artists alone each year). Right now I'm listening to "The Immigrant Song" on my iPod- who profits from that (besides, er, me)?
No one, really- though perhaps I'll buy the 2002 Led Zeppelin DVD release for myself as a holiday gift- the DVD version has a performance of "In My Time of Dying" which comes with extra face-meltingness. Which leads me to ask: what will kill piracy?
Havocscope quotes estimates that globally, 20 billion songs were illegally downloaded in 2005. Turns out, that data comes from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry - but let's not worry about whether it's inflated.
|Downloads - tracks and track equivalents (2005, in millions)|
|US, UK, and Japan Legal||Global Illegal||Legal As % of total|
Where is the service that's going to make up that difference in demand and behavior? My 8GB iPod Nano can hold about 2,000 songs- there is no way I could afford to fill it at $0.99 per track. I'm in the target demographic of 18-34 year olds with lots of disposable income and no family to support- if I don't have the money, who does?
So maybe the 20bn global downloads is skewed by heavy use by only a few people. Fine. But it averages out to 3 illegal downloads for every person on the planet last year. And think of how many of those people got iPods this year.
Information wants to be free, they say, and the war on piracy amounts to an arms race between piracy networks/the Dark Net on the one hand, and lawsuits and p2p interdiction efforts on the other hand. There is no clear winner- for every Trace Buster there will be a Trace Buster Buster [imdb].
Piracy will always exist alongside legitimate content.