Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Special Post: Newsnight

Two posts in a day? Something special must be happening, right?

You're not wrong.

(Just) ahead of tonight's Newsnight episode on piracy, find the following resources below.

Here, you will find a link to a BBC article titled 'Music Piracy - who's on the moral high ground?'

Here, you will find MusicWeeks related article 'Is Google killing music?'

The debate echoes the recent proposals by IFPI in the 2012 digital report calling for increased co-operation from Internet service providers. It also comes shortly after revelations that the recent blocking of The Pirate Bay had a limited and short-lived impact. An insightful article on this can be found here.

This important and timely Newsnight programme will be available for UK web-users on BBC I-Player.

Twitter feed now live @musicpiracyblog with updates when there's not a new Batman film coming out

Stage in the game: Why giving away music for free doesn't work for everybody

A recent trend in music piracy literature concerns the 'stage in the game' for artsts. Effectively, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to distribution music anymore.

It's far more complicated.

Indeed Regner, Barria, Pitt and Neville (2009) illustrate that different business models appear to be optimal at different stages of an artists’ career. Furthermore, David (2010) references six case studies, citing different practices for bands starting out in the business, presently superstars and ‘beyond that stage’ (p.154). Additionally, piracy has been shown to affect artists differently (Piolatto and Schuett, 2012; Mortimer, Nosko and Sorensen, 2010).

This finding, in conjunction with the overwhelming volume of ways in which to access digital music makes for a thoroughly complicated machine indeed.

With reference to his successful distribution of Ghosts I-IV and The Slip, Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor states: ‘The steps we’ve taken.. I think, have gotten closer to something that approaches a business model. It doesn’t work for bands that nobody knows yet’ (Ryan, 2009).

So how do new bands go about distributing their music?

For a case study of Nine Inch Nails' innovative distribution methods (which explores this question in some detail) keep your eyes peeled for a paper entitled 'Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails' (Brown, in press). For a case study of Radiohead's innovative distribution methods, consult Harbi, Grolleau and Bekir's (in press) paper, listed below.

A link to David's book on Amazon can be found here.

Twitter feed now live @musicpiracyblog with daily updates.


Brown, S.C. (in press). Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. Empirical Musicology Review.

David, M. (2010). Peer to Peer and the Music Industry. London: Sage.

Harbi, S.E., Grolleau, G. and Bekir, I. (in press). Substituting piracy with a pay-what-you-want option: does it make sense? European Journal of Law and Economics.

Mortimer, J. H., Nosko, C., and Sorensen, A. (2010). Supply Responses to Digital Distribution: Recorded Music and Live Performances (Working Paper No.16507). Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research website:

Piolatto, A. and Schuett, F. (2012). Music piracy: A case of “The Rich Get Rich and the Poorer Get Poorer”. Information Economics and Policy, 24(1), 30-39.

Regner, T., Barria, J.A., Pitt, J. and Neville, B. (2009). An Artist Life-Cycle Model for Digital Media Content: Strategies for the Light Web and the Dark Web. Electronic Commerce Research And Applications, 8, 334-342.

Ryan, K. (2009). Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails [online]. Available from:,32806 [Accessed Feb 12, 2011].

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

What pirates actually SAY

While much research on music piracy has employed survey methodology, there is an alternative approach..

Actually talking to music pirates.

There are very few studies which have adopted a qualitative approach, employing discourse analysis rather than statistical analysis. This probably stems from a combination of a traditional preference for quantitative analysis (itself a likely offshoot of learning Mathematics in School, not Discourse Analysis) and difficulty in securing ethical approval for studies which demand investigation of illegal activity.

Qualitative research has risen in popularity in recent years, with increasingly more sophisticated approaches including Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) helping to minimise the perceived subjectivity of interpreting qualitative data, as compared to quantitative data. In a nutshell, quantitative research learns a little about a lot of participants, where qualitative learns a lot about a far small number of participants.

To hone in on just two qualitative studies, we quickly learn from Holt and Copes (2010) that piracy engagement is a largely considered activity, not impulsive as with much criminal activity. This complements quantitative research which has found piracy engagement to be consistent with the theory of planned behaviour (see d'Astous, Colbert and Montpetit, 2005). The research by Holt and Copes (2010) also shows how through online interaction, pirates learn the norms and values of digital piracy, including how to minimise the risks associated with illegal downloading. On how to spot fake files, one participant comments:

"A good way is just to look at the seeders, I always do that. If a torrent has 10,000+ seeds and the next in the list only has 700+ then it is a 100% fraud, even if the 10,000+ have zero comments and the 700+ have 100+ comments".

Elsewhere, Nutall, Arnold, Carless, Crockford, Finnamore, Frazier and Hill (2011) identified different 'tribes' with unique characteristics. These include: loyalists, experience seekers, preachers, conventionalists, revolutionists and techys. Loyalists, for example were noted as placing their favourite artists on a pedestal, purchasing their albums on blind faith without reviewing them first. Acknowledging an overlap between tribes, the authors also observed key themes including the effect of fan loyalty on attitudes and downloading behaviours. Several participants described the strength of their affiliation to particular artists as encouraging legal sales because they 'owe it' to the them.

The few qualitative studies which have been conducted in this research area have been illuminating, both supporting previous findings and adding new ones.

What do you think about this approach? Do you think future research would do well to pursue a qualitative approach?

Twitter feed online @musicpiracyblog with daily updates.


d’Astous, A., Colbert, F. and Montpetit, D. (2005). Music Piracy on the Web - How Effective Are Anti-Piracy Arguments? Evidence From the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Journal of Consumer Policy, 28, 289-310.

Holt, T.J. and Copes, H. (2010). Transferring Subcultural Knowledge On-Line: Practices and Beliefs of Persistent Digital Pirates. Deviant Behavior, 31(7), 625-654.

Nutall, P., Arnold, S., Carless, L. Crockford, L. Finnamore, K., Frazier, R. and Hill, A. (2011). Understanding music consumption through a tribal lens. Journal of Retail and Consumer Services, 18, 152-159.