Monday, April 20, 2009

Because there's no such thing as Internet Ninjas

Piracy on the internet is really rampant. I'm sure everyone is saying 'no, really?' but the rampant growth of internet piracy is important for today's topic.

I'm not going to talk about something boring like whether software piracy is a moral thing or not. I'm sure you have your own views on it. I'm pretty sure that if you guessed, you could figure mine out too.

What I am going to talk about is the impact of piracy on content providers.

The bottom line on content such as music or literature or software is that someone has to pay for it to get produced. It costs money to put CDs or books on the shelves, and it takes time to write books or make music. If they don't make a return on that time and money, they come out at a loss. So if we don't buy their stuff, they lose money, right?

This is seemingly not actually the case for many content providers though. Blame Society Productions has nearly all of their content available for free, either on their website or on youtube. It's pretty hard to pirate it when it is already free! However, Blame Society also sells DVDs and merchandise, and they make fairly good money even though the DVDs contain material you can already get on the internet for free without needing to pirate.

Other small-time content providers are also following this trend - all of their music, videos, or whatever can be seen online for free. They sell CDs and MP3s of their stuff and they still make enough money to live off of, and continue making music. Many of them do exceptionally well using this model.

Contrast this with Adobe Photoshop. PS is a very detailed and expensive program, but the development time for PS is laudable compared to the development time for most video games. Still, PS costs way too much money - far out of the reach of most internet artists. Although there are cheaper alternatives, PS is frequently pirated because the price is so out of reach for normal people that it's clear Adobe does not actually care about their product being pirated.

From my observations, I can see that the main people who are 'hurt' by piracy are bloated corporations who abused the existing marketing system and are too invested in the current marketing system to change. Big name bands have a lot to be hurt by piracy, because they already have all the publicity they need (who hasn't heard of Metallica?) and any money lost dips into their ability to live completely extravagant lifestyles.

We may lose a lot from big name companies not being able to make products, though. For instance, if movie companies could not put millions of dollars into movie production and make money, the overall quality of product may drop. Obviously this means nothing for the music industry or for books, but games and movies could drop in quality if we don't pay for their products.

Somehow, I don't see that happening though. The console gaming market is going very strong, and even PC game sales are steadily rising even in our garbage economy. Movies are also having strong increases in profit so I doubt that movie quality is going to drop anytime soon.

I think it's worth noting that a lot of content providers that aren't free, like gootecks, advocates free sharing of his content if you buy it. He's just looking to get by and he wants his information to be heard. I think, again, that is pretty awesome.

I don't think piracy or the internet are going to ruin the economy in any way. I do think it will continue to do damage to big music artists, but really, that market is so lacking in real talent right now that it deserves to be flipped. And honestly, there is not a lot we can do about it either way.

Again, this is nothing about the morality of piracy. You can draw your own conclusions on that.


  1. I always think it's hilarious when people try to tell me that piracy is killing the music industry. Every time, it's someone harping about something like, "if nobody can earn money off of making music, nobody will make music anymore!" which is, of course, blatantly untrue.
    I can't tell you how many artists put most, or all of their music on their own website, allowing visitors to download it entirely for free. Even some of the bigger-name artists have started to do it.

    There are definitely parts of the music industry that could be killed by internet availability, though, but I happen to think that they are the parts of the industry that outright need to go. Record labels and artists who make music because they want to "get rich or die trying" (yes, I totally just dissed on 50 Cent) could totally be done away with, and the only consumers who would suffer for it are the ones who buy into trends, fads, and advertising.

    As long as people have passion for creating the things that they love, piracy will never kill an industry or an art form on its own. I think that an industry has to have something fundamentally wrong with it, if it's going to be killed by something as simple as a few million people that are file-sharing.

  2. More than a few million people file share, though.

    Anyway, 50 Cent got rich so it's clearly an effective way to make money even in a world of file sharing. He creates a product and people like it, so they pay to buy his CDs or go to his shows. They pay to buy his merchandise. Sure, file sharing probably dips into his income, but enough people buy his stuff that he's living large.

    The big thing file sharing does, imo, is weed out stuff that sucks. When the market is fueled entirely by digital downloads eg. iTunes and such (and it will happen) the good artists will simmer to the top and the low tier trash will sink.

    Media corporations have a lot to lose too. Recording an album is getting easier and cheaper, and it costs practically zero to put stuff on the internet for sale for a 50 cents a track or something. Where do the record companies go?

    I hope they disappear - artists don't need people telling them how to make art to be more popular.