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Your Views: Are illegal downloads really killing the music industry?

Sales of CDs from major labels are down once again - and now "high-profile" and "major" New Zealand artists are complaining they have been forced to take second jobs because illegal digital downloads kill the music industry.

But are illegal downloads really killing the music industry or is it that the music business is changing with major labels losing their power and music fans buying directly from the artists including paying to download tracks?

Here is the latest selection of your views:

Edlin
I believe the music industry needs to adjust to emerging technologies as they arrive, and of late they seem to be missing the mark. As a young man 30 years ago I swapped cassette tapes of albums I had purchased, with friends who had bought other LPs. Many a time I liked a taped ("pirated") album enough to go out and buy it in order to have the genuine packaging, but mostly to add to my growing collection of what was back then the collectible vinyl format. A mere copied tape could never constitute a valid part of my actual music collection! I would never have turned on to 10CC, Steely Dan or Supertramp, to name but a few, and gradually bought virtually their entire vinyl catalogues, were it not for copied tapes given to me by friends. I have since bought all those LPs again in their digital format and believe I have paid twice (sometimes three times) for the intellectual property the intangible product etched onto those grooves represented--indeed, I have paid twice for several hundred albums in the transition to CD.

Indeed, if the prices being asked for digital music on the web is anything to go by, the packaging and artwork appear to account for very little of the overall price and the record industry has certainly profited twice from my generation buying that intangible product over the years. Even today I trade illegally burned CDs with friends, and just as often I am impressed by a newly discovered artist (Kasabian, Porcupine Tree, and Fiona Apple in recent times) that I will visit an online music store (I haven't been into a retail music shop for years now) and invest in the genuine product. Were it not for this steady stream of illegally traded music (and the occasional curiosity download) my interest in hitherto undiscovered artists would most likely diminish, as no doubt would my regular CD purchases. And here today I have a number of 'burned' disks floating around the house or in the car, though none of them could ever be considered !

Crispin
The recording industry (note: not the music industry, Arctic Monkeys being a case in point) took too long to realise that new digital file technology was here to stay because it was more versatile and convenient. The recording industry wanted to keep on with old CD technology, whose prices they haven't seen fit to drop in 20 years in spite of economies of scale and improvements in pressing technology. So instead of opening online stores where people could
download songs and albums legally, they wasted time trying all sorts of anti-piracy measures (DRM, Sony's rootkits, suing peer-to-peer companies, etc). These anti-piracy measures obviously did nothing to stop piracy (since those people are pretty tech-savvy and can get around these bumps quite easily) but it certainly alienated people buying legitimate CDs who suddenly found they couldn't play them on their PCs, in their cars or through their MP3 players. Once they make it as easy to download individual songs (and not albums of filler tracks) legally as it is to find them 'illegally', and without containing DRM preventing me from playing it on my MP3 player, then my money is theirs. (So I'm now going to be encouraging all my favourite artists to join EMI! EMI, you rock.) But simply blaming 'piracy' for the fact that they don't think albums are selling fast enough according to their predictions is simplistic and foolish. What about the facts that so many albums usually only contain 3-5 quality songs, that their distribution channels are bloated and inefficient with too many middlemen taking a cut resulting in expensive prices, that it is their *anti-piracy* measures that are more at fault because they prevent people from listening to the music where they want to, etc? The recording industry needs to update its business model and move with the technology times, because it is surely not going to wait for them.

Kiel
Its not theft if you weren't going to buy the CD anyway. if you cannot afford to buy a CD, it would not make a different to the profits of the record companies if you download the song or not, because if you did not download the music, you wouldn't be buying the CD anyway! Is it really theft if no one loses anything? Its not like stealing a physical CD, where you are preventing the record store from selling the CD, or anyone else from buying and enjoying the CD. It is like walking into a TV shop, cloning a TV, and walking out. You haven't actually stopped anyone from selling or buying that TV, so how is if theft? Most people who download are the ones who can't afford and wouldn't be buying it anyway. In this case, it is hurting no one, and cannot be called theft.

Michael
The only music genre downloading is likely to kill is pop. Every other genre has a hard core following which, in most cases, people will love enough to pay for, or people will love enough to make and release themselves. Music videos, music tv and reality shows will keep pop afloat, though..

Michael
Anyone heard the song "Download this song" by MC Lars? It sums it all up. Times change; its time for record companies to stop making millions of dollars of profit from artists. Why should Sony get a fat chunk of money from the hard labour of one person?

Peter
Yes, we heard it all before - when I was in my teens 35 years ago we heard that the sale of tapes (and those were the reel to reel days) would bankrupt the record industry (from the record industry).Some serious research proved that in fact the people taping from friends, from the radio etc were also the people buying & collecting the most records and prerecorded tapes. Not the other way round.
I had not bought music for decades when I read an article by Russell Brown about Napster. Holding him in high regard, I decided to try and install that software. I subsequently downloaded a few songs, this rekindled my interest in music and I started buying CDs, to replace some of my defunct vinyl. Since the RIAA has shut down Napster, I have stopped buying music CDs, since Napster was my inspiration to buy -- this was reinforced by the Sony rootkit ambush - in fact this household has now a total moratorium on any Sony products whatsoever. The record industry are parasites. When they changed media from vinyl to CDs they didn't lower the prices as they should have, since CDs are cheaper to make: they jacked the prices up. They prey on the artists by paying them a pittance, they charge overinflated prices, and they yell for legal protection of that status quo. Ptui. I respect copyright and I buy my books new, I buy my software and I own media for the music I listen to.I don't own media for the songs I hear on the radio, and Napster gave me the opportunity to see if I liked a certain new artist or a certain album. Then I might look to buy it, or wipe what I didn't like (why keep it?) The record industry is most likely shooting themselves in the foot with their current obsession. If they didn't charge exorbitant prices, and if they allowed people to freely trade stimulating 'samples' they might find their business picking up very well indeed. They are run by a cabal of fools, in my opinion. If they go down: good riddance to bad rubbish - somebody will come and step in their shoes. Young and old people like to listen to music.

Wellington
No, I don't do illegal music. Never enjoyed and now I prefer paying for them using iTunes.

Russell
The way I see it, the music industry has failed to change with the times. They're still flogging heavily copy-protected (which can easily be beaten by a moderately skilled listener) CDs at $30 to teens whose weekly income isn't much more. I'd be perfectly happy to buy from Itunes if they would start offering store-bought credit (like Rip-It) instead of insisting everyone use a credit card. They have this in other countries, why not here? So you have three choices: music at around $30 per album from the local store, music at around $18 per album from Itunes that has to be purchased with a credit card most teens don't have, or get it quick and free without hassle from the likes of Limewire. The record labels need to stop making futile attempts to put its listeners on a leash with copy-protection and legislation and actually give its listeners some viable alternatives.

Raist
No! The music industry sucks it all up.
Besides bands and performers could make up for lost album sales by increasing ticket prices, This is the hallmark of any good performer anyway the ability to deliver live.

James Nimmo
Oh, and continuing what I previously sent in, the article linked with this discussion is misleading because it is obvious that CD sales will be down - people are buying it online now instead! Bic Runga - Birds was in the iTunes NZ Top 10 for a long time, which is where I brought it from.

Erin
When have NZ music artists ever had a lot of money to throw around? This country is crap for supporting its homegrown music, and that is why so many leave to go overseas. Perhaps if the multi-million (probably billion) dollar moguls hoarding their money decided to part with some of it to help bands/musicians to become successful overseas as well, this wouldnt be happening. Not to mention maybe make CDs cheaper, so that people would be more inclined to buy them. The price of CDs has not changed in many years (maybe like 10 or so) and that is crap considering how far technology has come. Unfortunately, as usual in society, its the poor people at the front line (i.e. the musicians) that lose out, not the smug big wigs in their flash offices, I am sure they are still getting their paychecks.

Sam Walls
Let's be honest here. We all know that illegal downloads are killing the music industry, and we all know that our favourite artists are getting paid less and less for their talents (or lack thereof, if one looks at most 21st century music). Truth is, we really don't care. We may pretend to, or hold some kind of idealistic moral opinion, but if given the choice between paying US$35 for an album, and downloading it for free, only the most passionate humanitarians would choose to pay the money.

James Nimmo
No! The record labels are the ones killing the music industry! They urgently need to innovate, because these days with the internet bands could do much better off without a record company. Most of the industry is still trying to distribute music the same way they did on vinyl, but on CDs instead. When you go to the movies, there are child prices and adult prices; the music industry need to keep this in mind, because how are youth supposed to afford CDs? iTunes is great, but again, not near as accessible as it should be to young people (because you have to have a credit card). It is time for the record labels to get creative and do some thinking now, rather than relying on their previous knowledge. Personally, now iTunes is in New Zealand, it makes it so easy to get music legally that I generally do that. I fully understand however why many people my age don't, because it is simply still too expensive.

Wayne
How is downloading off the internet any different from taping a song from the radio, or a music video from TV? Which are both also free. Are they going to make laws against that too?

Scott Joseph
It is theft, pure and simple. The only situation I can think of which might be different is the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which used to have a statement following certain episodes saying "keep circulating the tapes," but now that it is available through Rhino records, that probably does not apply. Otherwise, thou shalt not steal...but wait, this is a secular society, isn't it? Oh, well, if it gets bad enough, they'll simply disallow all downloads from anyone in NZ. Serve you thieving whatsis right. You have no "right" to another man's labour.

Neil
Same applies to the movie industry. They are crying out that illegal downloads are killing the industry. One only has to wander in to Village or Hoyts and look at the ridiculous prices of the tickets (US$15 - even more if booked online). I used to watch movies on the big screen once or twice a week when tickets were still US$10 (that's at least 50 movies a year). Now, it's down to about once every 2-3 months (about 5 a year), so I either wait for the DVD or download it.

Robert Hutchinson
There was a moment 5 or 6 years ago when the record labels could have established a culture of paying for downloads (be it subscription, per track). They did not take that opportunity. Instead they acted with fear and attempted to thwart consumers getting music the way they wanted it. I think illegal downloading is having a massive impact on music label profitability but considering a label will drop an act that isn't selling well it seems ironic we should feel sorry for them when their customers are dropping them for not offering product in the formats we want. It's survival of the fittest and the record labels appear to have failed at a crucial evolutionary point.

Adiren
The music industry is pretty small in NZ, and it's obvious from the majority of comments here, that they aren't being made by people in the industry or with any real clue what is going on. It's easy for a pimply generation-Y to say we should get free music.
Sure record companies creamed it for a while, but the fact is now, that plummeting sales of CDs will only mean one thing. After the fall-out and maybe the record companies are gone, there won't be much money to make records any more. Already we know here that album budgets have been slashed, more and more bands are funding their own albums, but they still rely on the record companies for distribution and marketing.
In the end it's the musicians, the industry workers (engineers, producers etc) - the people that put an enormous amount of time and effort and money and heartache into production of music that are taking the hit. So we will be listening to cheap low-quality new CDs, or just getting out the Led Zep.

Lyn
Get with the times, dinosaur. I hear it, I like it, I buy it, I play it. Downloading is cheaper and more convenient (hence the success of it in general) however I buy the music I like. I did go to Bics Concert, and brought her CDs, even her third one. I have also stood in a music shop for hours listening to every song on a CD before deciding if it was worth it. However once I have a legal copy, I expect to be able to listen to it any time, any where, any way, as is my right to get what I pay for (especially at such exorbitant prices)! Because of DRM and the Sony Root kit debacle I will not put my music CDs anywhere near my PC to play. It is irrelevant how I listen to the music I have paid for, but I play it on my PC, my MP3 player, my phone, my DVD player, my Mediagate, my TV, my Xbox, my laptop and any other hardware that is convenient for me. And if record companies got their act together and produced decent music at a decent price, packaged without booby-traps, I would buy more than the one CD every quarter that I am currently averaging.

Andy
The distribution model has changed. That is the only reason why major labels are losing money. They are analogous to the buggy-whip manufacturers during the advent of the automobile: they are now a quaint idea with little modern relevance. It used to be you needed a major label to put your music in front of a large audience: it cost money to cut records, even more to promote the tunes, and even more to distribute them. That was true for almost 100 years. Ain't true now: the distribution model is the internet, and it is cheap-as-chips to produce credible music and market it yourself: no major label required. Videos too, can be do-it-yourself, with distribution cheap -- no major label need be involved, either. What used to be the value chain from songwriter-to-artist-to-producer-to-label-to-wholesaler-to-store-to-fan has been compressed: there is no longer any room for Sony and the rest of them: they no longer add any value. They will continue to defend their margins using arcane copyright laws that were drafted hundreds of years ago: they too no longer have much relevance as they are observed as an exception rather than as a rule, and cost a fortune to enforce.
Now, there is little reason for anything to be between songwriter-artist-fan: the rest is just deadwood, best chopped out. Technology has allowed this rationalization to happen. Too bad for the shareholders of the big-label buggy-whip manufacturers, but the free ride is now over. The distribution model has changed. That is the only reason why major labels are losing money. They are analogous to the buggy-whip manufacturers during the advent of the automobile: they are now a quaint idea with little modern relevance. It used to be you needed a major label to put your music in front of a large audience: it cost money to cut records, even more to promote the tunes, and even more to distribute them. That was true for almost 100 years. Ain't true now: the distribution model is the internet, and it is cheap-as-chips to produce credible music and market it yourself: no major label required. Videos too, can be do-it-yourself, with distribution cheap -- no major label need be involved, either.
What used to be the Value Chain from songwriter-to-artist-to-producer-to-label-to-wholesaler-to-store-to-fan has been compressed: there is no longer any room for Sony and the rest of them: they no longer add any value. They will continue to defend their margins using arcane copyright laws that were drafted hundreds of years ago: they too no longer have much relevance as they are observed as an exception rather than as a rule, and cost a fortune to enforce. Now, there is little reason for anything to be between songwriter-artist-fan: the rest is just deadwood, best chopped out. Technology has allowed this rationalization to happen. Too bad for the shareholders of the big-label buggy-whip manufacturers, but the free ride is now over.

Bing
Personally I see no value in a CD, if an artist releases a CD/ DVD or a DVD-audio disc or a dualdisc then I'll buy it but CDs alone are worthless.In regards to Itunes and most of the legal download services they offer low bit rate mp3 or AAC files typically compressed at 128kbps, yet I can find the same thing from a bit torrent site or by simply typing the name of the artist and album in Google followed by the word "Torrent" for free and encoded at 320 kbps so they actually sound close to the CD.
Oh yeah and Bis Runga not selling any where near as many copies of her new album as the previous is maybe it's simply because it blows. NZ music doesn't break out of New Zealand because it's just not that good is it I mean seriously if it was it would have a market outside here, the music is weak and the artists are all on grants ala Greg Johnston ! Obviously the grants aren't enough so they're whinging we're downloading their trite for free, but the same music sits in bargain bins because it stinks.
So in reference to NZ artists losing to illegal downloads well that's just BS because A) I Can't find any Kiwi songs or bands for illegal download on all the popular peer to peer sites and if there are there's all of around 3 people downloading that file. An artist makes around 12 per cent off a CD so that's around 12 bucks lost. Bic Runga surely the handouts from NZ on air cover that. NZ Artists would be wise to upset the Napster generation just look at the backlash it had on Metalica. The only good artist/under-rated artist we have in NZ currently is Dave Dobbyn - he's our Bob Dylan the guys a legend and deserves worldwide acclaim sadly it'll probably happen when he's dead - buy his albums they're worth it.

Chris Familton
People need to keep some perspective here. Balance it out. If you are curious about an artist by all means download something for free, check it out and if you don't like it delete it. If you do like it buy the track or album. Either get it online via itunes, emusic etc or even order the CD or vinyl direct from the artist or record company. People get so caught up in the cost of something and argue over the price of a song. For god's sake you are paying half the price of a chocolate bar for a piece of art someone has created and that you can use forever!
And people, buy albums, not just one track. Musicians don't necessarily try to write singles. An album creates a story. True music fans will nearly always buy albums unlike those who get brainwashed with advertising, music charts and bad radio. As someone famous once said "music should never be harmless".

David Mason
When will someone in the media challenge this guy to name just one who is out of work?

Simon
Probably less than the ability to burn a CD on a computer and share that around.

Mark
I spend about $40 per week buying music.None of it is CD purchases. I see bands playing live in small venues all around Auckland. The recording industry is trying to create F.U.D (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about downloadable music because its easy to create a CD at 80 cents for the disc and about a dollar for the packaging etc with a profit margin of about $20.00 but it costs real money to put a band on tour in front of real people. They have a need for people to buy CDs so they can maximise the return to their shareholders . If you want people to buy music CDs offer them an incentive, for example CD purchasers get discounted concert tickets. That way the music industry get their high profit CD sales and the consumers don't feel they've been ripped off by the big corporations.

Diony
Silver screen, VHS, Betamax, Theather, 45's, LP's, CD VCDs, Radio free air TV These are history (in a positive note) of our entertainment industry. technology breeds new medium. Pirating others work is wrong period. Record labels are to blame for sticking to old technology. Look at DVD, they have made an acceptable digital protection, why because of the need. They should have embraced new channels of distribution early to gain the income for the artists. P2P are forced to execute system coz Labels don't want to support new technology. Apple showed it can make money. Labels dont want to invest to new technologies. Is claiming copyright infringements more profitable? (just asking?) Let the market lead the medium! help the artists!

Martin
Downloading music you haven't purchased is the same as photocopying pages from a library book or copying from a website, book content you didn't purchase - why aren't the book writers complaining? We have been getting overcharged for CDs that cost a lot less than $5.00 each to create, produce and ship - we pay $25.00.....stop being so greedy! Who do they think they are? Beyonce? The Beatles? So they have to seek second jobs....joins the rest of us trying to make a living!!

Nigel
So many artists produce a fantastic debut album and then their second album is terrible and the industry blames illegal downloads. Why pay excessive prices for an album you are just going to end up disappointed in.

Ethan
Who is to say that if someone couldn't download a song they would buy the CD? A lot of people that are into the music scene cannot afford the prices put on CDs these days.

MT
Yet another sob story played out at select committee, full of startling revelations addressed not so much to the MPs but to the legion of bored journalists sitting in the back row - trust me, I've done it myself for cash-crisis NGOs. The real story, in my opinion, is that DRM and Campbell Smith's tragic tales is more about the industry protecting itself against the new tide of independent musical professionalism. Basically, record companies and their tasteless marketing mechanisms and management organisations similar to Smith's can no longer take their cut. So they'll bring up these sob stories to turn public opinion. Dudes, if you don't want your artists working day jobs, take less of a cut!DRM simply encourages people to seek out non-pay downloads - get rid of it and let the business of music flourish. People will (in most cases) support artists that they like, and will be exposed to so much more than the top 40 pap that is spoon fed by record companies through MOR radio. The future is in independent operators. Musicians, through the internet and with the help of independant distributors (Rhythmethod and Border, for example), managers and publicists who operate closely with the artists themselves, can get their own music out there by themselves and on their own terms. Digital music opens the door to direct-to-consumer sale from musician to listener.And that's what the record industry are so damn afraid of!

Neil
I am surprised that NZ artists claim that downloading is hurting their sales. I am an avid downloader of all sorts of data including music and have just checked (for example) Bic and realise now why I don't download NZ music. The P2P system I use which can usually provide 10s of thousands titles has only a handful of Bic's music. I cant see how such a small market as NZ music can even feature as a download problem for the industry-- it is just too hard. I see a measure of media hype bordering on paranoia here.

Producer
An addendum to my previous post, as a "full time" professional in the "NZ Music Industry"- Campbell I wonder whether you've read these responses to the article you're quoted in... on the whole it makes for sorry reading. Can I clarify for most contributors here that the downloads referred to are primarily of international catalogue, not NZ artists, as it is revenue from all sales that allows the recording industry to reinvest in NZ music- and that can be artists of all descriptions and genres, from the mainstream on Campbell's roster through to the ones you might like.

Liviu Z
I do not believe that they are starving! Anyway why do you see normal for me to sponsor their expensive lifestyle and buy expensive CDs. Probably they should drop the price of CDs!

Y
After reading some of the threads, I've found that a lot of complaints relate to the ways CDs are priced. I used to work for the music industry. As for my position, I'm actually in the middle because the internet has been used to promote artists. On the other hand, I do feel it is a breach to intellectual property. Making an album costs a lot of time and effort. It often requires a lot of late-night sleep or no-night sleep. People who get to release an album are very devoted in taking part in the music industry. It's practically impossible for them to take a daytime job. A CD is just like any product. You don't pay for the record itself. You pay for the price to make a CD, the studio, office rent, the people who promote it, the HR who finds people to promote it, the accountant, the lawyer...and the list goes on. Your regular $34.95 does least to pay for all the publicity required. The music industry have always relied on quantity. Many have also accused producers of being filthy-rich-publicity-sluts but the thing is....some of them aren't even paid (unless you're Britney's producer...you do need to sell a big quantity to be rich). And if reducing the price was the solution, the industry would've responded 10 years ago! I do suggest the music industry to with mobile service providers. 'Cause I've heard about it in other countries and it's starting to work.

Ben Tombs
Great chance for musicians to up their live music skills, which are often neglected. A lot, but not all of musicians, when they strike it big, earn way too much anyway. All we're here for is to live gently on the planet.About time they figured out their own carbon footprint...

Jeremy
You have to remember that until recently it wasn't possible to buy music online via iTunes in New Zealand, so there was no easy way to purchase and pay for music for an iPod. The music artists may be going through a cold patch where they aren't receiving royalties from music sales, this is the unfortunate reality of making a transition to a new music format - downloadable - and away from the old way - purchasing CDs. Ultimately CDs will go the same way as photographic film, something to tell your grand children about, who will probably think you are crazy and lost your marbles, why would anyone put a piece of plastic into a hardware box to listen to music.
Move with the times, or be left behind.

Meredith
As a musician I would say absolutely not. It is giving musicians more power to facilitate in the selling and marketing of their music and the power out of the hands of conglomerate record companies who care little for quality of music, rather the most artistic and interesting are pushed out for something more formulaic. Profit margins rule here, and still, despite downloading, the public rule as well. If people like it and want to buy it, they will. And yet, whether people download or not, fans will pay to see an act live, regardless of the exorbitant cost, and that will not change. The latest U2 and the Rolling Stones tours show this, and even Bics latest vineyard tour exemplify that if people are interested and exposed to the music, they will support the artist by paying ridiculous prices to see them.Musicians and record companies need to be creative and not rely on old outmoded ways of doing things. Still, the shock and horror that musicians would have to get a "day job" is absolutely ridiculous. Most musicians in most cities and countries around the world view having a day job as "normal" although perhap not desirable. It will continue to operate in this way in any society that values money over art, or until governments provide artistic stipends for those contributing to society via art, music etc.
Lastly, Bic and her companions need to seriously rethink their management. Obviously as displayed here through reader commments, Bic is out of touch with her fans, and having a manager who just gripes about your situation instead of creatively bending with the times will most likely continue to contribute to her dwindling success.

Phil Sinclair
It's always rather amusing when NZ's neo-capitalists who are steadfastly opposed to regulation suddenly discover a self serving interest in regulation. These proposed regulations are no exception in that instead of protecting the individual from the might of a corporation they seek to oppress individual's to benefit a corporation. It's bad enough that publisher expect to be paid for each medium that a person utilises an artists product on which shows just how far the idea of copyright has been peverted to suit the publisher. That is royalties are meant to go to an artist to pay them for a song so that once that payment has been made, the artist should allow the customer to listen to that song on any medium the customer chooses. If you've paid for the right to listen to a song on a CD why should you have to make another payment for the mp3 version? In fact it is that sort of unethical and insupportable greed which persuades people to ignore the false construct called intellectual property. Music industry heads draw a long bow when they attempt to blame poor sales of their product on downloaders.The drop off in music sales began before downloading took hold. Popular culture has moved into a plethora of other media, vid games and the net are a couple.Napster's biggest year of business coincided with an increase in CD sales as the discovery of another use for that music inspired a temporary resurgence of music sales. As far as Ms Runga's decline in sales goes I suggest that follows the typical 'bell curve' of any NZ musician, in that after sales peak they drop off as the audience moves on to another artist leaving the fans behind.I do hope the Govt isn't going to listen to any of this claptrap; it's bad enough that the net lags so far behind the rest of the world without having draconian regulations foisted upon us.

Colin England
Advice to Mu

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