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Music Piracy declining while Spotify rises, thanks to social networking

Spotify, the Swedish-founded music streaming service that was recently launched in the United States, had already been providing tremendous results in its nation that founded it. TorrentFreak, an online blog which reports all news relating to file sharing over the internet, reports that since 2009, the amount of people in Sweden who illegally download music has dropped by 25% (here). In Sweden, Spotify was launched in October of 2008, and there is no doubt that this decline in pirating music relates to the availability of Spotify.

That’s because of it is much more convenient, safe, high-quality, quick, and space-saving than illegally downloading music onto your hard drive. Think about it- instead of searching dangerous illegal file sharing websites, one could easily look up a song in a matter of seconds using Spotify, listen to this track as much as they want, add it to their playlist, send it to others, and not have to worry about obtaining viruses from shady websites, downloading poorly recorded mp3’s, and having to store this file on their hard drive. These are all great aspects of Spotify that is leading to the decline in illegally downloaded music not just in Sweden, but also wherever Spotify is available, including the United States.

In addition to all of these above factors, driving along the progression of Spotify is the fact that it is it is now fully integrated with Facebook (in fact, new users must have a Facebook account). This compatibility with Facebook allows Spotify listeners to share their music on Facebook for all of their friends to see. In addition, users have the ability to send out their very own self-created playlists from Spotify (or just simply single tracks) to any friend, allowing the other user to access all of this in their own Spotify account. Therefore, because of Facebook and its vast and worldwide social network, many people who currently do not have Spotify will be driven to use Spotify because of this connection.

Now, Spotify does not allow users to do everything for free. There are premium Spotify accounts reserved for users who want to be able to listen to unlimited music and who also want the music on their iPhones or other mobile phones. However, some people continue to buy into this service rather than turning to illegal downloading websites, but why?

At The Daily Beast Innovators Summit in New Orleans last year, Sean Parker, Napster co-creator and investor in Spotify, spoke his mind about the intent of Spotify (can be seen here on Youtube). He states that “people learn about music through their friends and then they’re going to the piracy networks and their downloading it or they’re trading it… on private networks”. He continues to state that most people are willing to pay for the convenience and accessibility that Spotify offers. There needed to be a model to replace these private file sharing networks with a safer, more suitable public network. The model that was determined to be a solution to this problem, according to Parker, was to allow unlimited music within a locked environment, not to be downloaded, not even able to be moved to a mobile device (at least not without paying for it). Then, the link to Facebook kicks in. People are now hearing about music their friends are listening to on Spotify in their Newsfeeds, and they download Spotify to see what it is all about. They end up with all this music that they are not used to having, as well as any playlists or tracks that their friends on Facebook send to them. First, they realize that this is much better than downloading music illegally for many of reasons described above, and then they are stuck in a situation where they have to pay in order to get this music to their mobile phones or elsewhere (Mr. Parker puts is much more delicately in the video). Some people would pay for the convenience, some wouldn’t, but most would continue at least using the free version of Spotify rather than resorting to musical piracy, thanks to social networking. That is, as long as the free version of Spotify continues to be the same in the future, which will depend on the success of Spotify and how many users prefer the Premium accounts. Therefore, the duo of Spotify and Facebook wins over the private file sharing networks.

Finally, this can also be related to what was learned in class. In terms of a graph, if one defines nodes as Facebook users, one can now define an edge as Facebook users who share tracks/playlists through Spotify. This network, just as the friendship graph of Facebook did when it was first formed, will continue to create more and more edges, as triadic closure principles will develop. If two of my friends are listening to and sharing the same music through Spotify, I am bound to like this music as well, and therefore will want them to send me their music and listen to it myself. There is no need for illegal downloading in this model, and this is what had made Spotify such a success- its power resulting from being integrated directly in a network that is already huge and powerful: Facebook.

Comments

One Response to “ Music Piracy declining while Spotify rises, thanks to social networking ”

  • Laura

    With regards to music piracy and from an ethical standpoint, I believe an artist has every right to be angry and seek legal action when their recordings are unwillingly sold for profit or bootlegged by a shady record label or download site. It’s the intellectual property of the artist, who typically writes and composes their own songs. Not to mention, the artist has developed their own way of performing a song, which is documented within the recording.

    In 2011, a judge ruled in favor of singer Paul Collins, whose rock group The Beat lost substantial revenue from a series of unauthorized bootleg recordings released by an underground record label. The recordings were unknowingly engineered during The Beat’s tours with The Police, Eddie Money and The Cure. Although the label argued that the recordings were tracked and mixed by an independent investor during the 1970s and 1980s, Collins was unaware of these dealings and was awarded an unspecified amount of damages. Collins was granted permission to digitally re-master and officially release the live recordings. In response to backlash and negative publicity from fans accusing him of being greedy, Collins attempted to make a public statement about piracy. In 2012, Collins made the recordings available to everyone as free MP3 download tracks to fans worldwide.

    Some fans might argue that Metallica was selfish to target Napster for illegally offering their music as MP3s. In all fairness, not everyone victimized by piracy are platinum-selling, wealthy artists in the caliber of Metallica. Paul Collins had just as much right to take legal action, but he turned the negative situation into a positive one by publicly releasing the pirated material as free downloads to his fans. Case in point, not all rock stars are selfish or “only in it for the money.” Musicians have a right to be paid for their intellectual property. People who support music piracy only think about themselves. If a musician isn’t being paid for their work, how are they supposed to continue recording, writing, performing and touring? Musicians aren’t slaves and if they aren’t making enough money to function, then they might choose a different career path that doesn’t involve making music.

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