Piracy and the Economics of the Music Industry

The Starving Artist

Ever since the advent of the MP3 format, it has become easy to leak out music recordings.   Piracy came into full blast and the music industry suffered immensely.

Middlemen have actually made a lot of money from piracy .  However, the ones who suffered the most  are the artists who create the music themselves.  One musician revealed that after selling more than a million downloads, he just earned a little less than two thousand pounds.  And he was actually a successful artist compared to his peers in the music industry.

The leaders in the music industry actually have a duty to be purposefully looking out for the music artist.  Music is an art form before it is a business.  Ideally music as an art must be expressed. It just can’t be contained or bottled up until the pricing is right.  But the dearth of income is bound to definitely discourage and prevent people who have the talent from investing their time, honing their skills and giving music their all.  No one wants to be a starving artist if they had a choice.

Talent is inborn, that is true.  But a person’s talent is not necessarily the same as his interests.  Take for example someone talented in Math.  He can, without exerting the least bit of effort, make expanded decimal computations in his head without the aid of calculator or computer.  But it is possible for him to not be interested in Math at all. He is good at it naturally.  But he feels no passion about it. He may be extremely passionate about baseball instead.  And since he is not interested in Math, the talent just lies dormant in him.  Instead, he keeps throwing balls and practicing his baseball bat swing.  He hones his skill in baseball. He could have been a great mathematician, an Albert Einstein or a Johannes Kepler.  But unfortunately, he was not interested in where he was talented at.

The same analogy can be made in music.  A person with a musical talent can become discouraged by the lack of earnings prospects.  As a result, he would lose all interest in honing his skills in music.  Why should he if he sees a musician’s career as a dead end?  As a result of a stagnant music industry, society is going to be deprived of the talent which failed to bloom because of the disincentives.


Technology:  Boon and Bane

Although the music industry has transitioned from vinyls to cassette tapes to CDs, all through that time, the album release was a primary income generator.  These days, however, companies like Apple earn revenues by structuring their marketing strategy in a way where they are selling songs piecemeal.  This has thus placed a big question mark on the value of album production.

There have been so many rapid advances in technology and this has led to a horrifying number of previously investment-worthy products becoming worthless and obsolete.

The music industry is no exception to this phenomenon.  It is still struggling to overcome the market obstacles.  It is trying to adapt.  Trying to find its way through all the changes.  However, at the moment,  piracy still remains a big problem that needs solving.


It is really ironic how current advancements in technology which have the power to bring all known musical works available at the click of a button, and have the power to consolidate the entire body of musical works originating from all parts of the world, since the beginning of time until now,  is actually also killing the music industry because of piracy and a lack of financial benefits to the artists.

How does one arrest the current financial decline in the music industry?

If the income trends continue as they do, we can see the stagnation or at worst the death of the music business.

However, there is one bright spot in the music industry that has shown itself as of late. Streaming services are helping revive the music industry by allowing consumers to have access not only to current releases but to a vast library of musical works.  Streaming services like what we have at Shayarana Music provide the added value of curating the body of musical works to guide the users in navigating and finding the music they will like, based on their taste and whatever other purposes they may have for using a piece of music.

Hopefully, through innovation, the industry can keep on finding ways to use current technological and market developments to hurdle the present problems posed by piracy.  Through collaboration and inventiveness, technology can be used to instead benefit the industry, and that by primarily boosting its revenues.

Let’s give our contribution to the lives of our musical artists. By resisting the temptation to download from piracy sites, we are doing our small part to revive an industry under threat.


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