Why Streaming Won’t Kill Downloading.
By Tommy Funderburk, Muzit Founder & Chairman
Music labels, Internet radio and stream companies alike have painted continuous access to licensed music as the solution to curbing peer to peer downloading activity. Over the past few years, these services have grown in listenership, but the practice of peer to peer downloading has not stopped.
Recently data, published by MusicWatch, shows 57 million Americans alone are using a wide variety of channels, including BitTorrent, storage lockers, illegal streaming apps, ‘stream ripping’, P2P, and even hard drive swaps.
“Acquisition of unlicensed music from unsanctioned sources has not gone away,” MusicWatch chief researcher Russ Crupnick affirmed to Digital Music News. “[‘Piracy is dying’] is an entirely incorrect proclamation.”
When it comes to consuming music, many people still want it immediately at their fingertips and, of all the options, torrenting is the choice of millions. This desire to still hold a copy of a song keeps the world of P2P downloading, and other sharing sources, very active and growing. But the industry has never understood P2P users and still fails to see the P2P community for who they are – fans; and who they can be potential customers.
In contrast, Muzit chooses to regard those who use P2P always as fans, not foes. To help artists embrace this online community, Muzit created the TRACE platform, which enables artists to identify, engage and monetize global file sharing. Muzit is currently connecting to over 128,000 torrents and has identified more than 257 million (and growing daily) distinct IP addresses which copyright owners can market to. We see people downloading new releases and trending artists, as well as older catalogues and materials, too.
To put it simply, Muzit’s platform of big data shows that people still actively download music all over the world, from the US to New Zealand. More remarkably, during a time when you can stream any type of song you can think of, P2P downloading is actually growing. Since December of 2015, we have seen, on average, a 10% increase each month in torrenting growth, with around 30% of that coming from the United States.
Wait, haven’t labels curbed file-sharing? And aren’t they still trying?
Yes, labels, publishers and individual copyright owners have spent hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to curb unauthorized file sharing through legislation, litigation. Even going so far as to sending viruses to fan’s computers! But sending ‘anti-piracy’ educational messages or using fear tactics on nearly two decades of P2P users has not worked. Furthermore, attempting to sue every ISP into submission only creates adversarial relationships and wastes valuable monetization opportunities. Why not, recognize (as Muzit does) this other world for what it can be: a completely new distribution channel?
As Mashable’s Armad Valdes put it, “The problem isn’t a lack of access to our favorite music, it’s that you have to find it in so many different places. If I want to listen to 1989, I have to go to Apple Music. If I want to listen to The Life of Pablo, I have to subscribe to Tidal. And while this creates a healthy market of competition, it creates a huge hassle for me when I’m trying to make a unified playlist of my favorite songs. And so, when faced with any adversity to obtaining something it wants, the Internet always finds a way.”
With everything available, for practically free, why would people still want to “own” music?
“It’s important to note that CDs are not just round objects that contain music. They stand for the concept that music is own-able, physical and shareable,” wrote Ted Rull in NewDomian last year. “…Despite the pressure to conform, many consumers, myself included, prefer to own rather than rent their music.”
Meanwhile, Will Dunn the editor at Stuff expounded “Spotify might offer 20 million songs, but 120GB of music is more than most people need, and your iTunes library doesn’t carry data charges or a subscription fee.”
While fans love discovering new music on the fly, they also love listening to their favorite artists whenever and wherever they want to. This is especially true when cellular service or wi-fi is not available. Even traveling out of your home country can cut you off off your favorite streaming service, due to licensing restrictions.
Then, there is the more tangible experience of holding the digital file of a song. You can instantly play it, or add it to a variety of playlists. Music streamed on Spotify or Pandora often fails to grab your attention enough to remember the artist or lyrics.
“Unless a song really stands out, you’re not going to pay close attention. The odds that a tune will grab you enough to learn the lyrics, much less change your life, are radically diminished by the combination of abundance and randomness inherent to post-compact disc formats,” adds Rull.
Meanwhile, when an artist passes away, such as the case with David Bowie and Glenn Frey, fans suddenly want to listen and relisten to everything the artist created. Downloading a full discography via P2P platforms is often the easiest and most straightforward way to make sure you gain access to the artist’s complete work.
Before David Bowie passed away, his downloading traffic on the Muzit platform was relativley flat. However, the week of and weeks following his death, his download traffic jumped 396%! By the end of the January, Bowie’s download traffic was still over 200% higher than previous months.
Similar spikes were seen the week Glenn Frey guitarist for the Eagles passed. The day after Frey’s death the bands downloads spiked over 92% and remained steady for the rest of the month.
Downloading creates a connection with artist and fans.
No matter how artists are discovering music or consuming work, fans are still the lifeblood of any music career. Instead of viewing fans who torrent music as “pirates” the music industry would be wise to see them for what they are — music fans.
There is a healthy and growing community of music fans sharing and consuming music on torrenting sites that has remained an unexplored frontier for musicians and their families. As the music industry evolves into new revenue streams and methods of music discovery, there’s still one element that’s remained consistent since the beginning: the artist – fan relationship.
With the Muzit platform, artists and managers can trace where their downloads are coming from, and then directly communicate with the fans who are downloading their work. Artists can offer these fans discounts, tickets and an array of other promotional items.
This is distinctly different from other services, who track torrenting fans and threaten them with lawsuits. We believe an artist should never sue their fans, but instead, market to these fans who are downloading and engaging with their music. By embracing these untapped and very active fans, artists can build lasting relationships that convert downloaders into paying customers. Using the Muzit platform they can email these fans discounts to concerts, merchandise, and give them opportunities to enter contests. They can offer their existing networks and fan clubs these opportunities as well, to ensure all fans get a chance to join the party.
Fifteen years after Napster, it’s clear that the sharing of music, be it on torrent sites or other options, is not going away. It’s time for the music industry as a whole to embrace file sharing as an opportunity to connect with their continually evolving fan bases. In this way, artists can generate new revenue streams, and build more sustainable and lasting careers and fans can gain create access to the musicians and music they love.
Tommy Funderburk is the founder and CEO of the P2P monetization company, Muzit. Muzit believes in “fans not foes” and breeds unique marketing relationships with fans of all kinds. You can learn more at: http://muzit.com