Music History

I thought that streaming was supposed to stop young people from pirating music. Uh-oh

Twenty-five years ago when Napster and its sort began allowing us to share music online, we did it because:

  • We were tired of a growing number of acts who released CDs with one good song. Want that track? Buy the whole CD for$15 and get a bonus 11 sh*tty tracks.
  • We had no option to buy that single track on its own. CD-singles were being phased out and no one except punk bands were releasing 7-inch singles,
  • Pay fifteen dollars (and often more) for a CD was considered too much. Weren’t prices supposed to come down? They did not.
  • File-sharing gave us access to more music that we could ever afford.

Illegal file-sharing wipe out huge swaths of the recorded music industry. Revenues went into free-fall. Artists lost their deals. And even when Steve Job threw everyone a big lifeline by offering the industry iTunes, music piracy continued.

But then came streaming. Rhapsody was the first modern streaming (est. 2001) but it took until the arrival of Spotify in 2008 before streaming started to become a thing. There were a lot of casualties along the way–Rdio, Mog, Songza, and dozens of others–but streaming is now responsible for somewhere far beyond 75% of all the music consumption.

We now have access to at least 110 million songs in decent-quality resolution (and often better) through our phones. And all at a cost of zero (or something close to it.) So why in the HELL would anyone bother pirated music?

Check out the this research from Statista. Young music fan (i.e. those under 24) seem to have rediscovered stealing music.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38403 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

4 thoughts on “I thought that streaming was supposed to stop young people from pirating music. Uh-oh

  • Long before T.V. or radio existed, the only form of musical home entertainment came from the piano. But to play the piano, you needed sheet music and it was a hot commodity back then…and expensive. So it was not uncommon for a group of women (the main family member that was relegated to playing the piano) to get together for tea and some sheet music piracy. This is very similar to when kids used to get together and make cassette tapes of each other’s records or later on, burn each other’s CDs.

    Piracy has been around for a long time but why do people pirate music in the first place? Simple…money. They see artists living the high life, record execs, and publishers rolling in profits while they are deciding whether to eat or pay rent.

    Streaming is not the deal it appears to be either; not for the the listener or the artist. Streaming companies pay anywhere between .002 to .008 cents per full play. That is $1 for 500 plays. If you stop the song before the end, they get nothing. The consumer pays $12 CDN per month and gets nothing other than the right to listen to poorly encoded music..unless they want to cough up more coins for premium sound.

    As long as there is a severe financial disparity in society, there will be people who will get what they want one way or another., so theft and piracy will never stop.

  • What is this story? Is it an ad for a podcast?

  • …did this article end abruptly with the graph?

    There is a very obvious answer here. Streaming sites are making the same mistake the industry did. Gouge customers and expect complacency in a world that can find workarounds

  • I dumped Spotify half a year ago. Buying the odd CD and purchasing from Bandcamp has been cheaper than staying subscribed. I can’t absorb new albums fast enough.


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