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Why are people still bothering to steal music? Let’s investigate.

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

Back in the old days of overpriced CDs and peer-to-peer file-sharing, the record industry was brought to its knees by people stealing music. Steve Jobs offered some respite from the carnage by strong-arming the labels in accepting his terms with the iTunes music store, but the bleeding continued through programs like Kazaa, Limewire, Bearshare, Audio-Galaxy and dozens of others.

Music sales dropped from a peak of nearly US$22 billion in 2000 to less than half that 10 years later largely due to piracy.

Streaming was supposed to stop all that. By making virtually every song ever recorded available online for a low monthly fee (or, in the case of Spotify’s freemium tier, nothing at all), the thinking was piracy could be eliminated. Today, the streaming services give users access to a library of 45 million songs and counting.

You’d think that with the ubiquity of streaming services that it would be mission accomplished. No viruses. Proper metadata. Access to billions of playlists. The ability to make your own playlists. Constant recommendations of new material. High-quality audio. And if you’re a paying subscriber, you can listen to all your music offline. All you have to do is keep paying your monthly subscription fee — usually $9.99, the price of a couple of fancy coffees — and you have the whole of human musical history at your fingertips anywhere, anytime.

But this miracle of convenience isn’t good enough for some people.

Keep reading.

Forbes also has a look at the situation here.

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 38303 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

One thought on “Why are people still bothering to steal music? Let’s investigate.

  • It’s interesting to see the Forbes article suggest that paid subscriptions won’t really take off until the price comes down to the $5 range. I’ve been a paying subscriber to Google’s streaming platform for years, and I was a paying subscriber to Sony’s “Music Unlimited” platform before that. I was and still am amazed that I can get access to such a vast library of music for $10/month. I feel so guilty about paying so little that I often wish there was a way I could just give artists money (my apartment has no space to store physical media and I own enough t-shirts, so buying the merchandise isn’t always an attractive solution). The fact that some people still think $10 is too expensive boggles my mind.


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