back to article Spotify: If musicians don't give us their stuff they get pirated more

A study by economist (and occasional Reg contributor) Will Page sheds new light on the relationship between streaming services and piracy. Artists who withhold from Spotify may suffer from increased piracy, he finds. Since Page works for Spotify, the words of the great prophet M'andee-rice Davies spring to mind - but it's worth …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Mystic Megabyte


    Friends who use Spotify just click on the record "What U hear" button and get a copy of the track anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: D'uh!

      No different than taping of the radio all then years ago.

      1. breakfast

        Re: D'uh!

        Except that there isn't the annoying DJ chatter over the intro/outro so it's much like having the recording in its original form and the artist will have been paid a tiny fraction as much for the playback.

        So different in two significant ways.

    2. kryptonaut

      Re: D'uh!

      Do your friends also eat chocolate bars and hide the wrappers before getting to the supermarket checkout? Are they the sort who will happily let someone buy them a drink but never buy a round themselves?

      Just because you can get away with doing something, doesn't mean you should do it.

      1. Fink-Nottle

        Re: D'uh!

        The report deliberates on how to monetize pirate sites, and whether anti-piracy legislation is profitable. Clearly, the music industry is not concerned with the moral implications of theft as long as it can make a fast buck.

        The music industry is quite prepared to help hide the wrapper, as long as it gets a bite of the chocolate

  2. hitmouse

    Despite musicians (or labels acting on their behalf) soliciting attention via social media, magazine reviews etc, they still don't make their content broadly available for purchase around the world. Even in Europe, it can be months to years (if ever) before an album is legally available for purchase between neighbouring countries.

    As bricks and mortar stores disappear, there's no channel for CD purchases, and there's little difference between the catalogues of the online merchants because of the restrictions put on them by labels still operating in the last century.

    The Oatmeal comic about trying to purchase Game of Thrones applies just as much to music purchases. For indie artists, the _only_ chance most people will get to sample their music is via Soundcloud, Youtube or Spotify, and then potential customers may find that they're not allowed to buy the music.

    1. g e

      Ah but

      is that possibly not more down to their publisher rather than the act itself, except in the cases of peole like Coldplay et al ?

      1. Colin Millar

        Re: Ah but

        It doesn't matter who it is down to - if you refuse to make it available you are going to ncourage people to get it elsewhere.

        Copyright legislation always used to recognise this with use it or lose it provisions. If legislation is going to be looking at penalties for pirates it also needs to make provision that the rights holder is making something reasonably available where "reasonably available" is defined within the current economic and technical reality and not conditions as they applied half a century ago.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Colin Millar

          "Copyright legislation always used to recognise this with use it or lose it provisions."


        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah but

          > Copyright legislation always used to recognise this with use it or lose it provisions.

          Erm, I think you are confusing copyright with trademark protection.

          1. Colin Millar

            Re: Ah but

            I think you are confusing your preconceived notions with an actual knowledge of something.

            It was only in 1988 that they finally killed use it or lose it. All the way from the Licensing Act 1652 to the 1956 act there were provisions whereby performance or publication determined the end of the copyright term. In 1988 this was laughingly reduced to cover only works where the author was unknown. - If you don't believe me take a look a and check out Copyright Act 1956 S2, Copyright Act 1911 S3.

            In fact, in the greatest irony of all the UK govt now actually want to use a corrupted notion of use it or lose it to let the big media companies steal all your stuff (but def not the other way round) in a few easy steps.

            1) Knick your stuff

            2) Throw your copyright assertion in the bin

            3) Assert copyright

            4) Loadsamoney Wonga!! Simples Reeeeeesult!!! (c)

            5) Trebles and massive pensions all round.

  3. Khaptain

    Adventures in the Netherlands

    Just the title of the report gets the mind wondering about what you are about to read. ( don't worry it's SFW)...

    I only perused a 10 or so pages, 26 pages of Spotify, MusicMetrics publicity is not for me .

    What I did retain though was the fact that MusicMetrics did not include YouTube in their analysis which, in my opinion, severly sways the balance. In the last 2 years or so I have never before seen such a large quantity of music available on YT.

    I am not an audiophile, so I don't really care about bitrate or codec quality, what this means is that Youtube is absolutely perfect for me and probably another couple of hundred millions other viewers/listeners.

    I don't need to pirate anything, I don't need to pay Spotify, it's a freetards wet dream.....

    1. Turtle

      Re: Adventures in the Netherlands

      "I am not an audiophile, so I don't really care about bitrate or codec quality, what this means is that Youtube is absolutely perfect for me and probably another couple of hundred millions other viewers/listeners. I don't need to pirate anything, I don't need to pay Spotify, it's a freetards wet dream....."

      Since YouTube receives, literally, hundreds of millions of DMCA takedown notices yearly, and since even Google admits that 97% are legitimate, then, if using YouTube is not, technically, piracy, what then do you call it?

      1. Khaptain

        Re: Adventures in the Netherlands


        I understand what you are getting at but the difference in this case is this it is not me that is doing the Piracy. It's a bit like listening to the radio in the morning, I have no idea if the Radio Station pays for the music it plays, I presume that it does but I honestly do not know. YT is exactly the same, I have no way to know whether the video was payed for, whether it is the artist themselves that put it online, whether it is pirated or not etc etc .. I can only presume that it was put there legally.

        Google ( YT) provide a service , for ( almost) free.. Why should I not use it.

      2. beep54

        Re: Adventures in the Netherlands

        "... if using YouTube is not, technically, piracy, what then do you call it?"

        A part of the Internet.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A third of the Swedes over the age of 15 had downloaded pirate material in 2008, but by 2012 it was just over one in five. They’d got out of the habit. Since unlicensed TV and movie downloading increased during this period - when there were few legal alternatives - it's reasonable to conclude that legal services reduce piracy.

    Or it could be because during that period a number of torrent sites were closed down / blocked off by ISPs. 2 or the 3 in 5 couldn't be bothered to work around it.

  5. Turtle

    Nearly Zero.

    Eliminating piracy by agreeing to be paid the several thousandths of a cent per stream that streaming services offer is not a solution for the simple reason that, in practice, Spotify et al's payout rates are scarcely distinguishable from what piracy pays: i.e. "zero".

    1. g e

      Re: Nearly Zero.

      Aren't those rates set by the record co's though?

      Spotify will pay the least it can as that's good business but it's incumbent on those licensing it to work in the interest of their artists. At least superficially.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nearly Zero.

      payout rates are scarcely distinguishable from what piracy pays: i.e. "zero".

      Given the choice between zero and near zero I know which choice I'd make.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nearly Zero.

        "payout rates are scarcely distinguishable from what piracy pays: i.e. "zero". Given the choice between zero and near zero I know which choice I'd make."

        Because you know what you're worth.

    3. breakfast

      Re: Nearly Zero.

      I would be very interested to see how Spotify plays correlate to real money purchases - I don't even know if this is a thing that could be studied, but I used to use Spotify to try out albums I thought I might enjoy and then if I did like them I'd buy the CD or download to have a real copy.

      I realise that feeling that an artist's skill and creativity should be rewarded with my money makes me atypical, but I suspect that other people may use streaming services in that way too and it would be interesting to know whether enough people did to make Spotify a viable loss leader for artists. That is certainly how most bands I know treat Soundcloud.

  6. Andrew Moore

    An idea...

    Why can't the bigger artists (read- those with control over their music) start their own service? Pay "fairer" rates to encourage others to sign up with them and generally take control of the whole situation. Instead of just whinging about something someone else did.

    1. g e

      Re: An idea...

      Or sign only for physical distribution and negotiate the digital distro with the endpoints themselves.

      I'm sure management co's of the likes of Queen, Floyd, U2, Iron Maiden, etc could do that if it suited them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An idea...

      That's actually what artists like Prince, Nick Cave, Alt-J, Beck, Gotye, Pearl Jam,.... are starting to do.

      They joined Kobalt Music group which is a 'service-based' music company, focused on copyrights, publishing and distribution of music, as well as all legal aspects involved.

      Getting paid for the 'service' they provide, instead of taking the lion share of income of sales.

      The distribution the artists make is flexible, and can be changed by time, like online sales, CD creation,...

    3. Mark #255

      Re: An idea...

      Presumably because they'd rather be making more music (which, you know, they've got a track record for doing well enough to be paid for) rather than starting up Yet Another Fair-trade Music Site.

      'Cos we all know how stonkingly well eg Magnatune are doing, for all their good intentions.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In contrast to Holland, where music piracy is something done by angry blokes who don't wash very often, unlicensed downloads in Italy are fairly mainstream.

    So the would be the entire Italian male population then?

  8. Jim 59

    New 4-in-1 Bold washes whiter

    " for Spotify - but it's worth a read."

    Well I suppose that's one way of getting round the ad-blocker.

    1. Rikkeh
      Thumb Down

      Re: New 4-in-1 Bold washes whiter

      "He would say that wouldn't he" was rubbish when it was coined (Rice-Davies now appears to have been lying) and is a lazy way of dismissing someone without properly looking at their research and critiquing that.

  9. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Music industry is always doing everything through their arse

    In any normal trade - you run a promotion, you prepare stock levels ahead of time, you sell more stuff.

    In music - you run a promotion (concert) and you have no stock to sell. Instead you tell your customers - "wait for it, erh... a few months. We know you will be so hungry for our stuff then that you will pay double the price, hehehe!".

    Of course, their customers - who live in the real world - when they want to get something and it isn't available from official shop, they just get it from the black market.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Or maybe it's this.

      When they measure piracy, are they able to distinguish a studio performance of music from the live performance at a festival? I would expect to see particular interest in the latter by fans who were and weren't there, even if the sound quality is poor on pirate recordings. Back in the days of cassette tape, I used to walk by a market stall that had bootleg recordings of concerts on sale.

      You may be able to get all of Bruce Forsyth's musical works on iTunes - I have no idea. But Bruce Forsyth live at Glastonbury is (or maybe isn't) a different proposition. If it isn't online legitimately (although I think it is), then the only way to get a recording of -that- experience is to get a bootleg.

      And so maybe piracy after a festival appearance isn't anything to do with not making your studio work accessible.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "One Direction's album, which was available on Spotify on the day of its release, had a sales to piracy ration of 3.79 copies sold per Torrent download, while hold-out Rihanna sold 1.36 copies per Torrent."

    I'm not sure whether to be happy or sad.

  11. DavCrav

    "Britain’s bureaucrats are rigidly against implementing any kind of infringement penalties, no matter how gentle, but this looks increasingly hard to justify given how beneficial penalties are for the legitimate market."

    Perhaps because, for once, big business is unable to lobby for wholly disproportionate responses for small, insignificant crimes. If the penalty for downloading an album, a non-enviable, infinite good, is worse than the penalty for physically stealing that album from one of the few remaining shops, then there's something wrong in your laws.

    1. Rikkeh

      It's also because the businesses have studied priracy and pirates' attitudes extensively and come to the conclusion that cracking down on downloaders themselves actually *decreases* legal sales, as the downloaders (unsurprisingly) react to it with hostility and know that their individual risk of getting caught is virtually zero.

      Also, they're too busy going after the people who pirate *and* charge for their bootlegged content (whether through adverts or otherwise).

  12. 02X7Cm

    I'll never get used to paying a subscription to listen to radio, but that might just be me, artists only deserves my monetary "reward" if it's actually worth it. Let's face it, Spotify is just a subscription-based on-demand radio service.

    1. Richard 22
      Thumb Down

      not really

      If you don't subscribe to Spotify then it's more like a radio service (only a certain number of tracks can be chosen per month). However if you do subscribe then it's like an enormous music collection accessible almost anywhere (anywhere with mobile data coverage anyway, or tracks can be made available offline).

      My music listening habits haven't really changed with Spotify - I still generally listen to whole albums, it's just that I am now able to search from a massive library of artists and tracks. I can hear back catalogue or similar artists new to me. And if I don't like something I can just find something else.

      I'm not really sure on the licencing arrangements for music on Spotify - it's something which falls somewhere between radio (no choice, radio stations pay flat rate for tracks) and CD (accessible on demand, pay once up-front). I now use Spotify for almost all my listening, even to music which I've already legally purchased, so in those cases the artists are doing better than if I just listened to the CD.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Swedish record industry saw a sharp decline in revenues from 2002 until 2008 when Spotify launched. A third of the Swedes over the age of 15 had downloaded pirate material in 2008, but by 2012 it was just over one in five.

    This first sentence equates drop in revenues to pirating, fair enough, then goes on to say that pirating drops to 1 in 5, but doesn't say if the revenues increased. Seems like an odd omission given the first sentence.

  14. Sil

    Why give money to Spotify?

    If musicians do not earn more money with Spotify than with pirated music, why should they fatten Spotify shareholders?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my case

    I only buy music if I have already heard it but I dont listen to radio because I am picky about what I like. If I like a few tracks from a cd then they will get my money, otherwise they wont. I have also watched some copied films or a few episodes of a tv show for the same reason. I buy films when they are at their cheapest (£3-£5) unless I have seen and enjoyed it. I give money to what I consider good and I wont pay for what I dont like. Occasionally I break this rule and buy DVD's that I have never seen or even heard of but priced above my £5 self imposed limit. It rarely pays off with a good film and it is a reminder that buying blind is not a good idea.

  16. plrndl

    Old News

    This is a commercial spin on old news. Apple has sold billions of tracks which could have been freely obtained through piracy. This demonstrates that most people will pay a reasonable fee for a worthwhile product if you make it easy for them.

    A hardcore few will download whatever they can get for nothing, regardless of any sanction, and often for reasons that have nothing to do with listening to music (or watching movies, etc). These people were never going to pay anyone anyway, so they can hardly count as "lost sales".

  17. Anonymous Coward 15

    Give it to us for close to fsck all

    Or it'll be "stolen". Hmm, sounds like the government.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are few if any musicians who don't make their work available on-line in some form. So any comparison should be between those who only sell their stuff as downloads using iTunes ( and/or Amazon and./or their own web site ) and those who have their work made available as streams on Spotify.

    How do those compare for piracy rates, and then how do they compare for nett earnings for the musician ?

    1. hitmouse

      There's about 100 different iTunes stores and six or so Amazon stores, and quite a few Spotify country zones. They don't share all their catalogue. Access is restricted by credit-card address and/or IP address.

      An artist may spread their music via Facebook, Twitter or use in TV soundtracks, but only make their music available on a handful of iTunes or Amazon stores, and so the rest of the world may be left with piracy as the only option for acquiring the content. So saying "it's on iTunes or not" is not a strict binary matter, even when you leave out the enormous pricing differentials between iTunes stores for delivering the same bits.

  19. UKLooney

    Users seem to have offloaded the act of piracy onto Spotify for a small fee.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Users seem to have offloaded the act of piracy onto Spotify for a small fee."

      Or they can use YouTube for free.

  20. Oli 1

    ahhh spotify, the digital equivelent of throwing breadcrumbs at ducks in a pond.

  21. Mark Pawelek

    It isn't called theft it's called copyright infringement. Andrew knows this full well. Nor does copyright infringement have any relationship to piracy.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022