Piracy is a $5 billion world wide issue and record companies are estimated to be losing $20 million a year. Michelle Dardis spoke to industry experts to get their opinion on how to tackle this issue.
Piracy is a $5 billion worldwide issue. Many people know what piracy is, but haven’t stopped to think about how it’s effecting the music industry around the world. Between 2011 and the end of 2015, 1.2 million jobs are expected to be lost in the creative industry in Europe alone, and record companies are said to be losing $20 million a year.
 
The Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), is a non profit organisation, set up by Irish record companies to promote the welfare of the Irish music industry.
 
IRMA state that the Irish music industry alone is losing €3.8 million a year, and for every one song sold legally worldwide, there are 20 illegal downloads.
 
According to Irish barrister Brendan Guildea, in terms of money being lost by the act of piracy each year, “it’s something like €3 billion in Europe alone. If the music had been accessed online, if it was bought, it would have created about €3 billion worth of revenue or jobs. There’s a massive loss.”
 
When music is illegally downloaded, it takes money directly from an artist, but also the music industry as a whole.
 
Ciaran Conroy of Milestone Management, an Irish music management company said, “Well certainly historically, it would have had a very negative impact on staffing within the record industry. With the changes over the last number of years, a lot of the same record companies have now had to build up their digital teams, and likewise, online retailers such as Spotify, Deezer and now even Youtube have been steadily increasing staff numbers, which you could argue has offset staff losses in the physical sector.”
 
He continued, “Spotify has been seismic in its impact on digital sales. It has essentially just made it easier, cleaner, less hassle and fundamentally a better experience for people to stream and buy music online. The huge additional features such as suggested listening, playlists etc. all add to the general value experience which no illegal site can possibly offer in the same way for most people.”
 
IFPI, a global non-profit organisation which represents 1,300 record companies worldwide, claims that over 28 million people paid for a music subscription in 2013, which is a 40 per cent rise on the figures from 2012. Music subscription services include the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Youtube, as Ciaran suggested.
 
Angela Dorgan from First Music Contact, an Irish record label, doesn’t believe Spotify is of any help to the artists. When asked if streaming websites would help combat piracy and illegal downloading, Angela said, “I’m of the opinion that they are the same thing. If you think about who wins at the end, it’s not the artist. Spotify is not artist friendly in as much as it should be. For what people pay, the band sees very little. I don’t know if streaming services are the answer to piracy.”
 
The Original Rudeboys are an Irish band, who were found through social media, but are now signed to Gotta Run, a subsidiary to Rubyworks, another Irish record label.
 
One member of the band, Rob Burch, said, “It’s difficult, because when you’re found online, people will continue to look for you online. When you type in any band’s name on Google, you can find some sort of torrent to download their tracks. It’s something that is always going to be in music. You can’t really get rid of the power of the internet like that, so that’s why the likes of Spotify came along and tried to battle against the illegal downloading of music.
 
“Some artists are taking their music off Spotify and saying ‘Oh no, don’t use that’, and then you have some artists who really, really benefit from it. Ed Sheeran did. They are starting to take the streams into consideration in the charts. When Ed Sheeran’s album came out, it was blasting through the charts due to Spotify plays alone. That helps any musician’s career, because if you’re based in the charts, people are going to look at that,” he continued.
 
Another Irish act, Hozier, is in the top ten most played songs on Spotify of 2014. Rob said, “He has 10 million followers on Spotify. That’s another artist who is close to home and who Spotify has truly, truly helped propel to the next level.”
 
The growth of the internet, and growth of certain websites has been one of the main causes of illegal downloading, but if websites and software continue to progress, it could make the issue of piracy even grander.
 
According to Brendan Guildea, “Back in the day, Napster was very obvious because it was a central location, so first of all, Napster itself was making music available and then people were downloading from one location. It’s easy to A) find the source, and B) find the end user. That’s an open and shut case.
 
“Bit Torrent has complicated it because they have seeders in their software. Of course Bit Torrent are making it available, but they are only making a tiny part available. If the situation arises where Bit Torrent software morphs into a position where you can have lets say 100 seeders and then the leeches or people who come along, who don’t have to download, but they can watch it via stream, you have a double problem. 
 
“The end user doesn’t have any copy on his/her computer, and then the question for the law enforcers are, well goodness, where did this file come from? A tiny bit comes from one person and a tiny bit from another person, so I think that’s the future and where it’s going.”
 
In relation to how this issue of illegal downloading can be combatted in the present day, Irish barrister Ronan Lupton says, “It can be monitored in a number of ways, but I think one of the main ways is that the copyright holder should be engaging in a system where they can record their rights in like a land registry type of situation.
 
“I would prefer if internet providers were not forced to monitor people’s connections. I don’t think that’s right, because it breaches rights to privacy. There are principles of European law called ‘mere conduits’ and those principles are important because it stops people’s communications being snooped upon,” he added.