Many people wonder whether file sharing can actually increase revenue for music labels and artists because it helps both newer and older artists to be discovered or rediscovered. This question is frequently asked by fans and artists alike. I believe that BitTorrent is an excellent system and model for marketing and distributing media, such as music and movies, and should not be opposed the way it currently is by organizations such as the IFPI and the MPAA – it may even be making up a large figure of their sales!
Peer to peer technologies have been proven to be an effective marketing / promotion tools, For instance, in 2007, Radiohead made an interesting move in which their fans could make whatever payment that they wanted, including nothing; the site only advised, “it’s up to you” or free, or “Choose what you pay”, so that the fans could pay the amount they wanted for the album.
Of course, the band did not actually release their sales figures, yet the album became famous as the first one released in this method, and generated much publicity. New websites are now also following Radiohead’s model, as in “Choose what you pay”, such as the new public music tracker, Coda.FM.
BitTorrent is more effective as a marketing tool for artists that are not already established, yet for those already established as an artists, it may hinder them more than help, because since they are already popular, the viral nature of BitTorrent is not as useful, and many people will “leech” the music instead of buying it.
A report from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found that those who download music illegally are also 10 times more likely to pay for songs than those who don’t. This is because those who download music are generally music enthusiasts that agree that you should have the right to see exactly what you are buying before you buy it, and if it’s no good, then they won’t buy it. These enthusiasts see this as completely fair, yet the IFPI disagrees. Many people also say “I’d never buy it anyways!”, which is generally true, yet, they are obtaining the Intellectual Property for free – and thus comes the question – is IP even worth anything?
There is no doubt that the downloading of music for free will continue nevertheless, yet the question will remain in our minds, are we helping the artist (as in “increasing their revenue” or increasing exposure), or costing them? I believe that in the future, music will be either free, cost very little, or the consumer will choose the price – either way, the actual worth of something that can be copied, distributed, and reproduced countless times, all for free, will forever be disputed.