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FT: Music Labels Should ‘Embrace’ Illegal Websites

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The Financial Times (registration req’d) writes that the music industry should embrace illegal file-sharing websites. That’s according to a study of Radiohead’s last album release, which discovered that “huge numbers of people downloaded it illegally even though the band allowed fans to pay little or nothing for it.”

Sound crazy? “Rights-holders should be aware that these non-traditional venues are stubbornly entrenched, incredibly popular and will never go away,” said Eric Garland, co-author of the study, concluding that there was “strong brand loyalty to controversial torrent and peer-to-peer services.”


As you can probably guess, the RIAA would rather jump off a cliff than agree with this report. But the logic is undeniable: “The expectation among rights-holders is that, in order to create a success story, you must reduce the rate of piracy—we’ve found that is not the case,” said Garland. He said that the piracy was outweighed by the benefits that Radiohead received from the album’s popularity, including strong ticket sales for its concerts this year—not to mention another revenue stream from the ones who did pay.

We’ve never bought the whole “lost sales” argument—nearly all of the people who downloaded the music for free most likely would never have bought it anyway, or would have copied it from a friend via some other means. Piracy will never go away, however wrong it is.

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