A new study released by Music Ally and The Leading Question shows that streaming music sites might be making it easy enough for teenagers to listen to music for free—so easy in fact, that it’s taking a bite out of piracy.
In December 2007, 42% of 14-18 year olds admitted (outside of their parent’s earshot, presumably) that they shared files illegally at least once a month. In January of this year, that number was down to 26%.
Why? One possibility is the quality and variety offered by streaming sites like YouTube, MySpace etc makes piracy seem like a lot of somewhat unnecessary work. It’s also possible that there are other ways to steal music that are becoming more possible, but let’s go with the rosier coloured glasses option.
The music is still free for these young’uns but it’s not all take, take, take. Analytics, ad revenue, revenue from artists signing up, merchandise sales, partnership programs with ticket vendors—there are a lot of revenue channels open to those hosting the music as they have direct access to the eyes and ears of those listening.
The lesson for the book industry is that file sharing exists only when it is easier to steal than it is to connect. Yes, the music that is being streamed is free and the music industry is having to find new ways to make their money. But barriers like too-rigid DRM, exceptionally high cost structures and device-dependent downloads could send an otherwise law-abiding sailor to hoist the Jolly Roger.
Finding a way for access to benefit both readers and publishers might just keep those skull and crossbones at bay.