Sunday, August 29, 2004

Empty Vessel

Interesting ideas come to me when I have free time with a clear mind. Sitting on the porch and smoking is one of those times. Mowing the lawn, too - it takes very little mental energy to push the mower around the yard, back and forth, over long stretches of grass. Now I get to commit these thoughts to the blog. Consider yourself privileged.

The first is the less interesting one, at least to me. It's too concrete and too practically important. I was thinking about the effect of illegal music downloads on the music industry. It seems to me that there are two sorts of illegal downloads: those that replace a purchase and those that do not. What I mean by this is that a person can either download a song illegally instead of purchasing a compact disc with that song on it, or paying for a legal download, or a person can download a song he never would have bought anyway. The first kind of illegal download will have an effect on record company profits. The second kind of illegal download is immaterial to this discussion, since I cannot assess how many downloads are of this kind.

Now, presumably many downloads are of the first kind and hurt the profits of record companies. I find very few people shedding tears over this, but perhaps those people ought to consider what effect this will have on music. It is assumed, and quite correctly, that record companies really won't feel the effect of a few illegal downloads. However, there is some effect. Profits are depressed and the companies have less money to work with in producing future records. Obviously record companies will always allot enough money to the big-name artists associated with their labels to produce their records. If profits decrease, however, the companies will have less money for less popular, less well-known, and new, unproven artists. The companies certainly will not be funding well-known and successful artists less, so it only makes sense that they will be able to devote less money to new talent.

Another consequence of illegal downloads is that it favors the biggest record companies. Larger companies can better tolerate a reduction in profits whereas a similarly small reduction in absolute profits may be fatal to a smaller company, and even if the reduction in profits is proportional, a smaller company will still not likely be able to survive (having less margin for error).

I am speculating and don't have the facts to support my claim, but what I say is at least plausible. If I am correct, then illegal downloads will tend to create an oligopoly among record companies and musical talent.

I really went into some detail with I'll leave the second random thought for a later entry.


At 2:50 PM, August 29, 2004 , Blogger Suenteus Po said...

This sounds fair enough, but I think you missed one often-heard comment: People download music because they don't like how Big Recording does business, but they still go to concerts that they like and buy music that's not from Big Recording. So, I think it concievable that the loss small companies (mostly self-published records) have to deal with is proportionally less than the loss that Big Record Companies have to deal with. Of course, there's no real way to gauge how much of the "I'm protesting the RIAA" rhetoric is just empty rationalization, and how many people actually do only download music from big companies.

Given that the main music I consider buying is soundtracks (usually to Broadway musicals), I doubt that my not purchasing them would have much of an impact, even if universalized. Presumably, even if the soundtracks don't sell well (or at all), a good score is still crucial enough to a play or movie that the quality won't be skipped out on.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home