|Title:||The effects of piracy upon the music industry: a case study of bootlegging|
|Citation:||Marshall, L. (2004). The effects of piracy upon the music industry: A case study of bootlegging. Media, Culture & Society, 26(2), 163-181.|
|Link(s):||Definitive , Open Access|
|Key Related Studies:|
|Linked by:||Ki, Chang and Khang (2006)|
|About the Data|
|Data Description:||The author refers to interviews and email correspondence with bootleggers, but does not disclose any details of how many interview/correspondence subjects took part, whether the interviews were face to face or over the phone, or how long they lasted. The author also quotes subjects from secondary published sources like books, newspapers and magazines, which also obscures the total number of respondents.|
|Data Type:||Primary and Secondary data|
|Secondary Data Sources:|
|Data Collection Methods:|
|Data Analysis Methods:|
|Cross Country Study?:||No|
|Government or policy study?:||No|
|Time Period(s) of Collection:||
"I don’t think the record company loses one cent on a bootleg. If they go after bootleggers, they’re wasting their money." (Max, a bootlegger, in Vettel, 1986)
Each year, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) releases a figure indicating the global value of pirated music. In 2000, this figure was $4.2 billion (IFPI, 2001). The IFPI argues that the actual losses suffered by the industry are not fully represented by this figure: ‘The value of the pirate market does not indicate losses in revenue to the legitimate recording industry, which are likely to be far greater’ (2001). These figures are then used in a strenuous lobbying campaign for the creation and enforcement of tougher copyright laws demanding, for example, restrictions on private copying exemptions, deterrent penalties and the dismantling of compulsory licensing provisions. This lobbying campaign is only likely to intensify in the future in response to online copying and the proliferation of CD burners. The IFPI, and its American equivalent, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) are skilful and powerful lobbyists, and past evidence suggests that policy-makers will continue to be influenced by their arguments.
The effects of piracy are, however, more difficult to ascertain. This is for three reasons. First, the word ‘piracy’ is a blanket term covering a wide variety of activities, including counterfeiting, pirating, bootlegging, home taping, tape trading and online file sharing. All of these areas of piracy have individual characteristics that make any attempt at synthesis a hazardous and, some might say, misleading venture. Second, the world of illegal recordings is not the easiest from which to gather data. As Jeremy Phillips writes: "Unfortunately, counterfeiters do not yet have to file annual returns to the Commission on the scale of their illegal activity, which means that the figures put forward for losses caused by counterfeiting are in danger of being subjective, hypothetical and methodologically flawed. (1999: 275)"
Piracy figures are often used for their rhetorical impact rather than as a reflection of reality. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, recording industry statistics do not take into account the variety of different meanings and uses that pirated music takes in the day-to-day lives of many people. Music plays an important role in the creation of meaning in many people’s lives, and the industry’s concern with questions of supply (who owns these recordings?) has neglected important questions of demand (why do people want them?) (Frith, 2002). This results in a distorted impression of the effects of piracy. For example, music industry representatives lobbying for a levy on blank audio tape in the early 1980s (and again for blank digital audio tape later in the decade) argued that every blank tape sold resulted in one less official sale (Frith, 1987: 59). The small amount of non-industry sponsored research conducted into the area, however, indicates that people often use blank tapes in non-displacing activities (for example, Brown et al., 2001; Cohen, 1990).
This article looks at one area of piracy – bootlegging – and discusses its possible effects upon the official industry. It begins by briefly differentiating bootlegging from other forms of piracy, and then provides an overview of the scale of bootlegging and the type of music fans who buy bootlegs. Following this, it discusses the possible effects of bootlegging upon the official industry. Bootlegging is a highly idiosyncratic area of piracy and the discussions here cannot necessarily be extrapolated to other spheres. However, the overall purpose of this article is to highlight the need for further research into the meanings of music piracy across a wide variety of settings in order to obtain a more realistic impression of the scale and effects of piracy in the music industry.
Main Results of the Study
Main propositions and arguments of the study:
- Bootlegging has always been a small-scale activity: following the closure of legal loopholes, a regular pressing of a bootleg title is about 500 copies worldwide. A very successful bootleg would then go to a second pressing of another 500 copies, but this is rare. Anything in the region of 3,000 sales would be considered enormous in bootlegging circles.
- Given that a release by a major label has to sell around 300,000 copies just to break even, the greatest successes of the bootleggers would still rank among the most dismal of failures for the mainstream industry.
- The people who buy bootlegs are extremely committed fans who use bootlegs as a way of maintaining an ongoing, meaningful relationship with their favoured artists or bands.
- The recording industry argues that bootlegs detract from officially released record sales: but the collector’s interest in the unofficial recordings of an artist generally stems from an extensive knowledge of their official canon, and thus the majority of bootleg buyers will own all the official releases of their artist(s) before even beginning to buy bootlegs.
- This loyalty has often been exploited by the record labels: through box sets, unreleased recordings, multiple great hits and singles collections etc.
- The recording industry argues that recording artists and songwriters do not obtain any royalty payments from the sale of a bootleg: the majority of bootlegs are of live performances and these tend to involve someone smuggling a recording device into the venue and recording the show. If this is so, then the artist (and his record label) has received payment for that performance in the shape of ticket sales (not including the revenue generated from sales of concert souvenirs such as T-shirts). The artist (and her record label) have in fact received significant income from the performance that features on a bootleg.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
- Bootlegging could have some positive economic effects upon the official recording industry which balance out any perceived disadvantages to the industry.
- The effects of piracy are complex and multifaceted, and the statistics released by the official industry do not reflect their complexity.
- Research into piracy in the music industry must reflect the various forms of musical and legal meanings that individuals attach to music, and their consumption of it. Music is a commodity that requires legal protection, but the meanings given to that commodity are not merely the ones set out by those who produce it.
Coverage of Study
|Sample size:||Not stated"Not stated" is not a number.|
|Level of aggregation:||Individual|
|Period of material under study:||1999|