De-coding the Music Piracy Myth

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Before we start, we are aware that our perspective might differ from a lot of people. But we aim to put our perspective out there in the open as well and we want to contest and find flaws out of it – which, by the way, is not done.

 

Piracy – a word that comes with different forms and meanings. The word has it’s different notions, experiences for artists and mechanisms of tackling it. Such a phenomenon is not only constricted to our country, but has reached “international standards”. But for this article, we will concentrate on what is happening in our homeland.

A common complain among musicians – mainstream and starters alike – there is no point in producing music physically when they are not going to be appreciated by the general public. In further depth of such an idea, we see senior musicians have a divided opinion; some argue that Piracy will never end – Piracy is not an action, it is a mental disease which drives people to illegally download songs from the internet and the others argue that it can be capped, if not alleviated. The pro-piracy army argue on the fact that it is high time for us to use the word as a strong tool for ourselves. The idea is – what you cannot kill, can make you stronger; ironic, yet true. It is a given fact that the music industry has only been strengthening by the sharing of music. Keeping the legalities aside for now, what this particular form of sharing has done is:

  1. Added value to culture and created room for innovation – in order to understand this we need to understand the dynamic nature of the word “Culture”. No matter how much people argue, they can never prove that culture is static; since 1999, the type of music and ways of production has changed severely. The production quality of the materials produced, the lyrics, the composition and the number of instruments used, gradually yet cautiously, has changed for the good. Now, the music is even more diverse and sounds good; well, except The Judas Cradle. These changes and additions has only added value to the music culture in many ways. The means of sharing to the people through the download websites has also created a room for innovation – people are hooked to dynamism and therefore they appreciated anything and everything unique – a characteristic which made Old School a big hit. So, innovation is good – appreciated and effective

 

  1. Through the download websites, the artists have managed to establish a closer bond with their audience. This bond has not only pushed the artists closer to the listeners but also made them aware of what kind of target group they are dealing with; moreover, it created room for experimentalism, by creating a room for “public checks and balance”, the artists themselves can screen out the bad part from their music and produce musical pieces which can satisfy themselves and the audience – a perfect platform for commercial musicians like Abeer Hatecrew, releasing his solo instrumental tracks to the likes of his audience. Also, the album Aashor is not easily available in stores now but, the internet making the tracks of the album available has given the biggest break for Blunderware – A tea-stall owner humming to Farming for Opium.

On the other hand, the con-piracy contingent argues on compensation. They argue on legit grounds saying that the legitimate way of compensation of art [lyric and composition] and recordings is by listeners physically buying the albums from stores; there is no alternative to that. So, the ultimate problem at hand is the online accessibility versus proper forms of releasing an album. In this never ending blame game, the reasons of the problem are self-indicatory – the music businesses and the artists. We believe that both have fair share in causing this problem. Explaining in two separate levels:

  1. We need to understand the concept of Business. The moment you agree to earn monetary benefits by selling your musical output, you are a business – you look for profits. Both musicians and record labels alike, the biggest mistake one makes is that they expect direct outputs by sending the products out to the market. Therefore, tagging the illegal sharers as “bad” customers is not really the way to go. In understanding the “target group” of this kind of music, most of them are school and college going students. To these people, money not only talks, but it matters as well. The common psychology of people in this country that these kids, whenin their colleges, need to support themselves which makes them take up tuitions and other small jobs. In these cases, 80 taka matters. In the past year, while taking several interviews, most of the musicians have said that the audience needs to understand that an album costs a mere 80 bucks – money compiled from tiffin money for two days. The argument lies elsewhere: why would these hardworking students “waste” 80 bucks of their money in just buying a record wherelese they can hang out with their friends for three days with the equivalent amount of money? These “unfaithful” audiences will surely end up to a great gig wasting 200 taka on tickets. So, what is the difference?

 

  1. The recent trend of artists releasing tracks over the internet is also a killer. The moment a track is released on the internet, it sends off a message to the general listeners that a band has other alternatives to release their music than by physically releasing it. Therefore, they will never stop releasing music; if not them, the others won’t. The simple psychology that we are willing to change, that we shall not download, is being impaled instantly by a download release of a 3-minute trailer of “Sacrifices – Abeer Hatecrew”.

In an answer to this, we can use LiveSquare as a prime example. People who are willing to commit piracy are still turning upto their concerts by spending 800 bucks on tickets. Why? – Because they, much alike to the dynamic society, came up with new and improved ideas of adding “incentives” to the ticket buyers. An 800 taka ticket is not only an entrance to the venue, it comes with a free ABC T-shirt which one can cherish forever, a free DVD of a previous gig, good sound systems and a psychedelic experience – sounds a lot less as incentives but still is an “incentive”. People, these days, look for incentives – which will make a particular expenditure even more worthy of the 80 bucks. Another applaudable effort is how Funeral Anthem gave out their debut album by themselves, including a t-shirt for the pre-orders, – wasting hours inside the Incursion headquarters. For radical FA fans, that was a memory to cherish. Another fact that we can take from these examples is that how the college going students now, will get into jobs after 3 to 4 odd years. If they get incentives now, boom for the industry. Thus, incentives talk.

But, if we are really willing to fix Piracy, we can do this with a bit of technological advancement and a bit of authoritarian support. Much like the albums of Mr. Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, we can program the tracks in the album in such a way that, when “copied” to a computer and uploaded in a website, the track misses out on vital sound layers which make the track useless to listen to [try listening to Deadwing from the album and by downloading it]. Adding to that, a bit of support from the higher government authority in screening and closing down the sides accused of piracy, like what is done in UK, we can set a new benchmark in this country. Another alternative can be to start electronic business, much like the iTunes. Mr. Shakib Chowdhury from Cryptic Fate once told me that people, who love music, will shell out money no matter what. For us Bangladeshis who buy original records directly from the international labels, we do not look at a 15$ spent on a record, we look an original record, with original covers, and other merchandises coming with it, fore “free”! We do have music fanatics in this country and the moment we make incentivize music and make it more available to them; it might help us cap piracy. One thing is certain, blaming the audience and tagging them “bad” is not the right solution. Treating their mentalities is not the cure, it is just a mere part of prevention.

 

Our stance, opinions, thoughts and mechanisms and whatever we choose to put forward, we will always have a counter-argument. All we know is that we need to start; start for good. We are at a stage where musicians are being threatened away from the industry, which is killing the process of innovation. At this stage, something needs to be done – an inorganic change which can have radical and significant impact against Piracy. The blame game will not make us achieve anything if we do not act now. We need to take a step forward for us, for music and for sustainability. This music is what we are, this is what defines us and it is our responsibility to preserve it – our identity.

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