The Other Costly and Groundless War

30 Jun

The war on terrorism is not the only war that has been wasting billions and fought with no clear perspective or foresight for the past 10 years.

It was only a little under 6 months ago, on November 29th, that the US government seized 82 domain names of websites that they believe are infringing copyrights or are facilitating it. This was yet another major event in the “War on Piracy” that has been fought for over a decade. Among those sites was OnSmash.com, a Hip-Hop blog that not only takes down content and links as per copyright infringement notices but also receives links and content from the record companies in order to promote their artists. OnSmash and its contemporary sites effectiveness and relevance are well proven; they often have new songs posted days or weeks before impacting radio. These sites have propelled more new artists from obscurity in the past decade than the broken A&R system of past. Furthermore, at times these sites had new music available to listen before or just as some music executives would be exposed to them. In layman’s terms, they have their ears to the streets, whereas record companies are only playing catch-up.

June 20th was another major date in the war, and on this day, Torrent Freak obtained a mafia-like hit list of over 2000 “pirate sites”. Along with puzzlers like the super-legitimate Soundcloud.com, the list contains the domain names of the crème de la crème of Hip-Hop blog sites. These sites are similar to OnSmash in that they receive content from the record companies to post and promote on their behalf. Though the list contained far more than just music sites, the most striking discovery concerning it was that the portion of the list that pertained to music was by compiled by Universal Music instead of the usual culprit, the antiquated, lawsuit-filing and trigger-happy RIAA.

These two events show the ineffectiveness, lack of foresight and hypocrisy that surrounds this war. These moves place the record companies’ allies in the crosshairs of the government. These acts are also grounds to further the ideals of piracy and the notion that music should not be paid for; they only aggravate the problem rather than repress it. It is often stated that record executives would not defend or come to the rescue of these bloggers because they never wanted to depend on them from the start. However, every marketer should accept that he can’t control the external environment in which he operates. In this war, those who have the respect and support of the people who are constituents of your target market should be your greatest allies, not the ones you wage the war against.

Criticism without an alternative is futile; the true objective is to answer, what is the alternative?

Like the war on terror, piracy can be quelled by creating conditions where people don’t need it, specifically by attacking the cause rather than the byproduct. The major marketing weakness that media and entertainment businesses – especially music – struggle with is the concept of convenience is king. Imagine hearing a song, whether online or on the radio that has given you a euphoric high and you want to have that song in your collection immediately. Today’s system forces you to wait weeks, and sometimes months to legally obtain it from a digital retailer. The innovations that technology have brought us in the past decade have taught our society we don’t have to wait for what we want and it is our right to get it by any means. This means that song that you yearn for will be obtained through another source if not Amazon, iTunes, Pandora or the like. While existing channels fail to quench the rising thirst for music, people have come to rely on P2P as the source for the most up-to-date music.

It is said that the process of getting a song from the record company to iTunes is a process of about two weeks. That is utterly ludicrous considering the capacities of today’s technology and the expectations of the consumer. Who in their right mind is going to wait two weeks to a month to add their new anthem to their iPod? Shortening the time to market is imperative to success now and in the future. No human can make the market change, therefore it is every marketer’s duty to adapt and supply the consumer with what they demand at the consumer’s convenience. It is imperative that a solution to this is set in place, sooner than later. Upon a new leak or impact to radio, that same song should immediately be available for purchase at retail. By allowing people to consume music on more suitable terms, it could encourage the consumers desire to do the right thing and purchase music legally.

This will by no means stop piracy; like terrorism, piracy will always exist. The objective of any war on an ideology of such should be to quell it. Just as equal rights and even distribution of income can suppress acts terrorism, finding ways to slow or cease the depreciation of music and making it more readily available for purchase legally will subdue the damage of piracy.

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