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Arguments For and Against Online Music Sharing

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2229 words Published: 8th Sep 2017

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In this report, I am going to outline the arguments for and against the unauthorized sharing of music on the internet.

I will outline the strengths and weaknesses of unauthorised sharing of music on the internet, using evidence which I will discuss and summarise.
As music has begun to circulate in various material forms, it has become more of a commodity, as it has become more transportable. A large part of this is the use of the internet to share and download music in the form of files.

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The ‘information market regime’, a theory evolved by Weick (1995), suggests that a market information regime conveys the impression that the information gathered by the music industry is valid and very important, and that its availability creates demand for its use in interpreting the market. I will touch on this point further in this report.
I will also touch on several resources, both textbook and internet based, which outline theories, practices and articles in relation to the evolution, distribution and contestation of sharing music online.

 Advantages of Sharing Music

Although there are few advantages of sharing music online, Caves (2001, p.6) suggests that due to the ‘infinite variety’ of the nature of the creative industries, the multidimensional quality of cultural products makes it hard to predict what audiences will like. It’s ‘multidimensional nature’ means that it is valued in a variety of ways by listeners across different places and is modified by musicians in new ways. This means that although unauthorised music sharing can make it difficult to log and track patterns in the market and predict what audiences will like, it does not hinder this process as it is already difficult to measure the market and its demands.

Although there are difficulties in predicting cultural taste, ‘pre-testing’ may be used. In terms of the music market, pre-testing is ‘a form of research carried out before production is complete and major resources have been committed’ (Banks, Barnett and Mahendran, 2012). With music pre-testing, a single song from an album may be shared with a select audience to review and give feedback. This means that the song may be shared across a wider audience by unauthorised means, however, as no major resources have been committed, the musicians do not lose profit and their reputation may grow because of the song being shared. By having a wide range, the chances are that the albums produced will become ‘hits’, meaning that these will more than cover the costs lost by unauthorised music sharing.

Despite internet based forms of distribution meaning that music becomes shared illegally, it also means that the information regime is transformed as music companies can gain more direct knowledge of the market through their own download websites and websites that allow music audiences to post information about music tastes, such as what they like and dislike (Walsh and Mitchell, 2010).

The article written by Miller (2012) says that ‘lots of people seemingly don’t have any problem with downloading pirated music. In fact, 70% of online users say they find nothing wrong with online piracy, and 63% of users admit to doing some illegal downloading. So, while music piracy may be illegal, it’s ‘socially accepted’. This suggests that although piracy is illegal, it has become more socially acceptable, despite the risks of websites being closed and frequent users facing bans.

 Disadvantages of Sharing Music

There are many disadvantages of the unauthorised sharing of music on the internet. As music has begun to circulate in various material forms, it has become more of a commodity, thus has become more portable. A large part of this is the use of the internet to share and download music in the form of files. However, music is being shared by unauthorised internet users and websites which can have detrimental consequences.

For example, it is difficult to measure market trends in the creative industry, which means that recorded music turns over quickly and must be measured by trends in existing sales – by logging both physical and virtual sales. These markets are characterised by uncertainty, meaning that commercial activity is shaped by the need to predict and manage this uncertain demand. This can be tricky if music is being shared in an unauthorised way as it means that the music trends recorded will not be accurate so may hinder actual music sales. Baharat and Peterson (2000) suggest that the information generated by this market research reflects existing tastes and helps to construct the market.

The ‘information market regime’, a theory evolved by Weick (1995), suggests that a market information regime conveys the impression that the information is valid and very important, and that its accessibility creates demand for its use in understanding the market. However, this suggests that information regimes typically take the form of sales reports, and ‘hot selling’ items, which makes this ‘predict and provide’ method invalid due to music being shared in an unauthorised way online, as it means all sales are not recorded, thus meaning the figures are inaccurate.

As we can see in the article written by BBC Blogs, Waters (2009) suggests that sharing music illegally online causes significant damage and means that artists from different backgrounds are not being paid for their professional work, saying that up to ‘800,000 jobs in the creative industry may be threatened – almost half of the entire industry’. However, the government is being advised to force internet providers to place a ban on frequent file sharers, meaning more of a consequence may be put in place.

The article written by Ernestro (2015) agrees with Waters (2009) as it suggests that a strategy has been put in place to ‘curb’ online piracy by sending warnings to frequent file sharers and ‘alleged pirates’. This warning programme is part of the Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative which is hosting a series of educational campaigns, called “Get it right from a Genuine Site”, encouraging people, especially young people and students, to steer clear of ‘pirate’ sites and to use authorised, approved services instead, thus meaning that copyright holders and industry employees are not facing the detrimental effects that illegal file sharing causes. The initiative intends to measure the consumption of legal and illegal consumption of content in order to create and use statistics as a way of deterring piracy.
The article written by PRS for music (2015) provides more depth into the aims and views of the “Get it Right from a Genuine Site” campaign, especially as it suggests that the ‘1.7 million employees of the creative industries’ may be at risk of job loss due to unauthorised file sharing. It is vital that they are protected from both transgression and copyright so that more can be invested into creating new content for fans to appreciate. Whilst the article largely outlines the disadvantages of piracy, it could be advantageous as it’s encouraging people to ‘make the right choice’ rather than issuing sanctions.


To conclude, the disadvantages of unauthorised file sharing massively outweigh the advantages. Whilst it is advantageous in terms of testing the market for trends and demand, unauthorised file sharing can have some detrimental effects on the creative industries.

The educational campaign, “Get it right from a Genuine Site”, is clearly seeking to reduce piracy and creative industry employees losing both money and their jobs, by aiming to educate the public about unauthorised file sharing to encourage them to use licensed services to share and download music. The campaign has been using a promotional ‘hashtag’ on social media sites to attempt to spread their message. It may be worth further considering the CCUK campaign and their resources when organising your week of debate and raising awareness around internet use.

The article written by PRS for music (2015) mostly outlines the disadvantages of unauthorised sharing of music on the internet. Neville-Rolfe, the Minister for Intellectual Property, suggests that the campaign is helping to improve the UK’s economy and culture, simply by encouraging people to download from genuine sites. This can then help to ensure that by protecting and promoting the future of entertainment that it can help the industry to grow and expand as opposed to shrinking and losing money because of job losses and infringement.

Overall, it is clear to see that there are many disadvantages of unauthorised music sharing, which heavily outweigh any positives there may be. I hope you have found this report useful in outlining the advantages and disadvantages of sharing music online, and that it will be beneficial in creating a week of debate on this topic around good practice and safe internet use.


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