Over the last couple of years, the line between “real” and “virtual” friends has blurred with apps like TikTok and Facebook Chat encouraging users to self-isolate and connect with people who aren’t actually near them.
While social distancing has undoubtedly benefited humanity, the ramifications for musicians and creators have been significant. With fans unable to attend concerts or buy albums in person, music makers have had to adjust their business models. However, as the music industry adjusts to life in the digital age, some are skeptical about the future of copyright and traditional distribution models.
The Future Of Music Distribution And Copyright
In the past, fans would attend concerts, buy albums, and/or subscribe to music magazines to get the latest songs and news. In the age of social distancing, music makers have shifted towards digital sales and streaming, partly due to the ease and convenience of these platforms, but also because they allow for more targeted marketing and sales, as well as promote more innovative and creative ways of bringing songs to life.
For example, streaming services allow musicians to upload their work and gain immediate (and sometimes, instant) feedback from their audience. Creators can curate their own playlists of songs, set fan-favorite songs as their ringtone, and interact with their audience through videos, stories, and more.
While these platforms have undoubtedly benefited music makers (and us as a whole), they have also become breeding grounds for copyright infringement. Whether it’s through unlicensed copies of songs shared through social media channels or downloaded and shared through file-sharing networks, this has become a significant issue, especially for artists and creators whose entire income depends on their music.
In light of this, many are wondering if the fight against copyright infringement is worth it. After all, with so much content being created and shared online, will consumers ever need to buy music again? And if they do, where will they download it from?
The Benefits Of Copyrights And Offline Distribution
Although all forms of media are shifting to a digital sphere, there are still significant benefits to be had from having copyrights and trademarks. Whether you’re a visual or sound artist, a band, or solo artist, having your work registered gives you the confidence to sell your work everywhere, and to keep creating new art while being paid for what you do.
Additionally, having offline distribution channels, whether through CD or vinyl releases, allows for more creative control over the type of music you make and how you present it to the world. You can put out an album and not worry about whether or not your fans will actually be able to listen to it. You can also ensure they hear your music the way you intended them to, through mastering and pressing.
While there are definitely significant benefits to having both online and offline distribution channels, it is important to keep in mind that not everything can be downloaded or streamed. For example, if you’re a band that only performs in-person, gathering together a collection of songs and pressing them on vinyl is the only way to ensure your fans get to hear your music. Similarly, if you’re an individual artist or creator, licensing your artwork or finding the right venue for your performance are both necessary if you want to ensure your work is represented accurately.
Who Is Maintaining The Copyright Monopoly?
Although copyright infringement occurs on a massive scale across all industries and platforms, it is a significant issue in the music industry. Whether it’s a member of a file-sharing network illegally sharing songs, a YouTube user posting an unlicensed version of a song, or a creator uploading a fan-made song and falsely claiming it as their own, maintaining a monopoly on copyrighted material is not an easy task. Especially when traditional ways of generating revenue are being upended by the very industries they were built upon.
The music industry is one of the most effective examples of a content creator going broke. In fact, musicians and creators alike are struggling to make a living, with many turning to day jobs to supplement their income. While some are adjusting and learning to thrive in the digital sphere, many are concerned about the ramifications this might have for music as a whole.
The Growing Concern Over Music Piracy
With the benefits of copyright maintenance coming from both sides – increased access to music as well as increased revenue streams – some are wondering if the fight against music piracy is worth it. Especially since many of the issues surrounding music piracy can be addressed through better copyright enforcement. Whether or not you agree that music piracy is a problem, there is no denying that it exists. And until the conditions that make it attractive to pirate are no longer available, it will continue to be a problem. Additionally, many are concerned about the effect that music piracy has on the popularity of original content.
For example, many fans are finding ways to get unofficial releases of their favorite artists, while also supporting the creators they love with their pirated downloads. It would be easy to assume that a market for pirated material would make creators and bands less interested in pursuing traditional distribution models, especially since many of the biggest names in music have effectively indefinitely postponed or canceled their tours. However, as these platforms continue to evolve, it is becoming clearer that music makers have benefited immensely from the rise of the digital sphere. Even those that are concerned about copyright infringement are finding creative ways to work in the digital sphere and use these platforms to their advantage.
The Rise Of The Conscious Consumer
In the near future, it is inevitable that all forms of media will be consumed online. However, this does not mean that those who love traditional forms of collecting and listening to music will disappear. In fact, many are discovering the joys of offline listening through streaming services and audio files shared through social media.
For example, many have shifted towards vinyl records as a more tangible way to experience music, as well as a way to display their support for certain bands, artists, and songs. Additionally, the stigma that surrounded CDs and MP3s in the early 2000s is no longer present, as many are CD baby converts, happily purchasing CDs and MP3s filled with the unapologetic pop and rock music they love. And what’s more, many are reaping the benefits of digital marketing and content curation, using the power of SEO and social media to gain popularity for their bands, solo artists, and individual songs. With more people turning to digital platforms for their music, it is clear that this is a space that can no longer be neglected.