The Man Who Broke the Music Business – The dawn of online piracy (by Stephen Witt/The New Yorker)
Brilliant article. Music piracy is complex and the author dealt with the layered issues beautifully. Of course, greed is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about piracy. And certainly the players in this article all had varying degrees of want. Either simply wanting something for nothing or wanting to be paid for stuff they had no business getting paid for.
What I hadn’t considered before was the social, one-upmanship of the early days of piracy – pirates competing for bragging rights. Certainly Dell Glover and his RNC pirate group at least had that, having leaked over 20,000 albums.
Around 1980, I had a summer job working for Cinram. At the time they made cassettes and LPs. Maybe they still do. One of my most excellent duties was to grind up LPs that were either damaged or overruns. I would punch out the centre of the record on this one machine and then take the now donut shaped records over to a grinder and well, grind them up. The ground up vinyl would then be taken back to the record presses and be used for new LPs. There really was no check on how many records I would grind up.
So Glover’s account of how he took CDs before they hit the grinder definitely hit home with me. Looking back on it, I could see how, if I was a nefarious sort, I could have taken records, made cassette copies of them and sold them as bootlegs. Luckily, I’m pure as the wind driven snow.
The other thing that hit me was piracy is not unstoppable. People were willing to pay for the bootleg CDs that Glover made. They just either wanted the CD before the general public (exclusivity) or they didn’t want to pay the going retail rate (price). I think we’re seeing smart companies starting to address both of these points.