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BitTorrent Is The New Radio, Says Counting Crows Frontman (torrentfreak.com)
51 points by evo_9 1774 days ago | hide | past | web | 69 comments | favorite

I think some commenters are missing the point.

For Duritz, who admits he collects bootlegs[1], bittorrent is being envisioned here as a promotional tool, not a distribution tool. Radio used to be the main promotional tool. Disc jockeys (once fully human, now often pre-programmed since radio stations have all been acquired by large corporations) could make or break an artist. And it's been this way for as long as the recording industry has existed.

Even if you were lucky enough to get time at Sun Studios in Memphis, if the radio did not agree to play your songs, "no one" would know you exist. And you would not become a cash cow for some record company.

No listener has to pay for radio. It's "free".

Duritz is smart. His band is also in need of some promotion. Who is going to listen to radio at the point when everyone is connected to the internet and when the internet offers a more flexible way to get music "for free"? The answer is no one. That point is inevitable.

1. Assuming he's a reasonably serious collecter that implies he knows all about distribution of "pirated" content. Before file sharing became easy, this used to be the postal mail. People mailed cassette tapes to each other. As an artist, he also sees a side of the "pirating" issue many collectors of bootlegs (perhaps analogous to today's bittorrent addicts) do not see.

>Duritz is smart.

Citation needed.

This made me laugh. Nice one. :)

It's opinion not fact. No citation needed for opinions of the author.

Nevertheless I will rephrase for anyone who might confuse opinion for fact:

In the author's opinion, Duritz is, with respect to this decision, being smart.

Smart means smart in a business sense.

Time will tell if he is truly being smart in deciding to do this.

Far more likely that Duritz is naive about BitTorrent than that he's right about its role in his industry.

People listen to songs on the radio and then buy the recording so that they can play higher-quality versions of their preferred songs on demand.

Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version.

Further evidence of Duritz naivete: they're releasing a 4-song teaser of their new album on BitTorrent. Exactly what is the advantage of holding back tracks in their official release? It is utterly, absolutely inevitable that high-fidelity versions of all their tracks will be on BitTorrent moments after they become available in any form. Partial teaser releases are a pantomimed form of control and a waste of time. If you believe P2P sharing is a real business benefit, you embrace it for real.

Unless they have credit for writing the song, or self publish, the band makes most of their money from touring and merchandise.

BitTorrent isn't a zero sum game. It's difficult to prevent and any action upsets fans. Why not embrace it and get free PR. Meanwhile, the people that will buy it (or request it on a radio station, or listen on Spotify) need to be aware of the music. And both groups end up attending concerts. So it's really a win for the bands. It's the labels that are at risk.

David Lowery says that's not true. He says that your idea of how much artists make from touring suffers from cognitive bias: we pay attention to the anomalously successful huge touring acts, but that the reality is bimodal: a very few major touring acts, and then a huge cluster of artists who make less than minimum wage from even respectably attended club shows.

Neko Case made some comments to the effect of how much her returns were from touring _Middle Cyclone_. I went to that show in Chicago, which packed the large Chicago Theater. Neko Case was repeatedly featured on NPR and other media venues. She is anomalously successful. How amazingly lucrative do you think that tour was for her? Hint: if you're picking between being Neko Case and a senior engineer at Google just based on the money...

Of course, Steve Albini's famous "Some Of Your Friends May Already Be This Fucked" made much the same point about touring. He'd put it this way: if you're picking between being a midlist touring act and a senior manager at Wendy's just based on the money...

Meanwhile, the popular conception of how lucrative a label recording contract was is also mistaken, because it failed to take into account recoup rates and automatic per-sales royalties that are paid out even when albums don't recoup. In reality, the recording contract alone both financed the (very expensive) professional-quality recording of music and provided musicians with a base-level middle class income.

"Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version."

Except this behavior is commonplace. Probably as common as people buying music they've heard on the radio.

Maybe to you it isn't "rational" in some sort of twisted Homo Economicus model, but in the real world it happens all the time.

Who do you think a comment like this is convincing? Wouldn't you have to have no real-world friends to believe that people who download music for the overwhelming most part DON'T go on to buy those tracks? All you have to do is ask anyone sitting near you to find out how message-board-fake your argument is.

On a live-audience episode of Diggnation, Alex Albrecht and Kevin Rose asked a large audience, "How many of you pirate music and movies over bittorrent?" They weren't expecting anyone to seriously admit it. But about half the audience cheered and waved their hands! Then they asked "Well how many of you suckers actually buy music and movies online, like from iTunes?" and about half the audience (mostly the same people) cheered again. They were pretty confused about this (as you seem to be), but the reaction made it clear that it's pretty common behavior.

They followed up by asking why people pay for stuff when they have no problem downloading it. The two main answers were: "If I like it, it buy it" and "I expand my collection any way I can."

I think I'm suggesting not very subtly that people are cheering for what they want to be true, but not for what they actually do. Ask any 10 of those people anonymous what the last 3 things they torrented (and, sure, liked) were and what the last 3 things they bought were, and the sets will be disjoint.

David Lowery would say that recorded music sales stats, especially when deconfabulated, bear out that assumption. I'd also suggest that common sense does the same: much of the mainstream market for music can't afford to buy every single track they want to listen to, and yet the suggestion seems to be that they have a monklike devotion to doing that when there is no practical benefit to doing so.

I think people have an amount of money they are willing to spend on music, and they allocate that among bands they want to support. Then they torrent all the other music they want to listen to. Those are not necessarily the same bands.

I think that's a very credible middle ground interpretation between the poles of "nobody pays, everyone pirates" (which is what I think) and "everyone pays, piracy is just marketing" (which is what HN believes).

But, obviously, that middle ground still represents a transfer of wealth away from the people who actually produce music and towards a new breed of networked middlemen who capitalize on other people's work and couldn't give a damn about the future of music. Oops, I let my rant seep back in there. Sorry!

Are you implying that I'm not a real person? That my money isn't real? That my friends and their money aren't real? That all of the other people I've met who have done exactly the same thing aren't real?

I think you are confused about which comment represents an unrealistic oversimplification that doesn't reflect what's happening in the real world.

No, I'm implying that you aren't representative. If you tell me all the people you've met reliably or even routinely buy the music they download from torrents, I will charitably adopt the assumption that you haven't met many people.

As a rule people don't buy everything they torrent, but they also don't buy everything they hear on the radio. So, the existence of people who buy things they have downloaded before is all it takes to disprove the idea that it never happens. The reality is Bittorrent and the Radio both raised the bar on what it takes before people will break out the checkbook. But, they do not prevent people from paying for music.

I'm making a stronger claim. As a rule, I'm saying, people† don't ever buy what they torrent, because there is no practical reason to do so. Which is clearly not true of the radio. The radio drove sales of recorded music; BitTorrent saps those same sales.

(substitute "the mass market" if you're hyperliteral and can't get past the fact that you yourself violate the rule)

I'm real, also I tried your experiment and the guy next to me also buys the stuff he finds and likes.

Remove the abstraction. Ask him what the last three albums he torrented were, and what the last three albums he bought were. Genuinely curious.

Last 3 downloads were a Nero album (which he said he didn't like) Mastodon's the Hunter, and Silversun Pickups "whatever the new one is called"

Last purchases were Gotye, the vinyl edition of The Hunter, and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes. He says he's going to buy the Silversun Pickups one at some point.

You've sparked a conversation down our row, and it's almost an even split between 6 people. Some people argue there's no point to buying the CD after download and that they feel going to concerts is payment enough.

There's also some discussion that some listen to so much that they couldn't possibly afford to pay for it all even though they'd like to, but they still want to listen.

It was awesome of you to follow up like this. You're clearly more openminded about the issue than I am.

Looks like we've got a troll here, just move along. Don't feed the tptacek.

You must be new here.

I highly doubt teenagers and low-wage earning youths torrent with the intent to buy a CD. In fact I know of no one around my age (younger side) who even buys CDs in general.

Torrenting and then downloading from iTunes makes no sense either.

> Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version.

I do. As a music collector, I prefer to sample the music online before buying it. If the music is sufficient, I eventually buy a physical copy and add it to my collection. The CD is then ripped onto my hard drive.

By purchasing a physical copy, I support local record stores (great people); I also obtain the album artwork, which interests me as a former designer.

Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version.

I do all the time. Well I don't go to the store, since I have this internet thing that's quite useful for buying stuff through, and sometimes I buy a legal digital download instead of a physical CD, but otherwise I do exactly what you describe all the time. If I find music I really like I want to pay the person who made that music, but I'll leave it up to other do decide if that is rational or not.

Maybe not buy a CD for themselves. On the other hand..

I have bought and given away music that I've only listened to pirated (more than once).

I also most likely wouldn't have been to two Bob Dylan and two PJ Harvey concerts if it hadn't been for Napster and BitTorrent.

"Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version."

I think the comparison of the article went a bit over your head. It's all about music/artist promotion, and nothing to do with sales. Otherwise we shouldn't be calling it "the new radio", but "a new radio". Unrelated: who is still going to the store to buy their music? and how often are they actually "CD rips" anymore?

The best example of this "radio" analogy is Dubstep. Soundcloud, free digital downloads, artists practically give away all of their music and leave the option for purchase on iTunes and Beatport. Most revenues are from touring and commercial uses of their music. And "cultural progress" is trotting on.

If file sharing is "the new radio", then by implication file sharing should serve the same role in customer acquisition that the radio did. But it doesn't. That's my point.

What form of "customer acquisition" are we talking about then? Are you not including merchandising/performance revenues?

Do you think that radio didn't drive concert/merch sales? Of course it did.

I'm asking if you don't think BitTorrent drives concert/merch sales. And because we both know it does, why we shouldn't consider it a force of consumer acquisition?

   Revenue By Channel: 

               Merch/Tix        Recordings

   Torrent       Yes               No
   Radio         Yes              Yes
A very popular meme: "but musicians make most of their money from concerts anyways". No; after recoup and automatic per-sales royalties, label financing provided musicians with a solid middle-class income. Also: most midlist- and- below artists make very little money touring; the popular conception of how lucrative touring is is queered by cognitive bias from hugely and anomalously successful major acts.

What you just posted is completely fallacious. You've just redefined what "consumer acquisition" is based on a narrow exclusion you've arbitrarily chosen, especially when it is blatantly obvious what point the original article was trying to make. And you talk down merchandising profits as if that has any impact on your argument.

Do you not recognize the train of logic that has led this far down a thread?

I don't understand. Both BitTorrent and the Radio drove an equivalent amount of concert/merch revenue. But BitTorrent saps recording revenue. Therefore: BitTorrent is worse for artists than the radio.

How does "but BitTorrent still drives merch revenue" even logically address that point?

> BitTorrent is worse for artists than the radio.

Perhaps, but whether one promotional medium is more profitable for artists is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. Filesharing is an exploding cultural trend, and in that sense it is the new radio, not in the sense that the industry should like it or it should be economically efficient.

I downloaded half of the Ghosts album from NiN, linked it and then bought the physical album. Not exactly the same, but maybe that's how it should work. Release 50-80% of the work for free. People will download it from you, because you're the official source and probably have better PR capabilities. People still want to "own" something and want the rest 50-20%, so they buy the CD.

Partial teaser releases are a pantomimed form of control and a waste of time

Eh? Teaser releases are to generate buzz and interest. To gather mindshare.

What's the point of only releasing a subset of the tracks?

Most people who buy and/or torrent lots of music have a very large amount of music available to listen to. Listening to a full album by a band you may or may not like is an investment of time that you could have spent listening to something else. A free sampler implies that someone has tried to pick out only the best tracks for you, and removed any "do I really want to buy this/do I really not-care about the ethics of torrenting this" friction involved in adding it to your playlist.

If you do listen to the sampler, that someone's objective is accomplished - now the album is in your head. Later on, when you think, "hmm, is anything good coming out this week?", you might think about it and buy it. (Of course, if you never buy and always steal, that means you'll steal it, but then you wouldn't have paid for it anyway.)

You can release the best ones and tell people that the other tracks are just as good :)

> Nobody rationally torrents a CD rip and then goes to the store to buy the real version.

But some do do it, however irrationally.

What do you think about the Kickstarter model for music? That seems to work for recorded music even if artists cannot make money from sales..

I think people who make things should be able to choose the business model under which those things are offered to the public.

It has been proven time and time again that "pirates" buy more of that product than everyone else.

Could you cite some primary sources?

Former Google CIO Douglas Merril https://torrentfreak.com/former-google-cio-limewire-pirates-... edit: more direct link http://www.cnet.com.au/will-former-google-exec-help-save-the...

HADOPI, a French antipiracy organization http://piracy.ssrc.org/hadopi-says-lets-try-cutting-off-nose...

Music industry lobby group IFPI https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-are-the-music-industrys-mos...

And apparently the Association for Consumer Research in Germany, but the report will never be published. http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&tl...

eta: a study done in Canada http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2347/125/ and more analysis of the same https://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/article794638.ece

Duritz is a world class music professional who has lived and breathed the music business for over 20 years, but somehow you know better than him how to sell his music?

I see your Adam Duritz-backed ad-hom argument and raise you David Lowery:


Frankly, I'd rather have Lowery on my side than Counting Crows. But, matter of taste.

Too busy to read? Here's the top line:

* Lowery is Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven; also, a programmer with a math background and now a recording engineering.

* Most musicians make fuck-all from concerts and merch and many live out of their van.

* Musicians were sharing their music for free long before file sharing sites started profiting off their work.

* Technology isn't making recording high-quality music cheaper, but is sapping the returns from doing so.

* When you factor recoup and automatic sale royalties into the picture, the major label system was giving midlist artists a middle class existence, which they've now lost.

* Studies showing an uptick in sales after file sharing are often rigged in obvious, comical ways.

* Youtube and Facebook have made it impossible for midlist artists to set up their own shops online.

I don't know who the hell David Lowery is and I don't really like Counting Crows' music, but I don't know what music taste has to do with this discussion. Duritz wasn't saying that bittorrent is going to fix all of music's problems, he's just admitting the new realities and figuring how to work with them, "You can either cry about it or make use of it" he says.

You can dismiss Duritz' experience as an ad hom argument, but the fact that he has been able to keep his business going for over 20 years, long past his hit songs, including owning a record label where he guided other bands, shows that he is not stupid when it comes to this subject. I reacted to your cavalier dismissal of his point of view.

On an off topic note, your link gave me a new perspective on your attacks against one of the most important orgs of our times, the EFF. I'll just say that I think if the entire professional music industry disappears we will still, as a society, enjoy tons of music. As long as people enjoy making the stuff it will be produced, same with software and video. But if we lose the internet as a open democratic channel of communication that will take a very long time to replace.

"I don't know who the hell David Lowery is and I don't like Counting Crows but I'm going to continue arguing as if the primary source this person just cited wasn't one click away, and not only that, as if the person who cited that source hadn't taken the time to summarize in bullet form that very source. And also, I'm going to sound irritated about it."

There was a time in history, when radio was first introduced, when publishers of newspapers sued radio stations for reading the news over the airwaves. It seems rather short-sighted now, doesn't it?

BT isn't comparable to radio or something like Pandora or Lastfm. It's more like the new version of making a dub tape of a friend's music, labor-intensive and not always convenient or practical.

Err, no. Music streaming services (Pandora/Audiogalaxy/Spotify) are the new radio. Facebook's Open Graph is the new radio. Background music in ads (Apple ads, for example) are the new radio.

Musicians have been selling their music for ads for almost as long as there has been radio advertising.

Problem with Pandora and Spotify is that unlike the actual radio new songs are slower to get on them.

Perhaps the internet will lead to musicians who are in it only for the music, the self-expression and the ego boost, not for the money.

Maybe the truth is that it has always been this way. Maybe musicians didn't ask to be paid for doing what they love. Maybe record companies just realised they could profit recording and distributing a musician's music. And the musicians were quite happy to be paid.

But once record companies give a musician this "easy money", musicians are unlikely to ever want to sacrafice that benefit. Eventually it becomes viewed as an entitlement.

Digital recording and the internet means we don't need record companies to distribute music anymore.

Will musicians stop making music? Will the quality of music decline?

These are very weak arguments with no evidence to support them.

As much as I enjoy Counting Crows (did?) I hardly think Duritz is the best indicator of industry trends.

It only works if people know to search for you, like the Counting Crows.

The nice part about actual radio is that it can give unknown artists airplay (and people will actually listen to it).

That's a largely theoretical advantage for radio.

What happens far more often is that the big labels that are paying (directly or indirectly) get to decide what gets played. And listeners are forced to choose between a handful of intentionally-overlapping stations, each of which is pushing, primarily, an unfortunately small number of "hits".

While bittorrent itself is not a medium that lends itself to discovery, it does at least serve any non-trivial subset of taste and isn't as easily gamed as radio play and shelf space.

Managers pay quite a bit to get "unknown artists" airtime on radio stations.

Smaller bands advertising via internet route still have YouTube, Soundcloud, etc. I've bought a few albums as a result.

Also, with the proliferation of smartphones, a significant group choose to listen off their own devices rather than slog through yet another pop song + advertising.

If you belong to a good private (or maybe a public one, too) torrent community, you'll likely end up finding more artists than the radio would help you find.

Just looking at new uploads, looking at top lists, browsing by tags, and going through by genre yields new finds. It's easy to listen to new/unfamiliar artists risk free, and most passionate music lovers do find a way of getting money back to the artists. At least in my own experience this is the case. I'm sure there are people who are 100% freeloaders, but I wonder if they'd have bought anything ever anyway.

That's true for bittorrent, although as others have suggested, smaller torrent communities focused on a particular genre may also act to provide ad-hoc recommendations.

At Presto.fm we're working on a different solution to the problem, by creating a way to discover and stream new music using personalized radio stations seeded with the listener's existing favourite artists or genres. (A bit like some existing services but with a focus on niche artists and a deep catalogue of music).


I would much rather see a legal way (with permission from the artist) like Pandora.

Ensuring that artists receive both exposure and fair compensation is important to us.

Presto.fm currently uses music content from YouTube, which is licensed under Google's agreements with the major labels and the NMPA, so that artists can receive royalties from the ads included in player.

Many independent artists also upload their own music for free, just as they do with Soundcloud, etc, as they recognise it as a great way to reach new audiences.

The Pirate Bay have been promoting unknown content on their front page as have other file sharing sites. There's music blogs and youtube channels that promote unknown artists.

Not to mention file sharing technologies such as direct connect and soulseek that lets you browse everything a user shares which is another way of discovering new content. You can search for something that you like and hopefully discover people with similar taste and find new stuff in their collections.

Some more or less private trackers do actually promote artists explicitly (featuring select submissions). And even when they don't, people still easily discover new less known bands from searching by genre and reading torrent discussions—I'd say it works even better than radio. Although this depends on the community and submission guidelines of a particular tracker.

Radio is still no good for 'real' discovery. If you're really into music discovery, give Audiogalaxy a shot. Here's something to start with: http://www.audiogalaxy.com/mix/11997-The%20Coding%20Zone/

"Sorry, Mixes are not available in your country"

Never had that problem with torrents...

Duritz is a muppet. But hey if your hero is Kim Dotcom then he looks cool I guess.

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