Who remembers the early days of Napster? The controversial P2P software that allowed people to share media. What was so controversial about it? Well back then it’d cost around £12.99 ($15.99 for anyone state side) to buy an album produced by a popular musician. Napster eliminated the need to pay such a ludicrous sum and gave us music lovers the ability to share any songs we had for free. The process was dead simple as well. Open Napster, search for a song you want, double click to download, wait 15 minutes for it to arrive and then listen to it till your ears bleed! Though Napster was taken to court and at the wrong end of numerous lawsuits, the music industry was hit hard and has never been the same. Other companies like Kazaa, iMesh, Morpheus and Limewire came along and took it to a whole new level. Not only did these four encourage P2P networking with audio, they introduced it for images, ISO’s and video so now any kind of content produced could be illegally downloaded. It got worse, torrents came along and changed the way P2P worked, enabling you to download full albums and huge files. People could search for a host of films, download through the night and then by morning watch all their films guilty free.

Original Napster

The first version of Napster I used. Who remembers this?

I think almost everyone (myself included) has been guilty of media piracy at some point. I mean can any of you guys honestly put your hand on your heart and say you haven’t downloaded something for free that you should be paying for? They say it’s the same as going into a store and stealing a CD, but is it? I for one think the prices some of these artists, studios and producers charge for their music or films is daylight robbery in it self. £12.99 is far too much for an album, but downloading it for free isn’t fair either. So what to do?

Enter iTunes and Spotify. The former allowed one to enter their store, log in with their details and download songs for as little as 59p (69cents in the USA) and this did encourage a lot of people to stop illegally downloading songs. iTunes is doing extremely well and is the market leader in selling audio, especially full albums. Spotify was slightly different and had a fresh new approach to music. It allowed you to register, search their site for music and then just listen as much as you want. Both iTunes and Spotify are legal and they both bought normality to the music industry, yes you still had a huge number of people downloading for free, but the number was dropping and it seemed a balance was struck.

However the normality that we thought was coming, took a massive blow last week. Spotify are cutting back the amount we can use their service. They’ve halved monthly usage from 20 hours to a measly 10 hours and it doesn’t stop there. That new tune you heard that you wanna slap on repeat, well Spotify will put a limit on that so now you can listen to a track a maximum of five times! Five times? I don’t know about you guys, but when I quite like a track and want to listen to it non stop, it takes me at least 50 times to get tired and move on, not five! This at a time when Apple have hiked prices on iTunes up to around £1 ($1.29). So basically the guys at the top of music industry are laughing. But when all is said and done, this isn’t good for them because what does this do? It pushes people back to music piracy, the one thing the music industry has been trying to eliminate for the past 13 years.

A lot of people have been looking to blame Spotify for the cuts, but they are reportedly making losses of £16.6million a year! They are busting their gut to get free music out there for the world, and are suffering massively from it, they can’t be expected to do this and make such heavy losses. They must look out for their interests, make money and run a sustainable business, and we should support them in their bid to do so. What the music listening public and the record labels need to do is work together to bridge a gap between free music and paying for songs. But it’s such a difficult balance to strike, just how do we come to a conclusion in this?

I think the only way to resolve this is for a balance to be struck on the price songs are sold at and a kind of alternate to radio for the internet. Radio is cool, but with songs being chopped up and DJ’s finding the need to yap over the top of them, they’ll never be as popular as music based on the internet. Spotify offer a £9.99 a month service which allows you to listen to unlimited music completely ad free. I personally think this is a bargain and that people should take this offer, I mean you pay up to £70 a month for Sky TV and you can’t control the content on your HD box, but with Spotify and music you can, so why not? I personally think it’s ideal and a good way to put Spotify on the map for their efforts to lower the price of music. On the iTunes front, we need competition for them. We have Amazon who also sell songs and albums but competition in prices and encouraging the big companies to keep them low would be massive for the music industry and could potentially strike the balance we need to halt piracy. If they lower their prices to the original 59p or if they had three songs for the price of two, it’d be much more fair on the consumer. Music is a product, but it isn’t something we should pay large sums for.

Alternatively iTunes can continue to raise prices. The music industry can stay greedy and keep conning us. Their loss, piracy it is then. Arainmunda signing out.