The record industry loses a reported $250 billion each year due to users illegally downloading files online. µTorrent, a file-sharing programme which facilitates the download of torrents, has been discussing ways to embrace the modern way of sharing files, while ensuring that the recording industry still receives enough money to be able to keep producing music.
Chief Executive Eric Klinker explained, "We believe we can make digital distribution even more viable for creators and fans. So, beginning now, we'll be testing new ways to drive profitability for creators while delivering even more meaningful media experiences for our users."
One approach the company has devised is to offer sponsored app downloads when users download music. This will be trialled at the release of American hip-hop artist DJ Shadow’s latest album, Total Breakdown: Hidden Transmissions From The MPC Era 1992-1996. Users downloading this album will be asked if they would like to download RealPlayer; a music player that was extremely popular in the 1990s but lost many users following the success of iTunes and Windows Media Player. Users can still open the file without downloading the player, but will be encouraged to purchase it. The profit gained from any downloads will be shared between µTorrent and the recording artist.
µTorrent is one of the most popular file-sharing programmes which allows torrent files to be converted into playable media by downloading from a number of different sources, making downloads much faster. The programme isn’t just used for music downloads, but can also be used to download movies, television programmes, games and more. As the programme doesn’t create the downloaded material, it is very difficult for the authorities to locate the source of the illegal content, and therefore very difficult to prevent downloads. Therefore, the approach of trying to make money from downloads appears to be the best way for all involved to benefit from a very popular way of gaining new media.
Many experts are very sceptical about the success of the venture. Ben Rumley, an analyst at Enders Analysis, said, "I struggle to see quite why people are going to click on it and then generate sponsorship money. If you're specifically going down that route to find music I can't see why you'd want to download another application unless it was really relevant to what you were doing. Clearly getting some money out of these people is better than nothing, but the focus needs to be trying to drive users to legitimate services. When you have services such as Spotify and others, it's in the record companies' interests to support legitimate businesses who go to them first and work deals out."
However, µTorrent chief executive Eric Klinker believes that money can be made from free downloads. "New business models built on top of the BitTorrent ecosystem are the future of content. This is where fans are. It's time to bring artists, film-makers and game developers into that conversation in meaningful ways, too."
What do you think? Do you believe that recording artists can find ways to profit from the pirates? Or is piracy just something the recording industry needs to learn to live with? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments.