OK, a little off-topic here, but having sat through a lot of hand-wringing during the Media session at the Telco 2.0 event this morning, I thought I'd stick my oar in as well. There was a lot of discussion about banning P2P filesharers, DRM, ISP responsbilities, traffic-shaping and so on, particularly about music. We had the esteemed presence of 1980s singer Feargal Sharkey.
Now don't get me wrong - I produce content myself, and I don't like it when fake spam blogs rip of this site, and I also take steps to protect my published research from illegal copying.
But at the same time, I absolutely disagree that the whole of the Internet industry should be paying much attention to a very small minority, worried about a very small amount of what the Internet is about. I've written before that content is just a small, special sort of application, and the more I think about it, the more my opinion is confirmed.
There is no reasons that music piracy should drive government policy or Internet regulation, any more than software piracy or the online sale of fake pharmaceuticals. However, the entertainment industry tends to enjoy cosier relationships with policy-makers (the French President's wife being a musician, for example, while UK Business Secretary Lord Mandelson is closely linked with the content industry).
Ultimately, the music industry is designed to be (a) noisy, and (b) emotive. That's it's job. So it should be no surprise that they tend to be louder and more emphatic when it comes to shouting about its concerns.
Yet I cannot believe that anyone entering the music industry in the last 10 years has done so expecting to make $$$ from record sales. All the musicians I know are well-aware of the score. They've probably illegally downloaded music themselves. They know the value of live performances, which have been incredibly strong in recent years. If they want to exercise their creativity for purely money-making purposes, they'd be writing iPhone apps instead.
I'm not aware of any decline in the number of bands being formed, despite reducing music sales. A quick glance around the web suggests that musical instrument sales are still pretty robust too.
Bottom line - while piracy is definitely bad news for the record labels, it doesn't seem to be too apocalyptic for performers. But irrespective of the rights and wrongs (and I'm not especially animated one way or the other personally) the noise generated by the music industry is far out of proportion with its overall importance. Turn it down, please.