If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Profit From Them
[Editor’s Note 1: Wired Magazine broke this story in October with a profile of BigChampagne, but it is worth reviewing now, given the music industry’s continued courtroom and legislative assault on file sharing and P2P networks.]
"While the music industry publicly flays Kazaa and other file-swapping services for aiding piracy, those same services provide an excellent view of what’s really popular with fans.
"Record-label executives discreetly use BigChampagne and other services to track which songs are traded online and help pick which new singles to release. They increasingly use such file-sharing data to persuade radio stations and MTV to give new songs a spin or boost airplay for those that are popular with downloaders.
"Some labels even monitor what people do with their music after they download it to better structure deals with licensed downloading services. The ultimate goal is what it always has been in the record business: Sell more music.
"I definitely don’t like to spin it that piracy is OK because we get to look at the data. It’s too bad that people are stealing so much music,” said Jeremy Welt, Maverick [Records’] head of new media. "That said, we would be very foolish if we didn’t look and pay attention to what’s going on.”
[Editor’s note 2: Maverick is Madonna‘s record company, and the company’s use of P2P networks in order to boost or protect sales has a history beyond BigChampagne. Last year, Maverick posted dummy copies of songs from the Madonna’s American Life album that repeatedly asked "What the f*%! do you think you’re doing?"]
Dawn C. Chmielewski. Music labels use file-sharing data to boost sales. The Mercury News. March 31, 2004.
Jeff Howe. BigChampagne is Watching You. Wired. October 2003.