Music industry aspirants’ attitudes to intellectual property in the digital age

Mark Thorley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    New technology has brought sweeping changes to how consumers listen to and buy music. Even as streaming sites based on subscription or advertising models gain ground, illegal file sharing and downloading continues, and new practices die hard. In contrast, many industry organisations such as the RIAA in the US, and the BPI and MPG in the UK strive to eradicate illegal downloading by supporting action against ISPs and illegal music downloaders themselves. These opposing views differ because of their distinct identities as consumers on one side, and copyright owners on the other. It would seem to be difficult to support both points of view and exist credibly in the middle ground. This paper seeks to expose the identity of the middle ground through examining the attitudes to IP in the digital age of aspiring Music Producers in the form of Music Technology students. Music Technology students exist in the middle ground in that they can adopt the same music consumption habits as their peers – illegal downloading, file sharing and so on. On the other hand, they have aspirations to make a living from music and should therefore adopt the thinking of the recording industry in its respect for Intellectual Property law. This paper examines the contractions of the middle ground through primary research with Music Technology students and students of other subjects (who have no aspiration to make a living from music). As such, it highlights any differences in behaviour and attitude and seeks to explain how any seeming contradictions can be accommodated in individuals.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-116
    Number of pages26
    JournalIIPC Publication Series
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

    Bibliographical note

    This chapter is free to view at: Author's note:- Significance: -
    The habits of consumers who download music illegally are well-researched and documented, particularly by industry organisations such as the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). However, there is no published research on how aspirants to the music industry behave (that is, do they consume music illegal like their peers, or do their aspirations make them act differently). This is despite the importance of such data in that an industry which relies on respect for intellectual property has a shaky future if those who wish to work in it have no such respect. The research therefore provides a much needed insight which is useful to the music industry and academia alike.
    Rigour: -
    The paper uses a qualitative approach to discovering the behaviours and motivations of music industry aspirants. As such, it provides timely and meaningful information on the sample. It also outlines how the findings compare with other research such as that published by the BPI, RIAA and IFPI. It puts the data in the context of published academic work on intellectual property, consumer behaviour and digital media.
    Originality: -
    There is extensive evidence of the extent of illegal downloading produced by industry organisations, as well as academic work which examines the effect of illegal downloading. However, this is all concentrated on the habits of consumers – there is no research on the habits of music industry aspirants. Given that the future of the music industry relies on the skills and attitudes of music industry aspirants, the work is highly original and timely for future of the music industry and education.


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