The music industry has been forced to reinvent itself thanks to the Internet. Since Napster first appeared on the scene, consumers have found ways to get their music for free, at the expense of labels and artists. One answer to this problem has been the subscription music model: services like Spotify, Last.fm, MOG, and Rdio are tradeoffs between a marketplace looking for profit models and customers who simply won’t spend what they pay for. ‘they used to do.
The proper functioning of this new economic model is subject to debate. Independent artists say they get ripped off by such services, and some established musicians will not allow their music to be sold this way. Selling access to music rather than selling the merchandise is a very new idea, with its drawbacks and advantages. While in the case of most services, consumers do not have real ownership of this data, this has been largely linked to the reduction in piracy.
Yet there are always ways around this. Thanks to stream extraction, users can still pirate music, even in what are supposed to be safe havens for artists.
And Spotify is one of the victim services of the tool. The site is still relatively new in the United States, but sites like Spotify Ripper and dozens like it give the users a loophole in the system so that they can get their music for free. Using apps like ReplayMusic, they can record from the service to access music offline.
“It’s a gray area because the concept has not been tested in court,” according to the SpotifyRip site. “However, it is legal to record from internet radio and you could say that Spotify is a type of internet radio.” Still, the site admits that this goes against Spotify’s usage policy. Such services are available for a variety of applications, such as KITTY and Pandora. Developers actively create and sell software to help consumers (of all technical skill levels) capture and keep their music.
“Stream mining is nothing new and there are a number of free and inexpensive software tools available online to enable this activity,” says Mark Mulligan of Music Industry Blog. “Streaming services have been at risk for years. The reality is that stream ripping will happen, but I don’t see it as a major risk. He says that while many services are user-friendly, all of the metadata is removed from the files, so the process itself can take a long time.
“That’s not to say it’s not a problem for Spotify, it is,” he says. “But it is much less of a problem than problems such as achieving profitability, creating long-term financial viability, [and] in competition with other streaming services.
Music industry analyst Kevin erickson Also says that even though Spotify has legally covered its bases with its terms of service, mining streams can still hurt it. “If SpotifyRip becomes popular, the press will not be favorable. Spotify claims to have stopped pirating (or reduced it) in certain markets, so that claim will go away if SpotifyRip makes inroads.
While this apparently isn’t a major issue, it could continue to give streaming services an uphill battle with record companies. Google Music has struggled to rally the Big Four to its app, and Spotify’s launch has been delayed due to contract negotiations. Back in 2007The RIAA said flux mining was not a threat to the industry, but hoped technology to prevent it would be adopted to bypass the problem entirely. Of course, music consumption has undergone vast changes since 2007, and it appears the powers that be have not fulfilled the RIAA’s plan, and the idea that the industry would bypass stream ripping entirely was futile.
There seem to be endless obstacles in the way of a consumer-driven, profitable music market for artists. Stream pulling has been happening for years without much hassle, or mainstream users are well aware of it, but the growing popularity of the subscription platform could seriously change that. If stream mining became a more popular activity, new services might have a hard time getting started.
Spotify could ultimately serve as a caveat for this: “[It] may start to receive pressure from labels to bridge the platform’s technology gap to counter SpotifyRip technology, ”notes Erickson. If this becomes a big enough problem, labels will start turning to services that have prevented or are taking action to prevent stream extraction.
It also means consumers have a loophole on their fingers. Authorities knew about stream extraction, but either thought the technology would eventually turn it off or the music model wouldn’t lend itself to it. But the opposite has happened, and that means that once again there is a small window for music lovers who want some ownership over their digital content.