Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Record Companies Turn the Tables on Downloaders

Facing slumping sales and increased online piracy, record companies have decided to turn lemons into lemonade. Companies have started planting advertiser-sponsored video clips of their artists on video sharing sites--the exact same kind of sites they've been battling for years.

The Wall Street Journal noted in October, for example, that rapper Jay-Z authorized a video clip from one of his summer concerts in New York to be placed on a variety of illegal music-sharing cites. The action occurred at the request of Coca-Cola, the Journal said, and the clip included promotions for Coke.

While record companies have usually battled file-sharing sites by planting fake "decoy" files to thwart and frustrate downloaders, this new tack by Jay-Z recognizes that the people who download files are also some of the biggest music fans and buyers, and that it may be more in their interest to market to them rather than sue them. So the decoy files being planted on leading file-sharing sites contain promotional materials, which are then seen by eager fans. So when fans turn to the file networks for purposes of piracy, they're getting a marketing message instead.

The article notes that other artists including Audioslave and Ice Cube have also benefited from decoy files, putting bits of a song into the files and promising that the user and this companions will be able to stream the entire song once the file is forwarded to a certain number of people.

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