I didn’t feel very guilty about it at the time, and still don’t, because I had spent a great deal of my music-purchasing life dropping $18 at a time to get the one song I wanted to listen to on a CD. But I always said that if record companies stopped being morons and provided me with the option to buy music in a way that was as convenient as (ahem) “file sharing,” then I would go legit.
Well, it took long enough, because record company executives are much, much bigger morons than I suspected, but we finally are there: the ease of buying music has made file sharing services like Napster or Limewire basically obsolete.
98% of my music piracy was just downloading copies of what I already owned on vinyl. Before download codes were included with records, you had to purchase an album twice if you wanted to listen to it on the go. As a (former) wannabe audiophile with a love for vinyl, this didn’t fall within my tiny budget.
Basically, the lack of a consistent shopping ecosystem or any type of trial service made digital downloads a risk. Sure, shareware, demos, and 30 second samples existed, but they were rarely helpful. It was just easier to pirate something than it was to get it legitimately.
When digital downloads first started to catch on, media companies were quick to try all types of DRM. A lot of this DRM put absurd restrictions on the devices you could use, or worse, locked it onto one specific piece of hardware or software. This meant if you wanted to jump between devices, your content was stuck on old hardware.
I’m not going to get on a soapbox and scream about taking the moral high ground to stop pirating. In fact, the main reason I stopped pirating is that now, piracy takes too many steps. It’s now a better experience to download something from a legitimate source than it is to pirate it. In fact, I hardly even noticed that I’d stopped pirating—it just kind of happened.
The lessons that business should learn from the The Great Music Piracy Wars, but won’t, is that it’s always a better idea to give your customers what they want, rather than trying to heard them into products that they don’t.