Heavy metal shows piracy is not killing music, offers new business model


The music industry — and the television and movie industries — appears to be in free-fall. After years of having an exclusive means of delivery, its market hold has been fragmented by the internet and increasing distrust of big media. Looking over the past decade, the picture adds up to a slow and steady decline with downloaded forms of media failing to replace the profits of their physical counterparts.

Although the industries responded with initiatives to stop piracy, many observers disagree that piracy is the root of industry’s woes and think instead that there is a need for a new business plan in the media industries because the old profit model has failed. However, no one is sure what that plan will be, since media is no longer a high margin industry with tons of excess profit between cost and sales price, but a low margin industry where people aren’t willing to pay much for media. Think of the difference between a 1990s-era $150/month cable bill and today’s $15/month Netflix bill.

The new holy grail is to find a business model that allows bands to have more promotion than being independent can provide, but does not lead to the excess and inefficiency of the big record labels of the past. Right now, the industry is all ears to anyone who can demonstrate a working business model that shows a profit. As of recently, one of the possibilities is offered by a heavy metal band you’ll all recognize: Iron Maiden.

“Iron Maiden’s BitTorrent data suggests Brazil is a huge driver of fans – and given Brazil is one of the biggest file sharing nations on the planet, this is a strong indicator of popularity,” said Greg Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric.

“With their constant touring, [the] report suggests Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans. This is clear proof that taking a global approach to live touring can pay off, and that having the data to track where your fan bases lie will become ever more vital.”

Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band’s music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden’s case.

One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity, even down to the uniform-style black tshirts that fans wear that differ only in band logo and art. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres like pop, rock and rap. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it.

The music industry should listen up. Piracy may or may not be evil, but it’s a way of life for many people. High margins, such as found by selling a $0.25 CD for $18, are now gone. But heavy metal shows us a different business model in which although much of the product is pirated or given away, bands are still able to thrive and in fact do better than they did under the old model. Perhaps the future isn’t so dark after all for the music industry, at least in heavy metal.

Tags: ,

13 thoughts on “Heavy metal shows piracy is not killing music, offers new business model”

  1. Lord Mosher says:

    Yes but… Iron Maiden is the exception.
    When you love a girl you do anything to make her part of your life, and paying for her is one of the lesser obligations you’d be willing to undertake.
    Heavy Metal fans love Iron Maiden, they don’t just like them, they love them. Even within metal fans, most fans will agree to like heavy metal but LOVE Iron Maiden.
    There is a difference. I believe it is: devotion, and you can only feel that towards a band not a subgenre. Whatever that difference may be, I am sure it cannot be found in pop music or mainstream movies and it cannot be replicated by any business plan.
    Even further, most site regulars will more or less agree (like myself) with the “Best Of” selection on the site, but in all honesty, how many of you can really state to feel a similar kind of longstanding love or devotion to any of the bands displayed on that list?

    1. fallot says:

      As compared to what Iron Maiden fans feel for Iron Maiden? Definitely bro… I dont even know what you mean. Of course? Why else would I bother.

      1. Shayne O says:

        Its not hard to understand. Even if your not really big on second wave metal, you have to agree Iron maiden are one of the most respectable bands in the industry. Other than a few illadvised creative and solo-career decisions in the 90s (it was a strange era) maiden are a band who have for the most part continuously put out great albums, resisted trying to appease fads , always put on fucking amazing shows, and treat fans with utmost respect. And if that style is your thing, they are fucking amazing at it. Songs like Aces High and the Trooper still thrill scruffy kids around the world 30 years after they where released. Yes, heavy metal bands fucking love these guys, and they earned it.

  2. Devilution says:

    Now there are hundreds and hundreds of big and underground labels, thousands and thousands of bands all around the world. Numbers keep growing. It is not a sin if a metal fan downloads metal albums to increase his/her knowledge of genre and trends; to understand reviews; to discover new deserving bands or to avoid the clone-bands without personality; to widen his/her musical horizons.
    A metal fan LOVES music, he/she DOESN’T TREAT IT LIKE A DISPOSABLE DISTRACTION. If a metal fan finds quality or talent, be sure that he/she will pay for it. And, of course, die-hard fans will never die! (excuse me for my English…)

  3. Anarchaotic54 says:

    I hate the fact that artists have to present a good “Business Model” to record labels, but I guess that is a fact in the consumerist joke that is the music industry in the 21st Century. In some ways, the death of the recording industry has been great for music itself, because people that were in it for the wrong reasons, aren’t anymore. If you wanna makea living in music now, you have to work hard & play live because there is only money in performing now. But surely, if you love what you do, then that is your ultimate aim anyway, to directly connect with your fans? Looks like, for Maiden at least, downloading has been a conduit & actually fuelled their fantasy.

  4. Adam Jorgensen says:

    The new business model should be based arond Concerts and Touring on an international scale.


    We in the third world have trouble buying the music because it often isn’t stocked in our local stores and ordering online from Amazon, etc is a pain for various reasons (Shipping times, customs duties, theiving postal workers, etc, etc). On the other hand, pirating it is so much easier and lets us listen to all the music from a band, not just one album.

    However, let word drop that Band X is going to be stopping off in third world country Y on their next tour and make no mistake, every single ticket will sell.

    Here in the third world we simply don’t get to see the bands we love live anywhere near often enough. That means that when they do stop by on a tour we absolutely have to see them and we will pay a stupid amount to do so.

  5. Pingback: ETCentric
  6. Keith says:

    Contrary to the lies peddled by the music industry, sharing leads to more sales not less.


  7. Christophe says:

    All what’s said is true, but I think it goes further: most people are not willing to pay for a CD or an album download anymore (at least, not more than needed for the “commodity to have the music with you”). However, they wanna HAVE BEEN THERE, they want to TOUCH, to EXPERIENCE. Nowadays, to lots of people, a CD is nothing more than a preview of some concert – it’s a teaser, it’s an ad. Who wanna pay for an ad? But paying a hundred bucks for a ticket is OK. The margin’s there (and in the t-shirt you’ll buy).

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: