Since around the advent of Napster, we have slowly become inundated with streaming services, formats of music, genres and bands themselves. Over time Billboard has begun counting digital sales, and even late last year, they mentioned that they would give heavier importance to streaming services. And I realize that there are a ton of streaming services, for example Spotify, Deezer, and competing services from Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. And that goes without even mentioning YouTube, Vevo or similar. It has to be a hefty chore to keep up with all of these service, accurately.
But here is an idea, and it may piss some off, but the music industry has always been about smoke and mirrors, and selling the illusion a PR person or label wants. So why not start counting downloads from Torrent sites, and put that toward over all plays, and purchases? I get it, it’s illegal, and the argument could be similar to saying “hey why not allow athletes to use performance enhancing drugs”, but hear me out. How many albums did labels, and record stores lie about before the SoundScan era? It isn’t as if someone’s moral integrity is at stake here, this is an industry that has used as much magic as possible to fenagle things into a positive situation. So, use the number of illegal downloads in your favor.
Like I mentioned above, downloading from torrent sites is illegal, but keeping track of the number of downloads, will also allow you to see a band’s actual popularity. And let’s face it, this practice isn’t going away anytime soon, so leverage what you can out of it. Bands aren’t making money off of album sales, but being able to approach a sponsor with these figures, may help better finance a tour, or help pay for studio time that otherwise would not have been available, because the only statistic they would use is “well the last album was purchased 1,000 times, this one only sold 400 times”. As opposed to “we’ve engaged an estimated number of 2,000,000 listeners between those that purchased, streamed or obtained the album from a download site. As a result, we could potentially position your brand directly in the crosshairs of those same listeners.”
All businesses evolve with time, and the music industry has been sluggish to embrace certain changes that have come at them in the post-Napster era. It maybe difficult to implement what I am proposing, but if two million people are downloading the latest release by a band, legal or not, these figures should still somehow be accounted for when looking at overall sales and streams.