T.I., “Whatever You Like”
Just how pervasive is music piracy? The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates that a full 95% of all music that trades hands on the Internet does so without songwriters or record companies getting a cent. But others believe the figure is far lower: The tech review site Ars Technica suggests that the real number of illegal downloads is closer to 20% of all music traded online.
Last year, the most popularly swapped song was “Whatever You Like” by the rapper T.I., according to Los Angeles-based BigChampagne. The company tracks music streaming, downloading, broadcast and purchases-online and off-by monitoring such outlets as MySpace, YouTube, iTunes, AOL, Yahoo, MTV and commercial radio. It also tracks the tens of billions of songs being swapped over peer-to-peer file-swapping services like BitTorrent and Limewire. According to BigChampagne chief Les Garland, the top songs like “Whatever You Like”-as well as “Can’t Believe,” (by T-Pain), “Love in this Club,” (by Usher) and “No One” (by Alicia Keys)-are downloaded tens of millions of times each year.
That’s a lot of lost revenue, which is why a growing number of people are advocating for a tax on broadband subscribers, with the proceeds going to copyright owners. The more an artist’s songs are streamed or downloaded, the bigger the chunk of the proceeds that artist will collect. The Isle of Man, a tiny, self-governing island in the Irish Sea, is close to ratifying such a plan. In the U.S., Warner Music Group has been actively engaged with universities to figure out how to harness the popularity of peer-to-peer technology, while at the same time getting its artists and copyright-holders paid. For artists like T.I., that could buy a lot of bling.