Webreakstuff blog

Oink and fixing the music industry

Oink, the (super-popular) bittorrent music tracker was brought down by authorities a couple of days ago. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people came out in favor of its demise because it was screwing up the music industry, and quite a few others were shocked and saddened by seeing it go. Fact is, a whole lot of people lost their main means of contact with new artists and music.

Although Oink itself didn’t host any illegal or copyrighted material, it did facilitate the trading of music for free between users – which is an illegal activity. Now, why is it that people did prefer Oink to getting out to stores and actually buying CDs? Here’s what I believe are a few reasons:

  • Price: there’s really no way $20 CDs can compete with free
  • Commodity: not leaving the house is a major selling point
  • Choice: a much bigger catalogue than the one you can find on any store, online or otherwise

All three of these points – price, commodity and choice – are huge, but lets focus on the last one of them. Choice is really the key point to the success of legal vs illegal. Would you buy 100 $20 cds in the dark, without knowing the bands putting them out? Right. But you might download 100 releases and see if any of those caught your ear. You might even add a few favorite bands to your collection. You know, those bands which you end up buying the whole catalog from. Oink was the ultimate music library.

People aren’t screwed up, the music industry is. Labels need to understand that without fighting “illegal downloads” and “pirates” in price, commodity and choice, they’ll end up nowhere. Give me an easy and flexible service where I can discover thousands of new artists (like Oink did), and let me pay the right price for what I enjoy and I’ll be all over it – paying for music and all. Wouldn’t that be great?

Note: If you haven’t seen it yet, you should read DJ Rupture’s post about Oink too. Because it wasn’t just “regular people” browsing and using Oink. Artists (whose music was up there for grabs) did too – and they weren’t that few, really.

  1. xaotica says: October 26, 20072:09 am

    i’d add a big #4 – quality. legal music sites will continue to flounder until they start offering FLAC or other uncompressed formats. it’s just hard to justify paying for 160-192 quality mp3s. (note: i’m not saying i don’t recognize the few who do offer higher quality files… kudos to them, and i’ve bought legal files from them to support it :)

  2. Antonio Pratas says: October 26, 20077:12 am

    It definitely was a huge library, and there I knew that I could find a lot of new artists that most people never heard of. If someone wanted to get to know a new band in determined genre, Oink was the place to go.

    I hope that the ideas of the music labels change, a bit like Radiohead did, to understand that they will be more famous if their music is easily spread. It’s something like a graphic designer that wants to get noticed, he spreads his work publicly online, most bands don’t, how can we get to know a band if we can just hear a music?

  3. Bruno Figueiredo says: October 26, 200710:34 am

    Running the risk of being controversial, I think that Books, Music and Films should be free on the internet. The recent Radiohead experiment showed that bands can strive with “donationware”. It seems like a poor business model, but if you think about it, there are always movies that you want to see on a big screen with good sound effects, there are albums where you want the coverart or case because of its design/ingenuity and there are always books that someone will find more comfortable to read in paper.

    Just imagine how this would impact the developing nations.

  4. links for 2007-10-27 (Leapfroglog) says: October 27, 20076:22 am

    [...] Webreakstuff » Oink and fixing the music industry Oliveira discusses Oink’s demise and what he thinks online music stores should learn from it: price, commodity and (most importantly) choice. (tags: price commodity choice music oink p2p bittorrent copyright culture) [...]

  5. frebro says: October 27, 20073:09 pm

    Point #5 would be the community on Oink that I don’t see on any legal online music stores. The forums are overflowing with interested and knowledgable people who spend a lot of time helping you find new music, and discussing upcoming releases. That is a valuable resource that no online store could afford to keep.

  6. Drewx says: October 30, 20077:01 pm

    Thanks for the pointer. I’ve blogged this at Copyfight (http://copyfight.corante.com/archives/2007/10/30/oink_thumbs_its_nose_at_cartel_even_in_death.php)

    With respect to your first point, try this sentence on for size: “There’s really no way that $4 bottles of water can compete with free.” I’ve maintained for years that the bottled-water business is the model that the music industry should be copying. We buy oceans of this stuff when there’s free tap water just about everywhere. It’s all in the image and marketing. If it can be done for water I’m sure it can be done for digital music.

  7. Rutger says: November 13, 20072:13 pm

    Nice points. It is indeed really about the potential of the long tail.
    I’ve written about the lead user potential of communities like oink.


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