The Netflix Effect: Why Spotify could help end internet piracy

By on October 12, 2011

By John Welsey Wilson–

Let’s face it: most of us college students have lived our entire lives in a world where we never had to pay for music. We don’t really think about the implications much, if at all.
Most people would call what pirates do stealing, and before I learned about Spotify—a European music service that launched in the states earlier this year— I would have dawned my Guy Fawkes mask and went on a pro-piracy rant just like any other internet nerd.

What makes Spotify noticeably different from other legal music streaming services like Rhapsody or Napster? Not a lot if you just consider basic functionality. All three services are mainly pay-to-stream (Spotify is free in the USA until 2012), and have a gigantic library of music.

There are a couple of features that set it apart, though. The most important of these is that Spotify formed a partnership with Facebook. Anyone with a Facebook account can log in to Spotify and begin listening. Taking the social aspect even further, if any of your Facebook friends are using Spotify, you can see what they are listening to in your news feed and just click play. Spotify also integrates your iTunes library, so you can listen to your entire music library on the service while offline.

But what really forced me to change my outlook on pirating? Something I like to call “The Netflix Effect.” By the end of 2010, at peak times, Netflix—which will be integrated into Facebook’s new “Timeline” profile as well—accounted for an average of 30 percent of all Internet traffic in North America. P2P networks only account for about 19 percent in comparison. This means that practically everyone you know has a Netflix Instant subscription, and it’s a great thing.

This wasn’t always the case, though. Two years ago, Netflix Instant was just a blip on the pop culture radar. My first childhood friend recently returned from a 2-year mission in Brazil, where he had no real access to the Internet. When he returned to the U.S., one of the first things he said to me was, “Have you seen this Netflix? It’s amazing!”

Spotify, which has a style much like Netflix, has had a similar effect after its European launch in 2009. For example, in Sweden—the Internet pirate capital of the world and headquarters of pirating giant The Pirate Bay—officials have claimed that Spotify has reduced music pirating by 25 percent in these two years.

If Spotify can reduce piracy in Sweden, there is hope for a Netflix effect in America as well. There will still be detractors that say it’s just the next futile attempt at fixing an industry that Napster crippled at the beginning of the 20th century, but they miss the point. It’s not like the first attempts at any type of service always works.

opinon@louisvillecardinal.com
Image from Spotify.com

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