For the last decade, illegal downloading has been painted as the biggest threat to the music industry. Accordingly, the music industry has scrambled to find different way to curb file-sharing: Low-cost (and largely unprofitable) music streaming services, like Deezer and Rdio, have risen. In Canada, anti-piracy firms have sought to monitor the downloading habits of Canadians, and launch U.S.-style copyright lawsuits, to marginal success. People everywhere decried the death of the music industry.
Deathmetal.org points out that music is no longer a high-margin industry—meaning that profits are becoming slimmer. But there’s one band who might have the solution: Iron Maiden.
Here are the numbers, as published by the London Stock Exchange: Since May of 2012, the band’s online social presence has increased by 8 million, with many fans coming from South America. That growth, in turn, resulted in more BitTorrent activity—with Brazil leading the charge in illegally sharing the band’s music. The band didn’t monetize their digital music sales; instead, they spent this period touring relentlessly.
And, according to a LSE report, they made big-time profits: They reported earnings between $12-34 million dollars, or £10-20 million. That’s an unheard of sum in the modern music industry.
More impressively, this defies the conventional logic applied to file-sharing—namely, that the industry can’t survive if music is shared freely. But in Iron Maiden’s case, the opposite proved true: In allowing people to share their music freely, they created more fans; in creating more fans, they earned higher profits from touring.
It isn’t to say, however, that Iron Maiden have a clear-cut solution for the music industry. Deathmetal.org correctly points out that metal “doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders… fans tend to identify more their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it.” They’re correct. The mentality of the genre means that fans might have been more willing to spend money on Iron Maiden merch, tickets, and memorabilia—the same model might not work as well for, say, pop music, which attracts a broader fanbase.
Still, it’s an encouraging sign for the industry—and a strong argument that piracy might be the least of music’s problems.