Did online piracy really hurt music sales in 2011?

Mike Halsey MVP
Jan 2, 2012
Updated • Nov 30, 2012
Music and Video

The digital music and video industries have been under increasingly scrutiny in recent weeks because of the US government's SOPA anti-piracy legislation.  Now the UK's British Phonographic Industry (BPI) have released figures that prove piracy is to blame for all their woes... or does it?

The figures released today and reported by the BBC show that overall CD album sales were down 13% on 2010's figures to 86.2 million discs.  The figures also showed that the sales of digital albums climbed 24% to a total of 26.6 million in the same period.  The BPI said that the decline in album sales was the result of piracy, and they went on to blame the British government for not doing enough to tackle it.

Now you can't compare one percentage with another as both will have begun from a different base, so let's do some maths.  A sales drop of 13% would have made 2010's CD album sales a total of 99.1 million and a rise of 24% in digital album sales would have made for total sales in 2010 of 21.4 million.  This would make total album sales in 2010 120.5 million.

The BPI are claiming however that total album sales in 2011 of 112.8 which is only slightly down on the previous year is all due to piracy.  Technically the BPI are correct but only in so far as overall sales are down.  Banging their drum about piracy being the cause when online digital sales rose by a quarter (which frankly is a huge sales leap in any industry) just goes to show how behind the times the music and movie industries really are.

People having to tighten their budgets, or finding new ways to buy and consume their music is a much more likely explanation for the sales drop.  The BBC said...

"People now buy the individual songs they like rather than buying the whole album because they like a single," said Philip Buxton, an independent digital media consultant.  "So they might buy the single and then use services like Spotify and Lastfm to listen to the other tracks and are then much more selective about what they purchase.  "The implication for the record industry is that they need to embrace this new model rather than fight it."

This reported 6% drop in overall sales will be seen by many as a smokescreen created by major multi-nationals who are feeling their pockets squeezed when they're not fully embracing the new ways that people want to consume their music and video.  It's similar to the banks claiming to be hard done by after being bailed out by taxpayers worldwide, just ask the Occupy Wall Street protesters how they feel about that!

The BPI's Chief Executive, Geoff Taylor told the BBC "While other countries take positive steps to protect their creative sector, our government is taking too long to act on piracy, while weakening copyright to the benefit of the US tech giants."

Ultimately though SOPA has brought the whole issue of piracy and copyright theft back into the public consciousness and it's unlikely that the general public worldwide will be sympathetic.  I may be wrong and you might disagree with me, but it's widely considered that the music and video industries are failing to keep up with the demands of consumers.

What are your views on this?  Do you think that the music and movie companies are delivering content in the way that suits you best?


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  1. Anonymous said on August 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Why not make use of the mplayer.conf?

  2. Mike J said on August 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Huh, I have never even seen this “font cache” pane; videos play at once for me, using VLC & XP SP3.

    1. Martin said on August 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

      Mike, in theory this should have only been displayed once to you, at the very first video that you played with VLC. The time this window is displayed depends largely on the number of fonts in your font directory.

      1. Mike J said on August 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

        huh, I lucked out for a change?? Amazing!!
        Apparently VLC keeps this info through version updates, but I didn’t see this message after a fresh OS install about 8 weeks ago, & a new VLC.

  3. myo said on August 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    yes, yes, i have the same problem. sometimes, VLC crashes when it is playing .mov file.

  4. Kishore said on August 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Buidling font Cache pop-up


    Open VLC player.

    On Menu Bar:


    (at bottom – left side)
    Show settings — ALL

    Open: Video
    Click: Subtitles/OSD (This is now highlited, not opened)
    Text rendering module – change this to “Dummy font renderer function”


    Re-open – done.
    Progam will no longer look outside self for fonts

    Source – WorthyTricks.co.cc

    1. Martin said on August 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

      Great tip, thanks a lot Kishore.

  5. javier said on August 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    @Kishore, I’ll try your tips, but does this mean it will no longer show subtitles either?
    I do use subtitles, but the fontcache dialog box pops up (almost) everytime I play a file.

    Could this be related to the fonts I have installed? Or if I add/remove fonts to my system?

    I’ll try to do a fresh install also, if your tips does no work. I’ll post back here later…


  6. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,

  7. Kishore said on August 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    @ Javier, The trick i posted will show up subtitles too. If not,Dont worry, VLC is currently sorting out this issue and the next version will be out soon.

    No probs @ Martin !! Its my pleasure

  8. Ted said on October 22, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Try running LC with administrator privileges. That seemed to fix it for me

  9. Evan said on December 8, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I am using SMplayer 0.8.6 (64-bit) (Portable Edition) on Windows 7 x64. Even with the -nofontconfig parameter in place SMplayer still scans the fonts. Also, I have enabled normal subtitles and it is still scanning fonts before playing a video. Also, it does this every time the player opens a video after a system restart (only the fist video played).

  10. Mike Williams said on September 6, 2023 at 1:26 pm

    Does that mean that only instrumental versions of songs will be available for non-paying users?

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