Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo' Sparks Rampant Piracy NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Paul Resnikoff, publisher of Digital Music News, about what the piracy of Kanye West's new album says about streaming as a venue for music.

Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo' Sparks Rampant Piracy

Kanye West's 'The Life Of Pablo' Sparks Rampant Piracy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/468607008/468607009" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's Audie Cornish talks with Paul Resnikoff, publisher of Digital Music News, about what the piracy of Kanye West's new album says about streaming as a venue for music.


All right, so when a music artist puts an album out that can only be streamed, not downloaded, what happens? In Kanye West's case, apparently it gets pirated a lot. Paul Resnikoff is publisher of Digital Music News, and he joins us now. Hey there, Paul.

PAUL RESNIKOFF: How are you?

CORNISH: OK. So far, what we know about Kanye's album, "The Life Of Pablo," in terms of, like, illegal downloads?

RESNIKOFF: Sure. Well, initially in the first 24 hours, initial reports pointed to half a million illegal downloads happening in that very short span. Depending on who's estimating, that number's easily crossed into the multimillions since that point.

CORNISH: And you've written about the rise in kind of BitTorrent-based and other piracy kind of streaming platforms. And you say that basically any time an artist restricts content (laughter) in any way, it's like waving a flag to the pirates.

RESNIKOFF: As a general rule, yes. Piracy didn't go away, and it's always this beast that can jump out when stuff is restricted or not spread out ubiquitously.

CORNISH: So when we say restrictions or limitations, what do you mean? What other artists have tried this?

RESNIKOFF: There's actually quite a long list now. Not just Kanye, but Rihanna - T.I. is doing something now that's restricted, Adele and Taylor Swift - I mean, this is becoming a thing. And it's certainly creating ramifications for the piracy market.

CORNISH: In what way?

RESNIKOFF: Sure. Well, a lot of times, you know, a fan will just simply say, you know, I want to consume this the way I want to consume it. I don't want to pay for it. I don't want to go to this channel. I don't want to go to Tidal. I'm going to go to BitTorrent and download the album there.

CORNISH: So what's the deal? (Laughter) I mean, these are big artists. There are plenty of places to buy this music. Or in the case of Tidal, you could sign up for the service - right? - for 30 days and listen for free, (laughter) and cancel the service if you didn't want to subscribe.

RESNIKOFF: Most certainly. Actually, you're seeing both things happening at once. So in the case of Kanye's exclusive with Tidal - well, Tidal's subscription numbers more than doubled according to some estimates immediately after the Kanye exclusive. Clearly, this had a really big impact on Tidal. It was great. You know, it also had a huge impact across BitTorrent, right? Where a lot of users went to download the album for free. So you have both things happening at the same time.

CORNISH: Can you give us a sense of what's going on with music privacy these days compared to what it used to be? What are the figures?

RESNIKOFF: Sure. So the overall level of piracy is actually increasing. And the reason why is that there are so many more people coming online that it's just a function of numbers. Now coupled with that, we've seen a people on a percentage basis moving away from download piracy simply because they can stream their music at great ease.

CORNISH: Do you get the sense that there's been an attitude shift - right? - between streaming music and people who want to own it, right? Download and own it.

RESNIKOFF: Yes, there certainly has been, right? And this just dates back to our psychology around music for decades and decades. My parents valued a collection. You know, are you a real music fan? Like, what do you own? And so that is a major psychological shift, to come from that to - yeah, you know, I stream whatever I want. That psychological attachment to a collection and recording ownership has started to shift dramatically. And that's a really big deal.

CORNISH: That's Paul Resnikoff, he's publisher of Digital Music News. Thanks so much for talking with us.

RESNIKOFF: Hey, it's my pleasure.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.