Over the last month, we’ve been without Spotify, Deezer and Western new products on other streams. While units are looking for ways to subscribe abroad, the rest remember the already forgotten word “download”. Vladimir Zavyalov decided to defend the latter and explain why talks about piracy and ethics are important, but not in 2022 in Russia.
Among the readers of this text is unlikely to be at least one person in whose life there was zero experience of illegal music downloads.
In general, more than one text can be devoted to the history of music piracy in Russia. Underground publishers of non-current music M.AD Records, the collapse of “Gorbushka” in Moscow and “Juno” in St. Petersburg, a network of record stores with legalized piracy, the forum FunkySouls, file sharing, Torrents.ru, “Zaitsev.net” and so on – listener more than twenty-five will definitely find familiar words here.
Is it worth talking in the rhetoric “Piracy is bad?”. I don’t think it’s worth it. The answer to this is as obvious as to the questions in the spirit of “Is it ethical to steal products from the store?” and “Should I wash my hands before eating and brush my teeth at night?” Content theft is the same as theft.
Content theft in Russia is a special case. Prior to streaming in the mid-2010s, audio piracy was a legal norm and a legal habit – a whole generation grew up convinced that the Internet should make absolutely everything free. The local industry suffered from this. Revenue from concerts and corporate events was the only source of income for artists who were robbed first by physical pirates and then by the runes of the era of chaos, permissiveness and audio recordings in the UK.
A telling moment: when Western artists sighed from royalty from streaming and remembered the golden years of CD domination on the eve of Napster, the Russian industry was literally fascinated by the fact that you can not play concerts, but still get something. Another telling fact: Daniel Eck came to Pavel Durov to negotiate cooperation between Spotify and VKontakte, but it didn’t work out – the director of the social network directly said that users are not ready to legally consume content.
But the legal nihilism brought up by the early RuNet is just one of the problems. Another problem is the availability of content (both physical and monetary) and even its quality. Probably, personal experience will be an illustrative and relevant example here. In 2006-2007, when I, a high school student, had wired Internet, there was music in its abundance and diversity. Were there many chances to get it legally? Hardly. Not much music was published in Russia – and often the booklet was brutally cut to a single turn. Only Soyuz and Purple Legion traded in foreign licenses – the average price of 700 rubles per CD for a high school student was an unaffordable amount. Internet markets in Russia at the time were rather scary – due to insufficient digitalization of banking and the chaotic market in general. It was banal to order CDs from abroad.
“Funky”, torrents, “Gopher” and other ways to hide music helped. Have Western artists lacked well-deserved royalties? Definitely. The Russian market is undoubtedly huge: this can be said at least based on the country’s population.
But there is another question: how many visitors to the Artbot Monkeys festival in 2013 had the band’s albums on CD and vinyl? I doubt that at least 10%. In the early 2010s, bands like Two Door Cinema Club or Foster the People performed regularly in both capitals. Would listeners without RuNet and audio from VK, the FunkySouls forum and torrents learn about them? I doubt it.
A paradox arose: the anarchornet of the pre-streaming era left Western artists without money from here, but with listeners here. And, as a consequence, concerts.
Why did streaming defeat piracy that no one has been able to do for twenty-five years? The answer is simple: convenience. Let’s say you wanted an album by The Music (my colleague Ovchinnikov and I wanted it!). In 2007, it was inconvenient to look for it in the capital’s record stores, not find it, get a card at the bank, look for it in foreign stores with the possibility of delivery to Russia and shake with fear, making probably the first foreign transaction in life – but it was It is convenient to go to “Funky”, SoulSeek or torrents, find and download. In 2021, it was inconvenient to search for it on pirated sites on Google, and then think how convenient it is to listen to downloaded files on the iPhone – but it was convenient to pay in two touches 169 rubles for a Spotify subscription and quickly find the album in search.
2022 forcibly returns the forgotten sensations. How to listen, for example, to the new album Red Hot Chili Peppers legally? He is not on Russian streams. Vinyl or CD cannot be ordered from abroad. There is only one way out – to remember about torrents, SoulSeek and their modern analogues such as TG channels with music storage.
At the same time, 2022 and 2007 have significant differences. Piracy in 2007 was a forced, but still conscious choice: it was still possible (albeit difficult) to order anything from abroad, and the CDs were still imported to the Union and the Purple Legion.
Piracy in 2022 is a forced measure: the labels themselves withdrew their music from Russia, it was not a listener’s choice, so talk about the dangers of piracy can hardly be called appropriate in the context of deliberate restrictions on content by its suppliers. Streaming 2022 has become an awkward event for the discerning listener. Will the same album be released on Friday? God knows.
In fact, they have left without content people who have already got into the habit of paying for it – I am convinced that a significant part of them will return to streaming as soon as all restrictions are removed.
How long will Russia’s musical isolation from the Western music industry last? Unknown. It is possible that new big stars will appear abroad during this time. Being formally cut off from the Russian market, only thanks to piracy will they be able to get listeners here first, and in the future also concert goers.
Piracy 2022 is not people’s choice. This is a necessity – and you should not be ashamed of it.