Opinion

An Underestimated Shield Against Piracy: User Experience

Clément Souchier

Founder & CEO, Bridge.audio

The issue of piracy

How the Music industry tackled the piracy plague that now undermines the Movie sector

In the era of COVID-19, an abundance of press articles are pointing out “the return of piracy”. It appears that all the lockdown measures taken by world governments have led to a significant rise in illegal streaming and downloading of movies and TV shows.

Of course, this is no surprise at all. However, one may notice that this blow dealt to the cultural sector only concerns the movie industry. Somehow the music realm was spared from this global increase of online petty crime.

Why is that?

It is as simple as it gets: when user experience is better with illegal offers, then people go with piracy.

The only people that do not pirate are industry professionals. Needless to say, I include myself in this statement. In 25 years in the music industry, I never fell into self-harming! But the truth is, the general public does not care about the state of the industry, and it is all but normal. People are just trying to watch or listen to what they want, whenever they want. Their personal experience is what they care about, with little concern for the actual wishes of our creative industries.

The war on movie catalogs between streaming platforms

The catalog war that is currently going on among streaming services giants is the number one explanation for the success of piracy. Today, only illegal websites are providing an exhaustive offer of movies and TV shows.

Here’s a key question: should we really let the audience struggle to understand where to find all different existing movie catalogs?

From HBO, Warner, Universal, to Disney, Fox, and all independent franchises, how could we expect the public to feel satisfied? Obviously we cannot. The specifics of the catalog war should remain expert knowledge, without disturbing the audience’s experience.

Not only does the current system require people to hold several subscription plans at the same time, but the very experience of looking for a specific movie or show is a real pain in the neck. If you decide to stay on the legal side of the force, chances are you will have to go through 3-4 different accounts to find the movie you want. For most people, it will also mean enduring the ordeal of typing the movie’s name with a TV remote control, multiple times… We’ve all been there. In the end, you have more guarantee for a fight with your partner than finding your movie.

The rules of User Experience

All that being said, one can wonder why piracy has almost disappeared when it comes to music. Now you surely understand my point: the user experience on legal platforms (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music…) is ten times better than any pirate offers. It is true on all aspects of the experience: UI (interface and design) and UX (catalogs’ width and functionalities).

On the topic of catalog wars, the music industry can be praised for setting an example. Not so long ago the whole sector was at an extreme low, left with no other choice to survive than full pragmatism. This is why you can find all or nearly all music catalogs on the different streaming platforms. And needless to say the audience gets a navigation experience (search engines / suggestions / playlists) much superior to the one on pirate websites.

The rules of User Experience

Illegal platforms for music streaming or downloading still exist. Yet, their success today is marginal. That is why the industry tolerates that piracy, or to the least turns a blind eye on it. Those illegal websites are used for tracks never released on the big platforms, or for uncompressed audio versions. As I like to put it, it’s the small village of indomitable Gauls still holding out against the Roman invaders. In this case, it’s more about coexisting than “holding out”, and the invader is nothing less that the law, the legal offers.

An exhaustive music catalog

The movie industry would be wise to meditate on the path taken by the music business.
It is time to put an end to the battle of egos between Apple, Netflix, and company.
It is time to give rise to a top notch user experience that would beat piracy standards.

Without such common understanding within the movie industry, pirates have a bright future ahead.