To say that the advent of piracy shifted the economic landscape of the music industry is to say that the sky is blue. Though a select cadre of artists like Adele and Taylor Swift continue to sell albums while defying streaming platforms, it is self-evident that DMCA litigation has, overall, a limited efficacy in combatting music piracy.
Guitarist-turned-entrepreneur Tommy Funderburk recognized piracy’s impenetrability in 2002, and has since adopted an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. In 2013, he founded his company Muzit, benchmarked by his development of a platform called TRACE. Forbes reports:
“TRACE stands for “Torrent Reporting and Content Engine,” and it aims to track peer-to-peer networks in real-time. It follows downloads as they occur, keeps a running archive, and pinpoints the physical location of such file-sharing down to the postal code on a map.
But here’s the twist: rather than pursue litigation against pirates, TRACE leverages their data into individual marketing campaigns, so that an artist might establish a more profitable relationship with such fans. For instance, after learning via TRACE that they had over 200,000 listeners lurking in the shadows, the Mavericks decided to raffle a guitar to a pool of file-sharers as an incentive to go legitimate.”
Artists who join the TRACE platform are privy to insights as to where their music is being heavily pirated, and by whom. Funderburk purports that his goal is to “connect artists directly to the fans…to identify people in real time, as they download music.”
The specificity of the data which TRACE collects from seeders may be alarming to some, but Funderburk, who maintains relationships on “both sides of the piracy coin,” and has no intention of using this data litigiously, jokingly saying “I don’t think the NSA needs music.” According to Funderburk:
“Muzit allows artists to send fans an offer for which they can opt-in to receive… If fans do not accept the offer from the artists, they have not shared anything with the artist. The map on the platform can only drill down to a zip code. Muzit uses the DMCA to have the legible right to communicate to the ISP (and thus the fans) but the Muzit request of the ISP is totally different.”
Forbes further notes Funderburk’s staunch opposition to working with artists who wish to take action against seeders:
“As an added insurance, TRACE is founded on a specific policy which, as Tommy put it to me, is absolute and immutable: ‘We choose to work with individual artists who do not want to sue their fans,” he said. “If you want to create positive relationships, then Muzit’s for you. If you want to sue your fans, there’s other companies that do that.'”
As further measures to combat or circumvent piracy continue to arise, it will be interesting to watch TRACE’s successes and shortcomings with Funderburk’s unconventional approach.