Music Exec: Limewire “Thieves” Were iTunes’ Biggest Customers

The death of Limewire broke many hearts of those who loved quick and free music downloads. The peer to peer site which saw millions of people uploading music and sharing it, was shut down last year after legal action from the music industry. The record labels, artists and retailers like iTunes claimed they were losing so such money as a result of people getting their music for free. Ironically it turns out that a majority of the Limewire music pirates were in fact the biggest customers on iTunes, according an ex music boss.

Douglas Merrill used to be head of digital at major music label EMI and also chief information officer at Google, before moving on to found ZestCash. Merill recently told delegates at a CA Expo in Sydney, how the people who downloaded the most illegal music on Limewire were actually those who spent the most money with music sellers like iTunes, Tech Radar reports. Merrill claims that Limewire was a try before you buy platform, allowing people to sample the music before paying out for the real track. Of course some people would download the track for free and not buy the original.

Merrill insisted that demonizing and punishing file sharers was a bad idea, dismissing the fact that they were bad for business. In fact you could look at it from a different angle. If there was no way of files circulating amongst music listeners, then there was no telling how good the song was and if it was worth buying. Today we have the luxury of listening to it on YouTube and endless other ways, but when much of this piracy took place it was before the video sites rise and the emergence of other options. Listening to the radio all day waiting for that particular song to air proved tedious, so Limewire may have seemed the best bet.

According to The Next Web, Merrill even suggested it was the fault of the music industry, criticizing their sales methods. “Going to sue customers for file sharing is like trying to sell soap by throwing dirt on your customers”. The ex EMI boss does not agree with the music industries stance and believes that what music pirates are doing is a good marketing technique for them. In a similar music downloading scandal, we saw companies like Microsoft taking advantage of the Amy Winehouse death to try and sell more music.

Merrill went on to say “The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) said it isn’t that we are making bad music, but the ‘dirty file sharing guys’ are the problem”. Looking back it seems harsh to call your best customers, “dirty file sharers” if these reports are true. You can understand the anger being vented at those who simply take the music for free and do not contribute a single penny or dime. Maybe the music should be made cheaper to encourage more to buy it legally? What are your thoughts on the downloading free music? Tell us by leaving a comment below.