Update: CiteWorld has run a correction to its story, noting, “MusicMetric did not work directly with Iron Maiden. The analysis described in this article was carried out without the band’s participation or knowledge.”
Stopping online music piracy is like trying to contain an incurable epidemic. It’s effects are rampant, and attempting to douse the flames has proved to be an ongoing challenge. Label-backed solutions like Spotify and Pandora have fallen short of restoring profit, leading to artists including Thom Yorke and David Byrne to decry the services’ unfair royalty payments. While launching assaults against industry executives is one way to combat the problem, metal legends Iron Maiden are choosing to deal with piracy at its very root: by targeting the online perpetrators themselves, and converting them into paying fans (via CiteWorld).
Utilizing the UK analytics firm Musicmetric, the band was able to track down the geographic makeup of their most rampant pirates, noting a hotbed of activity in Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, and Brazil. Instead of waging legal war, the band suited up and went to the front lines themselves, refocusing the bulk of their touring efforts toward South America. The result? Massive sellouts and a surge in merchandise sales, with a Sao Paolo show grossing $2.6 million alone. A welcome peripheral effect included explosive growth among their various social networks, garnering Maiden some 5 million new online followers/fans.
“Having an accurate real time snapshot of key data streams is all about helping inform people’s decision making,” said Musicmetric CEO/cofounder Gregory Mead. “Artists could say ‘we’re getting pirated here, let’s do something about it’, or ‘we’re popular here, let’s play a show’. Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans.”
While data mining may lend to a successful conversion model for established artists like Iron Maiden, the financial success of smaller independent musicians continues to hang in the balance. Perhaps this model of creative thinking will lead to similar success stories for those burgeoning artists, helping create new avenues in working with an inevitable evil.
For a taste of what South American fans were treated to, check out the band’s performance of “The Trooper” from September’s Rock in Rio.