Angry Birds CEO: If Piracy Is Too High, It’s Probably Your Own Damn Fault

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It’s been official for a while now: the music industry of 2012 is exactly where other industries don’t want to end up.

Especially the part that includes lawsuits against fans, mispriced content, endless infighting, and disastrous profit-plunges.

> “We could learn a lot from the music industry and the rather terrible ways they’ve tried to combat piracy…”

The comment came during Midem from Mikael Hed of Rovio Mobile, whose Angry Birds is among the most successful games of all time.  But instead of simply tolerating piracy, Hed’s enforcement response simply seemed more progressive.   For example, Hed felt that pursuing most pirates in court was “futile,” but Hed seemed ready to pursue companies that distorted his brands or created problems for his fans.  Which means that some enforcement makes sense for Rovio, just not the way it’s being applied in the music industry.

> “Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day.”

And make no mistake, Hed is battling piracy on a number of fronts.  “We have issues with piracy, not just in apps, but also especially in consumer products,” Hed explained.  “There’s tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which are not officially licensed products.”

But if anything doesn’t make sense to Hed, it’s killing off potential fans, even if they’re stealing from him. “We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users and start treating them as fans,” Hed continued.  “Today, we talk about how many fans we have, because if we lose that fanbase, our business is done. But if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow.”

Which sort of reminded me of what Zoe Keating told us recently about her approach to piracy.  Keating seemed totally disinterested in cracking down on file-swappers, because ultimately they helped to expand the fanbase.  But she was more than willing to crack down on broadcasters that used her music without permission.  “It’s not exposure if they don’t know it’s you,” Keating told us.

But Hed raised another important point about pricing and convenience.  Because according to Hed, if there’s way too much piracy going on, it’s probably the company’s fault for not offering its product in a more convenient way.  Which makes you wonder whether things like 99-cent downloads – or even Spotify windowing – really make sense.