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Op-Ed: Country Blocking Music Releases Has To End

The archaic practice of region or geo-blocking music releases has to end. It only encourages piracy and turns potential fans off from artists. The internet is global and instantaneous.

This may be something that seems obvious, but to the powers that be in the music business, it isn’t. Region, country or geo-blocking is still rife for labels and it makes no sense. In the internet and social media age where information and music moves around the world, crossing country borders, in a fraction of a second, the idea that it is smart to try and put up walls around music is outlandish and outdated.

Country-blocking releases is something you have probably encountered in your time trying to find music. It is that obnoxious prompt you get trying to stream or download a song saying “this song is not available in your country.” It can be on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify or anywhere. This happens quite often when there are quite a few labels involved with a song or small artists signed to big labels and the label decides to not license that song worldwide.

Here is the thing. Not making the song available worldwide makes no sense. Consumers don’t care about when your European licenses kick in or if you are holding off to get a better deal to license in North America. They just want the song now.

Think about it in a physical sense. If you went to the store and wanted to buy a vinyl record, but they said, no you have to be British to buy it and checked passports at the checkout, would you be happy? No, you would break something.

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It should be noted that this is different than Apple Music or Spotify not being available in certain countries. That has to do with the licensing agreements and paying royalties through various agencies and government boards in those countries, then applying them to their existing agreements. It is more complicated the less established regimes are and can take time to figure out. There has been some movement in Europe to end geo-blocking of services, but it isn’t completely there.

This is also different than just releasing music on Apple Music or Tidal. That can be discussed at a different time.

There are times when I get premieres, PREMIERES, which are country blocked for the US. They primarily come from clueless majors and large indie labels sending YouTube links.

It is tough making a living in the music business these days, but the internet has allowed artists to grow their fan bases all over the world. They can connect with fans in places they never thought possible with a small computer in their pocket. Trying to reign that in because of licenses or some other archaic reason is asinine. Consumers don’t care about that. They just want music delivered to them in the simplest and fastest way possible. Putting up blocks is only going to make them pirate your music. Streaming has alleviated pirating, but region blocking is still one more domino that needs to fall.

Music is a global language and opening up your releases to the whole world at once alleviates piracy, keeps fans tuned in and will put more money on the table in the long run. The backroom dealing and licensing may make sense to grab a few extra dollars in the short term, but to fans, they just want the music everywhere, all the time, at once and this prevents that. 

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