The challenges of monetising through Digital Media: Free Downloads

One of the challenges of the present-day digital media with an emphasis on the aspect of monetization is Free Downloads.

This topic has been a major stumbling block in the pursuit of revenue for works put out in the digital media space.

This is because there is a high rate of ignorance amongst the consumers as to how free downloads does not positively affect the content creator and also a lack of education on how copyright works in this space.

To correct and educate the consumer on their ignorance on the effects of free downloads, this piece would also seek to issue a way out to get over the free download syndrome.

Free download is not free download

Bluntly swaying away from the perception that when you download music from websites you do it for free, the free downloader is actually paying for acquiring the desired music that he/she downloaded unto his/her device.

Yes, you pay! The fact that the content creator does not get a share of the revenue generated through this free download process is the sickening reality.

To make it easily relatable, let us use music. When you download music for free, you generate a revenue stream for two parties out of a potential three-party revenue share group.

Three-party revenue share group

i. Content creator (Artist)
ii. The Internet service provider (ISP)
iii. Hosting platform (Websites / Blogs)

Now, with this revenue generation process, the proper structure of revenue shares should be as follows; Artist – ISP – Websites, with the websites been the last in the food chain.

With what pertains when you download for free, the content creators are totally wiped out of the three-party revenue share group i.e. they earn nothing! ISP – Websites only, nothing for the one who created the content.

Why should this be so? When accessing a website hosting a free downloadable song, you pay the ISP that you would use for the downloads while also generating revenue for the Website through ad-placement on their posts.

Now, the Website will be paid for the ad being run on it and ISP will also be paid for the data you used to access the website and download.

Where does that leave the Artist? Poor!

So, in plain terms, everyone gets paid minus the key component of the three-party revenue share group.


Music copyright laws should be selectively enforced. The effectiveness of warnings is often all that stands between a person choosing to illegally download music or not.

US copyright law allows damages of anywhere from $750 to $150,000 per illegal download, while under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, major internet service providers can pull the plug on illegal download music websites.

Musicians and Record labels are to sell music as soon as it’s released. Today, you hear a track you like on the radio, you want to add it to your playlist, you go to your preferred music platform and purchase it. That’s the right process for getting songs.

Websites need to rather input the embedded streamable links of the Artists’ songs onto their websites since most of these streamable platforms have monetized the music content available.

By doing so, it’s a win-win situation for both parties as the artist gets to earn from his/her music content while the final consumer would still not have to pay direct money to fully enjoy the music content they seek.

The ISP are always going to earn, that’s undisputed. The Websites would also earn once you get onto their platform, but the Artist can only earn when you stream his/her music. The education on this should be a focal point in all related communications throughout.

We cannot continue to pursue the minority elite consumer while neglecting the larger number of consumers out there who don’t fully understand what they have been doing. These numbers are what needs to be milked!

Teams from music business companies can go downtown to these “low-income earners” and educate them on how they can help their favourite artist earn something substantial from the good music they strive to bless them with.

Websites should equally be educated about the globally recognized Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) which seeks to guide the operational scope for Websites so as to not fall into the arms of the law.

The DCMA seeks to criminalize the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. When this knowledge is passed on, the Artist will fully get every revenue, he/she deserves in this challenging digital media space.

Through the MTN Digital Music Conference, the topic of ‘How to Monetize Your Works And The Challenges Of Digital Media’ will be fully addressed to provide avenues, what-to-do, and what-not-to-do by content creatives in this space.

The virtual event is slated for Thursday 29th October at 2 pm will be streamed on YouTube & Facebook on MTN Ghana Pages. On the panel are Richie Mensah, Cynthia Quarcoo, Rex Omar, Kenan Yoel (South Africa), and Gillian Ezra (South Africa).

Richie Mensah is the CEO of Lynx Entertainment, a record label that manages some of the most successful musicians in Ghana. He’s successfully managed and monetized the work of several major artists over the years.

Cynthia Quarcoo is the Managing Partner of CQ Legal & Consulting and Founder of Media 1 Africa. She is a multisectoral lawyer, with international perspective on music and the law.

Rex Omar is the Chairman of GHAMRO, the organization commissioned to collect royalties on behalf of artists in Ghana.

Yoel Kenan is the founder and CEO of Africori, a leading pan-African digital music distributor. Africori offers label services, digital distribution, sync licensing, and publishing to artists, songwriters, labels, and other music rights holders in Africa.

Gillian Ezra has extensive experience in digital entertainment and the Head of Marketing Music Time. In her current role, she is working in the world of music streaming and instant messaging, with a focus on business development and telco relationships.

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