Researcher says the shutdown of music-downloading site OiNK is ideological warfare

A new study by a York University professor says that censure of music downloading sites is part industry bluff, part consumer pushback – indicating a bigger trend towards what researchers have dubbed "market staging."

The study analyzes the war on music downloading over the past seven years using ethnographic methods to better understand how the music market evolves. It’s particularly relevant to the shutdown of OiNK on Tuesday. OiNK is one of the world’s largest sites for sharing of pirated and pre-release music, says study author Markus Giesler (right), professor of marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business.

"The shutdown of OiNk is an example of how the music industry creates a false drama – shutting down one platform with great publicity, with no significant or widespread legal ramifications – to show to the public what will happen if they don’t comply," Giesler says. "This creates expectations and anxieties and therefore changes the behaviour of people. It’s a form of ideological warfare."

Giesler’s theory is that all markets function in this manner, what he calls a "staged compromise between sharing and owning," which evolves as consumers and producers wrestle over the right balance between the two.

"The music industry wants to make the most money possible. Consumers want to spend the least money possible. They’re natural antagonists," Giesler says.

"The great marketing bluff is that producers are your friends, products are your friends. We see this in all sorts of industries. When consumers push back, and industry responds with censure, the curtain on this drama is pulled back."

Giesler’s marketplace drama model theorizes market evolution in terms of four stages, or acts: First, a breach (in which one party deviates from the norm), which is followed by a crisis. The antagonist then executes some disciplinary measure to restore normalcy. This leads to the final stage, reintegration, in which a new compromise is reached – for example, the case of commercial downloading via iTunes.

The study, "Conflict and Compromise Drama in Marketplace Evolution", is forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research (April, 2008). It can be downloaded online at