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Iron Maiden uses piracy numbers to plan 'massive sellout' concert tours

Published time: December 25, 2013 01:31
Vocalist of the British rock band Iron Maiden Bruce Dickinson performs during a concert (AFP Photo / Pal Pillai)

Vocalist of the British rock band Iron Maiden Bruce Dickinson performs during a concert (AFP Photo / Pal Pillai)

A famous heavy metal band from the United Kingdom is using online metrics to identify fans that download its music. But the group isn’t taking the data to file a lawsuit against those fans. Instead, it’s using the information to perform concerts for them.

Iron Maiden, a band formed in 1975 that has sold more than 80 million albums while performing 2,000 concerts worldwide, uses information provided by music analytics company Musicmetric to help plan the course of an upcoming tour.

As illegal downloading and music streaming services have rendered physical album sales negligible to the point of irrelevance, artists have increasingly been forced to rely on concert tours and merchandise revenue.

With help from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), many labels have sought to recoup these losses by filing lawsuits against individual downloaders, with damages often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. The most famous example of this is possibly Metallica, the platinum-selling heavy metal group that attempted to sue the Napster file-sharing service a decade ago.

However, recent studies have shown that fans who download music illegally are often the most loyal in terms of concerts and merchandizing. A 2012 survey from the American Assembly, a non-partisan public policy forum affiliated with Columbia University, found that nefarious file-sharers tend to purchase 30 percent more music than customers who do not download anything illegally.

Iron Maiden, with help from Musicmetric, seems to have recognized that profit potential. The group found that a large amount of its web traffic and Twitter followers come from South America. Not coincidentally, South America - particularly Brazil - was also the origin of a massive amount of BitTorrent traffic searching for Iron Maiden.

Having an accurate real time snapshot of key data streams is all about helping inform people's decision making. If you know what drives engagement, you can maximize the value of your fan base. Artists could say, 'We're getting pirated here, let's do something about it,' or 'We're popular here, let's play a show,'” Gregory Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric, told Cite World.

Brazilians have pirated Iron Maiden music nearly 500,000 times in recent years. Chile has been another flashpoint, with 1,300 downloads for every 100,000 internet users. That’s a total of 70, 932 downloads, according to numbers provided by TorrentFreak.

The group planned multiple tours to serve that fan base, and “massive sellouts” followed, according to Mead. Iron Maiden filmed a concert documentary called ‘Flight 666,’ chronicling its travels through the continent. One concert in São Paulo, Brazil grossed more than $2 million.

Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans,” Mead said. “If you engage with fans, there is a chance to turn a percentage into paying customers. You can see that through various bands using the BitTorrent network in a legal way to share content.”

The results have been more than financial. In the twelve months ending on May 31, 2012, the metal stars had attracted more than 3.1 million fans across social media. That sum doubled over the next year, with five million more internet users - many of whom are located in South America - supporting the band.

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