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Thread: company tracks music downloaded from Internet

  1. #1
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    Aug 2002

    company tracks music downloaded from Internet

    Local company tracks music downloaded from Internet
    Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

    As the music industry continues its war against Internet file-sharing, and tens of millions of downloaders continue to ignore the record labels' efforts, a group of Atlantans stand on the sidelines and keep track of what's at stake.

    In a nondescript cubicle farm in a suite at Colony Square, a company called BigChampagne is monitoring what file-sharers on systems like Kazaa and Morpheus are looking for. The data races across computer screens faster than the human brain can process it -- Dave Matthews, Jennifer Lopez, Moby, Pink, Infectious Grooves, Tony Bennett, Eminem, Elton John, the Dixie Chicks. They want it now, and they want it free.

    "Sometimes it's kind of overwhelming -- we're seeing 25 million searches a day," says Adam Toll, chief operations officer for BigChampagne.

    What Nielsen is to TV ratings, BigChampagne is to the increasingly important measurement of what people are downloading on the Internet. And if you use Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire or one of the major file-sharing programs, BigChampagne is watching you.

    "This is where the action is," says Craig Marks, editor of Blender music magazine, about the importance of tracking music downloading.

    After CD sales fell almost 11 percent in 2002, Hillary Rosen, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America, blamed Internet file-sharing for much of the decline. Citing RIAA surveys, she told an industry conference recently, "Our younger buyers are telling us they are buying significantly less albums because they're finding what they want on the Internet."

    No one knows exactly how many people download music or how much, but there are about 20 million people doing it every month. Forrester Research estimates 40 percent of adult Americans have downloaded music from the Internet.

    But even as the labels and many musicians, from Jay Z to Madonna, condemn downloading, some of them pay BigChampagne to tell them what's going on in the hard-to-pin-down netherworld of file-sharing. The 2 1/2-year-old company, with 16 employees between Atlanta and Los Angeles, was named from a lyric in a Peter Tosh reggae song, "Downpresser Man." (NielsenNet, a sister company of the TV ratings tracker, gathers some of the same information as BigChampagne, but it's tracking Internet usage, not just file-sharing.)

    "We work with all the major labels in the music business," says Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne, who's based in Los Angeles. "We work a lot with radio, and dozens of individual artists and their management."

    The labels won't admit they use BigChampagne the way TV networks use Nielsen ratings because it might be seen as condoning file-sharing -- and BigChampagne won't name its clients or say how many they have because confidentiality is part of the deal. But "some of the labels [use BigChampagne to] let us know when one of the artists we are playing has heavy file-swapping in Atlanta," says Leslie Fram, director of programming for local stations 99X and Q100. A spokesman for a major music conglomerate confirms some labels use BigChampagne extensively but would not speak on the record.

    "[The labels] can't publicly admit it," says Blender editor Marks, "but this is better information than they can get from SoundScan," the service that registers official, in-store CD sales.

    Using special software and massive servers and bandwidth, BigChampagne tracks two aspects of file-sharing: users' searches and their individual "folders" of the music they have to share on their computer hard drives. "There is no way to catalog everything," says Garland. "What you want is statistically representative. You don't have to open the door of every last dorm room."

    By monitoring searches, BigChampagne can tell the labels whether consumers are looking for a particular song or a particular artist. Users sometimes search for a particular musician -- Garland mentions Eminem and Josh Groban -- because they want to download everything from them.

    In general, however, people search for specific songs. "A song can be quite popular online and people download it but nobody goes to buy it," says Garland. "They don't know who does it, or they think somebody else does it." That, of course, is a record label's worst nightmare.

    As the millions of searches pour through BigChampagne's computers, it's obvious that movie and TV studios are joining the record industry in a joint nightmare. Users are swapping massive video files of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," two films still playing in theaters.

    "People love to trade 'The Sopranos' and 'The Simpsons'. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' is huge," says Toll.

    "The number of titles people are sharing has gone up," he adds. "I'm seeing more and more feature-length films" being shared.

    And while file-sharing movies and TV series has the studios concerned, it's another potential revenue source for BigChampagne. Currently its clients are mostly in the music industry, Toll says, but the company is talking to the studios about what's going on online as well and plans to expand into reporting video file-sharing.

    BigChampagne doesn't side with either the industry or the downloaders; it just tracks what's going on. Garland says he understands the labels' point of view: "Wait a minute! They smashed in the shop window and made off with our goods!"

    But despite the industry efforts in court to shut down systems like Kazaa, "file-sharing is not going to go away," says Toll. "It's here to stay."

    ON THE WEB: For more information: www.bigchampagne.com

    The 10 most popular songs being downloaded using file-sharing (according to BigChampagne), as compared with the Billboard magazine Top 10 singles.


  2. #2
    AO Decepticon CXGJarrod's Avatar
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    Jul 2002
    I wonder how they are tracking all of this traffic? Maybe they built a program that records the queries from the file sharing program to their computer?
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  3. #3
    Now, RFC Compliant! Noia's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    That would be a GINORMUS amount of dta to handel and process....
    I want a computer that can do that....
    The thing is though...ppl still buy CD's....I do.....but I buy less crap and only GOOD music...so the quality overall should in theory go up, even though the mass sold goes down...

    well.. thats my $0.02
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  4. #4
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    Feb 2002
    I wonder what they use to see the searches people are conducting? That could be interesting to see. Anyone know how to see what people are searching?
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  5. #5
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    Nov 2002
    they said they are watching p2p prog's but i wonder if they are watching IRC as well.I would think they probably are.BTW, i thought that p2p progs didnt have servers, that each user's computer acted as a server, sorta, you know what i mean, anyways......how are they monitoring the traffic if there is no server, that means they have to be monitoring ISP's then right? how the hell did they get the authority to do that if thats the case?
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  6. #6
    Gray Haired Old Fart aeallison's Avatar
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    Jul 2002
    Buffalo, Missouri USA
    A host cache is a program which hands out IP addresses to gnutella clients. When a gnutella client is started it needs to find some other gnutella clients in order to connect to the network. The host cache provides those IP's. The hostcache is usually the first place you connect to when launching BearShare. Once you have received some addresses from the host cache then you attempt to connect to those addresses. The only reason to communicate with the host cache after that would be if all the IP addresses you had were not working and you needed some more IP addresses to try.
    This is from a tecnical FAQ for BearShare, they use what are called ultra peers to get you started, these are saved in a "host cache" as stated above. I am not sure how they could monitor this unless the "ultra peers" are giving them our IP addy's or something.
    I have a question; are you the bug, or the windshield?

  7. #7
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    Nov 2001
    your right aeallison and in kazaa their called supernodes. being as gnutella is open source it wouldn't be to hard to find out how to get these addresses and with kazaa...hell they'll do anything for money
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  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    Oct 2001
    In my interpertation of this, they aren't tracking who is doing what. Just what is going on. Like they might just say "people are trading this song, and that song." They probably don't say that "Adam is giving Bill an unreleased song from YOUR STUDIO." At least that is how my interperation of this article is.

    As for figuring out what is going on, that is probably the easy part. All that they would need to do is download an Open-Source Gnutella Client (such as Gnucleus) and edit the code to save the logs to a file. Compile, configure, run. They could just set the max connected notes to a high value, and be a ultra-peer. That way they could watch over as many computers as possible, and recieve many file requests - and log those requests. After that, you just run it through a program that essentially totals up the results, and you can see what is going on. All of this can probably even be done in real-time, but the computer doing the monitoring would be under heavy stress... There might be other methods for networks other than Gnutella, but many of these networks are potentially harder to intercept unless they own a part of it, and P2P networks are more popular anyways - everyone is treated equally, in a way...

    Well, there is my little explanation / deduction. Hope it helps...


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