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Humans of the CD Street Stall: Who Still Buys Pirated Discs?

The Indonesian government's recent crackdown on online and streaming music websites hasn't seemed to have affected the pirate CD stalls of Jakarta.

14 December 2015, 10:00am

In an effort to combat illegal downloading and musical piracy, the Indonesian government recently shut down 22 music downloading websites. This may have pleased the Indonesian Association of Artists, Singers, Composers and Recording Businessmen (PAPPRI), who claim piracy has cost the industry Rp 4 trillion (AU$386 million) annually since 2007, but it hasn't affected the pirated CD street vendors of Jakarta.

Walk the streets of West Jakarta in the nation’s capital and you will find numerous stalls selling everything from Adele’s new album, shitty Hollywood soundtracks to traditional old timey Kroncong music.

Pirated DVDs and CDs have long been popular in Indonesia and even with the rise of online downloading as well as punishment that include fines and jail time, many stalls continue to operate.

Following our visit to a Perth shopping mall to find out who still buys CDs, we visited a Jakarta street stall to find out who is still buying pirated CDs.

Dani, 55 purchased a Beatles compilation.

Noisey: Why not download it?
It’s way quicker getting the songs on CD. Downloading songs can take a long time. It can also be played everywhere.

What’s your favorite CD?
I don’t have an exact favorite, Beatles, Koes Plus, Panbers, Genesis, Everly Brothers. Mostly oldies stuff.

The governement is cracking down on online piracy. Do you think it will affect physical cds too?
No piracy won’t end. They’ve been doing that lots of times but nothing seems to ever work.

Mila, 53, did not wish to be photographed.

What CD did you just get?
This Sweet Memories compilation.

Why are you here?
I was passing by and saw the CDs and then heard the song that was being played. I bought it immediately because I liked it.

Why not download the songs?
With slow internet downloading is complicated. It’s a lot easier getting the CD here.

What do you think of the government’s attempt to curb piracy by shutting down illegal websites?
If they want to stop, then they’ll stop it. To be clear, I buy original CDs sometimes; when I walk past a CD shop in malls, I always stop by to get some.

Kevin, 24, bought Taylor Swift’s 1989.

Why do you buy pirated CDs?
I used to buy more pirated CDs but not anymore. Maybe it’s because I'm more aware of the whole artists and industry situation. Back then it just seemed convenient. Even though it didn’t have everything I was looking for, pirated CDs were literally sold everywhere and near my house there were dozens of stores that sold that kind of shit.

Why not just download the songs?
Now I download a lot of stuff, some legal, some illegal. It’s easier to download and plus the quality of many pirated cds are incredibly horrible. I bought a U2 compilation the other day and it won’t even play.

Do people your age still buy CDs, legal or illegal?
Maybe not, now with the availability of iTunes and torrents and streaming services and whatnot. CDs are like a bygone relic for most people my age.

Do you feel guilty about buying pirated CDs?
Yeah, I suppose. Back then, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to get my hands on music. I still do but I usually think more before I actually do it.

Do you think the government’s recent plan will stop piracy?
As long as the public isnt further educated on the online world, such as online payments or services or whatever, then there won’t be a stop. Actually, piracy won’t really die. It just moved from the physical world to the digital world.

Aris, 29, has been selling CDs for five years.

Have you had problems with cops?
When they come here, they usually ask for CDs, and then they’ll leave me alone. They don’t do that often though.

Most of your customers are middle-aged.
Well, I usually sell some old records, so it makes sense.

Do you get many younger people?
You can count with your fingers on that one, definitely. Usually the kids your age coming here are some pretty big music enthusiasts.

Where do you get your CDs?
From the bigger shops in the buildings across the street. I don’t know exactly where they get them though.

What CDs do people usually buy?
Generally it’s Western music. I only have one row of Indonesian records, but they could be pretty rare.

How do you get these pretty insane Indonesian rare records?
CDs of rare records were never released. The people who made these CDs usually recorded the albums in the vinyl format.

Why don’t people buy the songs online?
It really depends on the people. I know people who buy CDs because they think the music works better in WMA instead of the usual MP3.

Is the recent government crackdown on illegal music sites just a bluff?
It won’t end piracy. It’s all up to the government who needs to be consistent in these crackdowns. If they only do this intermittently, then it won’t be of much use.

Stanley Widianto is a Jakarta based writer. Follow him @stanleywidianto