Pay the price

This is a post about pirates and music. They do, in fact, correlate.

When I see a status, tweet, or post beginning with something along the lines of “Where is the best site to download free music from?” inquiring advice from fellow pirates (argggh), I want to respond: “If you pay 99 cents for a song, you’ll probably listen to it for a longer period of time AND you have the added bonus of knowing that your money is paying the various hardworking people who created that song.”

You see, I have used Limewire in the past. I do believe the last time I used any site to download “shared” music illegally, I was at the ripe age of 13. My desktop was infected by quite a virus, and ironically I lost all of the music, photos and saved documents. Karma bites hard, I suppose. I knew from that incident on that I would never trust these so-called friendly sites encouraging users to upload and share music. (Commonly referred to as peer-to-peer; I love euphemisms.)

The music industry has gone through some incredibly significant changes. I would argue that the most significant ones have a common thread–the creation of the Internet. Now, peer-to-peer has basically vanished. There are new ways to steal music. There is no euphemism for a thief, which is why I will refer to people who insist on illegally downloading/storing music as thefts.

Woah, statistics are following! (Watch out kids!)

  • Since peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 53 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.0 billion in 2011.
  • From 2004 through 2009 alone, approximately 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks.
  • NPD reports that only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S. consumers in 2009 was paid for.
  • Digital storage locker downloads constitute 7 percent of all Internet traffic, while 91 percent of the links found on them were for copyrighted material, and 10 percent of those links were to music specifically, according to a 2011 Envisional study.

The above stats are courtesy of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America)

I have heard quite a few arguments about the issue of piracy. The main defense of the problem that I have heard from peers is (for example) most of the money an average person pays for one album will never be seen by the artist because there are so many people who have a cut of the profit from that individual album.

I call bull shit. In fact, this is reinforcing a problem that those who do pay for entire iTunes albums, tangible CDs or even records have to pay double. CDs are more expensive and iTunes charges $1.29 for well-knows songs. Another problem faced by those who love seeing their favorite artist(s) live is the amount for each ticket. It’s hard to come by a show that costs less than $20. In reality, if you’re keeping up with me, devoted listeners and fans are required to pay double to compensate for those who pay nothing. It’s piracy, it’s illegal and it can mean potential jail time/serious fines.

I guess people are willing to take their chances regardless. I’d rather pay my respect to artists I appreciate.


7 thoughts on “Pay the price

  1. I’ve covered this issue a good bit in intro to philosophy classes I’ve taught, and the most common response seems to be that people pirate music for these reasons:

    1) To try before they buy. They want to make sure they’re going to like something before spending a large amount of money on it. If they download it and like it, they will end up buying it.

    2) They never would pay for it in the first place. They buy the music they really like most, and then pirate songs that aren’t “worth” buying. Their justification is that no one is “losing” money because they never would have gotten that money anyway.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on these two responses.

    • I’m so glad you read this post!

      My rebuttals:

      1) I understand wanting to “test drive” a product. Buyer’s remorse is the worst. However, there are options:
      -YouTube usually has the full song available to listen to
      -MySpace has become a great tool for people who are interested in listening to an artist’s entire album and even offers discographies. Believe it or not, the new format and features make it super navigable and pretty intuitive. Those who visit the site aren’t required to create an account. (I have a feeling most people my age wouldn’t want to create a MySpace account.)

      2) This response makes me sad. Music is art. Songs have been considered masterpieces, just like the artwork in the Sistine Chapel. I can’t imagine thinking to myself, “I’m not going to pay for this music because it’s just not that good and I won’t listen to it 5 years from now.” If each person did that, the music industry would be dunzo. Each song that is downloaded illegally costs money for the music industry. Soon enough, current and aspiring artists are going to be discouraged when they realize their lifestyles could be compromised. I’m an advocate for artists who play and release music because they genuinely love to play. However, money is pretty important when it comes to recording, producing, distributing and creating awareness for new songs.

      • I think the first response is pretty convincing. I’m not sure if the students I’ve heard from would all be convinced by the second one though! In particular, if they really would never have bought the song in the first place, then does downloading the song illegally really _cost_ the music industry any money?

        Any interest in turning this into a guest post for the philosophy matters blog, and using it to link back to your blog?

    • Ok, I’m thinking touch on the first response regarding other places to sample music, but then really dig into the second issue. If these other sources like YouTube and MySpace have the music streaming (not to mention the boom of sites like Pandora) why does it even make sense to purchase music today? I’m interested in your thoughts on how this affects aspiring artists… as you’re thinking this through here’s a response I’ve actually heard: “No one gets into music for the money. They do it because they love it and they’d do it whether they were making any money or not.”

      So… if I had to sum up the prompt – in light of our discussion here;

      “Does it still make sense for people to buy music? Why or why not?”

      What do you think?

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