The music piracy debate

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Anyone who reads my blog knows that one of my biggest loves is music. And anyone who knows the first thing about music knows that it’s an industry that’s in a little bit of trouble.

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people who listen to music download some of it free. And in today’s world, that seems fair enough right? I mean, if everyone else is doing it then why not?

Here are a couple reasons why you shouldn’t be illegally downloading your music:

1. Most artists who release an album worked on those 12 tracks for close to a year, if not more, before putting it out in the world. That’s a lot of work for someone to steal their work for free.

2. A musician needs you to buy their albums so that their record label can afford to send them on tour across the world. How else did you think they got to where you live?!

3. It’s kinda mean to steal.

4. Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t mean it’s right (I’m going to reincarnate your mom here: if all your friends jump off a bridge, would you do that too?!)

5. A lot of money and time goes into making records, and by not paying for them, a lot of people are losing that money. The industry is in trouble and people are losing their jobs because of it!

I’ve always tried to be very careful. I believe in supporting artists that I love, because I want them to continue making music. If we don’t buy, they might not be able to. iTunes has more of my money than I care to think about at this point, but I still feel like it’s not enough.

Throughout the years, the ‘music piracy’ lines are becoming blurred. What’s technically illegal and what isn’t? Here’s something I didn’t know, and had to learn the hard way: taking a video of a live song and posting it on YouTube is against the law. That artist can technically tell YouTube that you’re stealing their material, and YouTube gives you a strike. Three strikes, you’re out. I thought about this one for a while when it happened to me because I was kind of offended to start off. I mean, doesn’t EVERYONE upload their favorite tracks to YouTube nowadays? Why was I getting a slap on the wrist for it? But it is the artists’ right to have their material taken off, and I can’t really be insulted by that.

I don’t expect you to read this and have some huge change of heart if you happen to download stuff illegally. But in an attempt to be more mindful of my actions this month (and always, really), I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the fact that stealing someone’s work isn’t just against the law in most countries, it isn’t right. Most people will continue to do it because everyone else will continue to do it, but if you think about it before downloading off the internet next time and help that musician continue to pursue their dreams instead, you’ll feel that much better about yourself.

I know I do!

What do you think about music piracy? 

**Everything written is strictly my opinion based on things I’ve read in the past here and there! 
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14 responses »

  1. Actually just to play devils advocate a little here…from everything I’ve learned in the past couple of months artists actually aren’t making a lot of money through record sales anymore. The majority of money goes to their team AND most of the sales are digital which cuts their percent down even more. The main way artists make money now-a-days is through their live shows and merch. Most of their income is from that.

    • I did actually know that! I can’t remember how, maybe you told me about it. But didn’t it really all start because of music piracy? Or have artists always depended on their merch sales as much? That being said it’s still unfair to them to steal their work, and I say that knowing that I’m obviously not innocent!

      • As the market expands and the sales turn more digital the artists are depending more on shows and merch. They’ve always gotten most of their sales from those two things though because the label and everyone else(distributors etc) don’t need a cut. It’s basically just the artists and sometimes the promoters and the venue who get a cut.

  2. I’ve always wondered how iTunes and digital music (?) has affected the musicians. From your first comment, it does seem like that has cut down their profits, too. While I was a Napster/LimeWire kid for a little while, I stopped that (a nice little e-mail from my school has a way of scaring a girl!) so now I pay for it all. It just feels more *right*.

    I love this post, by the way. Very informative and well-written!

    • Thank you! I think that in the last 10 years it definitely has affected musicians, but not as openly or as much as everyone realizes. That being said, they’ve found ways to compensate as much as possible, but the music industry is going through a lot of major changes to try and figure out how to keep surviving without sales.

  3. For a music lover on a budget: There’s a couple of sites that offer free (legal) downloads that I enjoy: mySpoonful and Spin Magazine. Also I’ve seen that mp3’s are often cheaper on Amazon (and they have great sales!)

  4. I definitely pirated music and TV shows when I was in college (primarily when I studied abroad in Moscow) but you’re right that it is always 100% wrong, no matter who the money is or isn’t going to. Now my husband and I buy all our music either on CD (my husband doesn’t want all of his music out in a cloud or hard drive, he wants physical proof…and yes, he’s 80, haha) or through iTunes and Amazon. I don’t mind paying .99 for a song or $10 for an album…it’s good music!

    • I know a lot of people (including myself) who still love having the actual CD in their hands, and I think that’s still awesome! I know that there are a lot of other ways to support favorite artists nowadays besides buying their album (going to their shows for example) but I still think that pirating work, in the end, is still not right, no matter what else we could be doing. I would hate for someone to steal any of my work for free, I know that!!

  5. I have mixed feelings about piracy. You talk about illegal downloading…do you feel the same about burning CDs? Or if your friend gave you a burned CD? That’s just as illegal (well, technically the owner of the CD is allowed to make one back up copy, but still).

    I’m a librarian and a recent seminar I went to we talked a lot about e-books, digital piracy, and so on. The one speaker who was there said that there have been studies that show that once a copy of something (e-book, album, movie, whatever) has been leaked for free online, sales actually increase. Also, a lot of bands who adopt “pay what you can” models for album sales (like Radiohead did, for example, though I know not every band has that kind of following) still end up getting an average of 5-10 bucks per album, even when people have the option to download it for free. (Note: I’m just going on what I’ve heard, I didn’t fact check before posting this.)

    Also, I know a lot of local bands who put their entire album online for free because they care more about being heard. Especially for bands who are just getting started, I think a lot of them care more about people discovering them. While I’m sure they want to get paid, it takes a lot of album sales for a new band to see much revenue. As someone else mentioned, most bands make money on shows and merch sales. (Sorry to be so long-winded, but these things have been on my mind a lot lately.)

    • I agree with everything you’ve said! I think that burnt CD’s are the same thing, and I think they fall under the category of that ‘blurred line’ of what’s right and what’s wrong. People don’t realize right away that it’s wrong, but when you start talking about it, that’s when you realize.

      As for e-books, I’m a librarian too (well not a librarian per say, but I work in a major bookstore) and I know that ebooks are definitely the cause of a lot of debate in the publishing industry. I know that personally the company I work for has been seeing huge sale decreases in terms or actual revenues, because we get less returns when people buy an ereader compared to buying real books. That being said, I love my ereader and I think it’s a great little invention. We’ll have to wait a couple more years to see what really happens with it, I think it’s still just too new on the market to make REAL evaluations.

      I think bands that put their entire album online for free are really embracing the new world we live in. It’s a really smart idea and I think the only thing artists today CAN do is look forward that way. Like you said, not all bands have a big enough following to be able to do that, but you do have smaller bands that leak their albums for small amounts of time first to get the hype going and whatnot, and I think that’s great too. I know that the industry will find ways to compensate for piracy and they already are… They don’t have much of a choice. I think the root of my argument though is just the fact that in the end, it’s not RIGHT to steal from others that way, the point is that if you want something you do need to pay for it, and today’s online world is teaching us that this isn’t the case so much. Maybe I’m just a little old fashioned that way, lol!

    • Me too! I think that’s a really smart thing to do, I mean if you like something enough then it’s worth the money. That is one of the upsides, you don’t get stuck buying something and end up hating it!

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