I remember when Napster first started. It was amazing. I could start downloading an entire album at night, and then in the morning, there it would be. A free album and all its glory. Napster changed the game for the music industry. People no longer had to go to the store to buy a CD. It was conveniently available from home, on demand, for free. Today, any song a person wants hear is available for free on the Internet. Who is responsible for the problem of piracy?
Many argue that the problem of piracy is because people have become too stingy and too accustomed to getting things for free. NPR correspondent Emily White stated “I’ve only bought 15 CDs in my lifetime. Yet, my entire iTunes library exceeds 11,000 songs.” However, she also says if she were to lose her entire library “she would be able to rebuild fairly easily” and could just stream music from Spotify.
In an open letter to Emily White, David Lowry criticizes White’s take on getting free music. Lowry claims that people need to support musicians by purchasing their music directly from the artist. Lowry explains that the “free culture adherents” are really hurting musicians. However, the article by lily Rothman, she points out a study conducted by Luis Aguiar and Bertin Martins using Nielsen “clickstream” data, and released by the European Commission Joint Research Center found that “the majority of the music that is consumed illegally by the individuals in our sample would not have been purchased if illegal downloading websites were not available to them.” However, Rick Canes sees it differently in the article “Has music Piracy killed the “Recording Artist.” Canes believes that due to piracy, artists cannot make great music anymore. Their focused has changed from making a great album to touring. Yet, I wonder, “can’t they do both?”
Poor government regulation isn’t to blame for piracy either. The Internet is largely unregulated and this isn’t China. It would take billions of dollars to regulate piracy- about the same amount record labels claim they have been losing. However, an article from Freakonomics says this “Unlike stealing a car, copying a song doesn’t necessarily inflict a tangible loss on another. Estimating that loss requires counterfactual assumptions about what the world would have been like if the piracy had never happened — and, no surprise, those most affected tend to assume the worst.” However, Lawrence Lessig thinks that “changes in the law, at least in the interim” need to occur in order to “[secure] income to artists while we allow the market to secure the most efficient way to promote and distribute content.
Technology has changed drastically since Napster and the days of illegal file sharing. Yes, some people do still illegally download music, but I think it is a slowing trend. Why would I download thousands of songs on my computer, taking up large amounts of space, when I could just stream them off of Spotify? I don’t even own an iPod anymore. If I want to hear a song, I can play it instantly and legally. It costs me $4.99 per month and I don’t have the hassle of torrents and sketchy files. I am also not tethered to my computer. While Lowry and White both admit that Spotify doesn’t pay artists very much per play. That is something that needs to be worked out between the artists and Spotify.
I don’t feel bad when I pay to stream music and a lot of musicians, like David Grohl support music streaming services. Technology has changed. Artists don’t make money off of album sales anymore and both record labels and musicians need to stop whining and get over it. So you can’t make one record, live off the royalties and do nothing for the rest of your life, boo-hoo. Isn’t the point of making an album and being a musician to play music? Tour, play shows around the country. If your music is good, people will come to your shows. They may even gasp-pay more for tickets because they enjoy your music.
Do you think that piracy is still a huge problem or is it a dying fad? Do you feel bad for recording artists who can no longer make a living off of album sales alone? Do you use torrent sites to illegally download music or have you switched to streaming?