Free Music!!!…uh, Free Music?

October 18, 2011


An example of a burned cd with illegaly downloaded music

The other day, I found myself chatting with a friend about an album my band is getting ready to release. As this conversation progressed, my friend, also a fellow musician, asked whether or not I planned on selling the cd. At first, I thought, “Well, yes, I’d like to” but after a moment’s contemplation, I found I could not give a confident answer. You see, as much as I’d like to sell the cd, would the cd actually sell? This shifted our conversation into a whole new realm, being that of illegally downloaded music or  “free” music.

Napster Logo: A former internet based service that allowed users to share music and other files illegally.

Now whether you download music for “free” or you don’t does not change the fact that the way we see music has changed over the past decade. Yes, it can obviously be stated that without the internet, illegal downloading would not exist. Yes, if Napster was not created, perhaps illegal downloading would not have manifested as quickly as it has. Yet, here we are in 2011, and I have to tell you, the music industry is definitely different. Even today’s top artists are experiencing a significant drop in album sales. Eminem, whose 2000 album, “The Marshall Mathers LP” went on to sell over 19 million copies worldwide (as of 2005), yet his latest 2010 release, “Recovery”, sold only 5.7 millions copies (a little more than a fourth of that). To elaborate, Eminem’s “Recovery” was the second best selling album of 2010 in the United States, and the “Marshall Mathers LP” was the second best selling album of 2000. So, why such a drop in album sales? Is Eminem getting any worse? Not according to album sales. His ability to remain consistent over the past 10 years as a top selling artist would suggest other factors are at play; the most obvious being that people are not buying as many cds. Studies have shown that total album sales have fallen 20% each year since 2006!

Eminem performing at the 2010 BET Awards in Los Angeles

Now some people may argue that, “those artists make so much money anyway, why should it matter?” Well it matters because in fact, the artist is not the only one who profits from the release of an album. Once artists reach a major label, or mainstream pinnacle, a lot more goes into releasing a cd and a lot more people work directly on an artists album to make a living. Let us draw an example: say you are a worker at a “Lay’s” potato chip company, say that half of your consumer population gets your potato chips illegally and for free. Sure, the owner of Lays may not be hurting all too much but chances are, you, as a worker will experience some pay cuts.

I am not trying to ridicule those of you that do not pay for your music. Alternatively, there are artists that don’t care how you get your music, as long as you listen to their album. Another popular view is that artists make most of their money from merchandise and touring. This may be true nowadays but that is only because people do not buy albums as much. So what do you think, should music be free or should people have to pay for music? Do you think it should depend on the particular artists’ status (unsigned, indie label, major label)? Do you think the music industry is taking a turn for the better or worse?


About erfreed3

Sophomore at the University of Michigan. Undecided. I like humanity-based and social science courses. Singer-Songwriter. That is all.

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34 Comments on “Free Music!!!…uh, Free Music?”

  1. tchung22 Says:

    I think that people should have to pay for music. The recording companies are the entities that generate most of the profits from selling albums, whereas artists make most of their money from tours and selling merchandise. Thus, illegally downloading music affects the recording companies and employees more than the artist. Even if artists don’t care how people get their music as long as they listen to their albums, the recording companies are losing money because of illegally downloaded content.

    I don’t think that my opinion would change depending on the particular artists’ status or type of label. The artist or recording company can make a conscious decision to release their music for free or to sell it for money. If they make the decision to sell their music, illegally downloading the music is a form of theft. However, illegally downloading music is so widespread that it is impossible to stop. Society can’t designate the resources to prevent the illegal downloading of music so it won’t go away. Also, many don’t even consider downloading music as an act of crime since it’s so widespread in society. I think the music industry is taking a turn for the worse because of the lack of CD sales. As you mentioned in your post, sales have dropped 20% within the past few years, an egregious amount.

  2. elyssashea Says:

    Well, to a certain extent I guess you could say that the music industry is moving in a more positive direction. If the internet gives people access to music, then music is becoming more egalitarian because it will be accessible to all people regardless of class. In a previous system, where you may have had to pay to listen to music, it could be said that music was only available to certain, higher social classes. Granted, this is a bit of a stretch to say that music wasn’t affordable to most considering most iTunes music is around .99 cents, but still. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, is it really that great that we have to act illegally in order to have widely-accessible music?

  3. Brian Hall Says:

    This site I stumbled upon a while ago has some very interesting information pertaining to intellectual property, which of course is relevant to the subject of music downloading: .

    Personally, I couldn’t care less if Katy Perry or Justin Bieber doesn’t make millions. Obviously the people working on the audio files and that sort of thing might experience pay cuts if people stop paying for the music, but that’s the fault of the greed of the corporate execs and the “artists”, and therefore not my fault. The sound engineers should unionize. If someone truly cares about their music, and not just the image and lifestyle of being a rich music celeb, then they probably don’t care whether they make millions or not (as long as they have a reasonable living wage of course). I am more than happy to support musicians who I feel actually have talent and passion, put work into their music, and don’t use autotune. The others won’t see a dime of my money. Then again, almost all the music I listen to falls into the first category, so illegal downloading is not something I regularly partake in anyway (at least for music that is).

    Intellectual Property is a really gray, hazy moral and legal area in general if you’re not an authoritarian or someone who stands to rake in the profits from it.

  4. sbsmoler92692 Says:

    I believe that music should be available as a resource for everyone. I feel like the cost of music is far too high on Itunes and as a CD for many to afford, especially if there is an option of finding it for free. The artist and media record label companies should be satisfied to make any profit, due to the competition with free music distribution and downloading sources in the world today. If apple’s Itunes lowered the cost of each song from $1.99 and $.99 to just .25 cents, there would probably be more of an incentive to download that music, instead of spending nearly a dollar on each song. Personally, I have around 4,000 songs in my Itunes library. I do not believe that I have accumulated $4,000 worth of music, that is just mind-boggling. While I don’t think that eliminating free music entirely would be the best idea, I feel that if you can establish a medium between almost free music (.25 cents) and music you have to pay for ($1.99, to .99 cents), then more people would be less likely to go out of their way downloading illegal free music. I think it is completely irrelevant to the factor of how well known, popular, or “big” an artist may be. Each artists has the right to their own work, and should be the ones ultimately in control of deciding how they want to distribute their music for others to enjoy. I think that you can even compare the music industry to the computer and cell phone industry. Each of these industries has had to adapt and change trememendously throughout the past decade with each new technological advance that emerges into the mainstream society. Consumers too, have had to adjust and advance their technologies, in order to keep up with society. Six years ago, nobody had internet on their phone, and now most people I know cannot imagine a phone without internet use, and the ability to check their email from their phone. It’s amazing to think how each market has had to adapt and how everything is interrelated and connected. Because of the rise of the internet and the popularity of finding free downloads of music, the music industry has suffered in general sales of records, and had to adapt to make up for those losses by selling more venue performances and merchandise and products. I don’t think that this would be a valid argument to say that the media industry has suffered do to the increase in free music downloads, but rather, they have had to adjust their strategy in the realm of music distribution and downloading.

  5. ianbaker2041 Says:

    While I would love to avoid paying $1.29 for one lousy song on iTunes, I continue to do it because music should remain a for-profit business. As you point out, if everyone got music for free, then no one responsible for the production of that music would get paid. Even Justin Bieber has to make his pay somehow (although I do wish it wasn’t through music). The capitalist system works perfectly here. The production company names their price for a song or album. If you like the music enough, you pay it. If you don’t like it enough to pay that much for it, you don’t buy it. If we as Americans don’t want to pay for a certain song, album, or artist, then we don’t have to. We can spend our money on better choices. The money brought in from sales gets spread amongst those responsible for the song. That’s fair to me.

    I do think that the introduction of the Internet has changed the music industry for the better. Before, if I wanted ONE song from an artist, I’d have to go to Best Buy and purchase the entire CD. Now, I can log on my iTunes and have that one song in about a minute. I still pay for the music, and the artist gets his or her chunk of the change; I just get my music faster, and I can listen to it on my computer anywhere I want (thank you headphones). The problem with the Internet is that it opens up the possibility of illegal downloading sites. These are a bad thing because they completely bypass the capitalist system that sustains the artists and record labels who write and produce the music. If they don’t have money, we don’t have music (if enough people used illegal sites, that is). Because a few people wanted to exploit the system to get free stuff, the entire idea of online music sales has come under fire. I would guess that most Americans buy their music legally when they’re online; there’s no reason to take that away because of a few violators.

    I am musically minded myself. I don’t have a band or produce any kind of music like that, but I play in a few different ensembles on campus, including the marching band. I’m not going into music professionally, but I know enough professional musicians to understand how competitive and how difficult the music business-in any form-can be to make a living in. While I certainly think that Katy Perry has it easier than the average music performance major, the people responsible for getting her work to the market probably aren’t living as lavishly as she is. Downloading illegally simply undermines the system that pays everyone involved. Just pay for your music, people.

  6. emmaknev Says:

    The way I thought about these questions stemmed from what my public policy class just covered regarding Copyright Law. Basically, Copyright Law was put in place to promote creativity and learning while encouraging authors of works to continue producing new material. We discussed that a “thin” Copyright Law better serves the public (meaning it makes copyrighting more flexible) while a “thick” Copyright Law better serves the authors (they have more control over their products and can exploit their work to get greater returns). So, being a member of the public in this case, I would consider free music to be the better option. Free music would mean that the artists wouldn’t care as much about their Copyright rights in regards to their work because they would receive nothing in return regardless of who uses their work or how it is obtained. This would make all artists’ music available to anyone to use, remix, and manipulate to their creative satisfaction, which would allow for a boom in creative growth in the music industry. However, the downside of this is that many artists would become discouraged to make new works if they receive no money in return because money is a key incentive to be in the music industry. And, as you mentioned, with free music there would most likely come pay cuts and layoffs for the “crew” in any album production. But, perhaps with free music we can weed out the halfhearted artists who only make music for their own gain. Music should be made for people to enjoy, out of the love for it, and as a means of communicating an artist’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, etc. Perhaps in this way we can re-vamp the deteriorating quality of today’s music that seems to mainly focus on sex, drugs, and money.

  7. schoiidaho Says:

    Almost with everything in life, when someone benefits from something, someone else has to suffer from it. In this case, due to the circulation of free music the consumers and the artists benefit off of it, while the record companies suffer. Running a record label has been one of my dreams, and it is always saddening to see that the future of music producing industry gets bleaker as time goes on.
    This issue of downloading music illegally has been a very long contorversy, and the commentors above have brought up some very good points. I do agree that if music was a bit cheaper, more people would have the access to and have the incentive to actually purchase it rather than download it illegally. It is very true that the world constantly changes due to technological advancement, and people just have to adapt to whatever changes take place. Also, just as one of the commentors mentioned, the record companies make nowhere near the amount they use to make because we are no longer forced to purchase the entire album when we only want a couple tracks off of it.
    Nowadays, through websites such as Youtube, the artists enjoy a lot more publicity and recognition and have the ability to reach out to a greater number of audience not imaginable before. Also, since we consumers have access to free music and the option of buying only certain songs, we get to enjoy all the music we want for a lot cheaper.
    However, amist all this, the record companies are suffering hard times. In reality, they are the backbone of the music industry and the ones who make all the artists who they are now. Nothing in music would be possible without them. This issue made me think about the migrant workers who risk everything to come to the U.S., just to receive unfairl treatments. We all know that they are the backbone of our economy and we would not be able to enjoy what we have now without them, but they are always threatened and forced to work for extremely low wages for the orchard and factory owners while they enjoy the great benefits provided by the workers.

  8. julieele Says:

    The music company has definitely had to change recently due to the illegal downloading of music. It has negatively impacted the music industry and the people that keep it functioning. Since their music isn’t selling as well, they are forced to find other ways to make money. For instance, artists are now forced to spend a lot more of their time touring. I mean I understand that people don’t pity the artists because they do indeed make a significant amount of money and that they should be spending time with their fans but it can’t be that fun to constantly be on the road. Also, illegally downloading music does indeed result in pay cuts and possibly a loss of jobs for those who help the artists; people should pay for music.

    With the current trend of everybody using Spotify, nobody feels the need to buy music since it allows free streaming and playlists. I do have friends that buy albums to support their favorite artists and I believe that everyone should do that. However, prices for a song should be lowered because then people would be more willing to buy it.

    I don’t think that whether or not somebody should pay for their music should be based on the artist’s specific status. I believe that is up to the artist to determine. The artist can just want to spread their love of music rather than the desire to make money. But realistically speaking, most people want money for the hard work and effort they put into anything they do.

    I think that the least we can do as fans is to support the artists we believe in and to give them the recognition they deserve for their talent. We will also be supporting the people behind the scenes that help the musicians. The biggest fear is probably that the music industry will crash and that nobody would want to risk their future trying to make music if there is no positive end result. So if we keep supporting our music industry, we will be able to keep having artists that love what they do while also creating more job opportunities for others.

  9. matthewlocascio Says:

    People should have to pay for music, no questions asked. The article mentions that downloading music has only become an issue since 2000 when Napster was first introduced to the public, and the effects are seen specifically with the two Eminem albums. Once downloading music was introduced, album sales have taken a direct hit and I feel like it is something that should be addressed immediately.

    The government, many agencies and even schools are cracking down on music downloading to protect the rights of artists. Yes, some artists just want to have people listen to their music, regardless of how the listener gets his or her hands on it. Some artists or bands bank on concerts and performances to make all of their money, again reinforcing that the method of obtaining the songs doesn’t matter. But then you have the artists that care how many actual records are sold. Downloading music really hurts these artists.

    The post pointed out a very important fact in my mind that there are many other parts to producing albums. So when you go to the store, or go on iTunes, and buy music, you are not only helping the artist earn money, but the record company, the producers, the studios that let the artist record the music, and so on. By downloading music you are withholding income from more than 4 or 5 different groups of people.

    I think there should be a distinction between who you can and cannot download. Any artist that is signed has proven to have talent, and should have the protection against downloading music. On the other hand, unsigned talent you should be able to download because there really isn’t any other way to listen to their music. When you are unsigned it is a matter of trying to get your name out so you can get signed. I’ve never heard of an artist or band who would not want a record deal. So it’s a process. You start off unsigned, get your music out and eventually get a record deal under which you are protected against downloading.

    Implementing this policy is very difficult, because people are crafty and can find their way around almost anything. But, if it is possible to prevent downloading, I think it should be utilized to protect artists and everyone who works to produce an album. Music, otherwise, will continue to take a turn for the worse with artists releasing real, quality albums every so often because they know the money is not in albums. If they just release enough mixtapes or singles, they can go on tour and make their money that way. The overall quality of music has decreased because there aren’t as many big-hit albums as in the past. I blame this on downloading music.

  10. joethahn Says:

    I personally am a firm believer that music should not be free unless the artist wants it to be free, which actually seems to happen quite often these days with the production of mixtapes. Becoming a well renown artist is definitely not a simple task and those who are capable and lucky enough to gather a strong fan base should get paid, as much as people are willing to pay, for doing so. Although I feel this way there is also a part of me that feels that music artists make enough money to support their lavish lifestyles so downloading illegally would be justified. However, one subject that I had never really thought of, that you had brought up, was the idea that the hard-working employees of the company producing the artist would loose money through illegal downloads. So essentially illegal downloads would actually be stealing from the the artists as well as hundreds or even thousands of company employees. This statement made me lean even more towards the idea that music should never be downloaded illegally.
    But when it comes to illegal downloads it is a bit of a hazy area to tell whether it is actually illegal in regards to some sites, such as Mediafire, because some artists upload their music for their fans to download for free, while some people buy an album and upload it for others to download illegally. Another thought that had come up was how the government would regulate illegal downloading because regulating illegal downloads would mean that the government would watch the activity of all citizens browsing online which would, without a question, be an invasion of privacy rights.
    One thing that I did not fully agree upon was the drop in CD sales. It seemed like you attributed the drop in album sales to illegal downloads, when in fact the main reason for the drop in sales is probably because of the use of MP3s, as people do not generally want the whole album but rather the songs they like for a cheaper price. I’m sure that you know this, but it’s important that you include this information.
    Overall, I feel that the music industry is changing positively. Music is much more available to the public and we can now buy songs that we like instead of wasting money on an entire album. After reading the post I now am a firmer believer that illegal music downloading should not be tolerated. But the hard part is thinking about the means of regulating illegal downloads without it being considered an invasion of privacy.

  11. Connor Baharozian Says:

    Today, there are multitudes of ways in which we can obtain our music. I personally have never bought a physical CD in my entire life, but instead have used iTunes, Rhapsody, and Napster to buy and download my music. I believe this is much more convenient because almost all of the time, I only find a couple of songs per album that I would enjoy listening to. With music downloading software, we are able to pick and choose the exact songs that we would like to buy. This, I’m sure, frustrates artists very much because instead of making around $10-12 per album sold, they make $0.99-1.29 per song. I for one download at most 2-3 songs per album of my favorite artists. This by itself drives revenue for music artists down.
    When I buy music, I feel guilty because I know that I would only listen to a certain song for a couple of weeks before I moved on to my next set of favorite songs. The music I buy remains at the top of my most played list for about a month before I find more music which captures my attention. I always wished that I could ‘rent’ music at a lower price, allowing for a certain amount of listening time before running out of listens. Yes, I know that this is impractical and definitely unfair to artists who have worked very hard on creating their music. Alternatives to ‘renting’ music do exist, however.
    Pandora was groundbreaking in how it allowed users to listen to music playlists of the same genre and of your choice without any fees. Though there are periodic commercials Pandora still offers music listeners a way to listen to much of the music they enjoy for free. If someone can explain to me how Pandora compensates artists, please fill me in. Do they pay music artists anything? I have always been confused since I started listening to Pandora about how artists benefit from this service. Does the increased exposure to their music through Pandora make artists believe that more of their albums will be sold?
    Over this past summer, I was told to try out Spotify, a new type of music software which my friend referred to as “Pandora on steroids.” This software allows you to listen to any song for free. It’s the iTunes store except instead of short clips of the songs, Spotify allows listeners to listen to the whole song. It’s better than ‘renting’ music. You can listen to as many songs as you would like and it is all for free. It’s as if you have the whole world of music as your iTunes library. The only drawback is that every six songs, there is a commercial about twenty seconds long. This software is completely legal and if you want to eliminate the commercials, one can pay four dollars per month. How can artists make any money off of this? Do they? Since arriving at school, I haven’t bought a single song though I have had full and easy access to all the songs I could possibly listen to. Even if one were to pay for this service, there is no way that artists could be compensated like they have been in the past for the effort they put into their albums.
    With all of the options to obtain and listen to music, economic music listeners don’t have to pay a penny to LEGALLY listen to the music they enjoy. I don’t see how this can continue. The stats about album sales that the author of this post mentioned are scary for music artists. How can they make a profit with the increased availability of free music to consumers?

  12. Joe Cotant Says:

    I definitely believe that people should have to pay for their music. I am currently taking Public Policy 201, a course that involves systematic thinking on current events, and in the first module of the class we learned about copyright law and peer-to-peer file-sharing. Although it may be hard to believe, we read multiple articles that explain that file-sharing programs such as Napster and Limewire have not had a significant effect on the sale of CD albums. But regardless if this fact is true or not, I still think people should have to buy their own music because of a moral standard that all people should uphold. Think about these two questions: who are artists and musicians creating their music for? Who do they put concerts on for? They do everything for us, the fans of these performers. These artists do so much to make the music for us, and I believe it is the least we can do to purchase music that goes directly to them and the people who helped produce their songs, rather than download it freely online on a peer-to-peer file-sharing program. Not only can peer-to-peer file-sharing be highly illegal, it is robbing the performers of the great music they created. These artists were given talents and phenomenal voices, and I believe we have an obligation to pay them back for giving us the music that we love to listen to so often.

    Although I do believe it should be required for people to purchase songs, I think that the status of a particular artist does affect what actions should be taken to acquire their music. For example, many small-time artists earn their living off their music that is bought. Selling CD albums is their main source of income and these people hope that their followers obtain their music through a monetary source. On the other hand, I have heard of artists that do not care if their followers purchase their music – their main concern is that people listen to their music, therefore spreading the word about the artist. These artists can most commonly be heard on YouTube or other websites such as this because that is the easiest way in which a new artist can get their new music out there for everyone to listen to. The artists hope that after listening to their music, and enjoying it, they will go to a store or onto iTunes and purchase their album for their own personal use. Lastly, although monetary purchases may not be as big of a factor for them, there are the big-time performers, such as Eminem, whose CD sales are not his most significant source of income. Although this may be true, I still believe people should have to buy their music out of respect and appreciation towards these artist, as I explained in the first paragraph.

    Personally, I believe the music industry is taking a turn for the better, predominantly due to the explosion of iTunes. iTunes is such a phenomenal way for new and old artists can get their music out there for people to listen to. The iTunes Top 100 list has become the new Billboard Top 100 Songs list. Another great aspect of iTunes is the song preview. When people wish to listen to a song before buying it there is no longer a need to listen to it off another friends iPod or listen to it on YouTube. Now you can receive a minute and thirty second preview of the song before you buy it, an aspect of iTunes that I believe is extremely beneficial and helpful. Overall, I think that iTunes is helping a whole lot to boost the music industry.

  13. briank726 Says:

    I think that the growing availability of illegally downloadable music, and even movies, benefits the music and film industries. They contribute to the popularity of the artists much more than when their music was only available in CD’s. I think that music artists ultimately care for their popularity over money because the latter would always follow the first. Due to the accessibility of illegally downloaded music, they gain more fans who further promote their music by sharing the music files with others. Furthermore, music videos now get a much greater number of views, which is partly because people can download the music files off the videos. I think potential artists should not be concerned about illegal downloading lessening their chances of making money because that also depends on the popularity of the artists. Once an artist reaches a threshold of popularity, money will follow from paid performances, concert tours, autograph signings, etc. Hence, although illegal downloading has decreased the amount artists can make from selling CD’s, it has increased how much they make from other things. Growing technology and innovation creates many benefits to the detriments of others, but regarding the earnings of music artists, they are not that harmed.

  14. danieltarockoff Says:

    I don’t really know where to stand here. On one side, I understand that as artists, spending the time to record, produce, write, etc. all of the music they make is their career. They depend on the money they make from their sales just as any other professional would depend on his income. Similarly, the traditional view that “those rich artists don’t need all of that money” falls short when you consider all of the people who make profit off of sales behind the scenes. Yet still, I don’t know if there should still be music sales in the 21st century. We have become a society so dependent on constant social access to almost everything online, free of charge. Why not music?

    I personally feel like music prices should either be lowered extremely (I’m talking below $.10 a song.) or taken away completely. I feel like most people nowadays will just download the music they want off the internet. If it’s there, what’s stopping people from getting it? Morals? Hardly. Having free access to music just seems natural to me for some reason. It’s like saying someone can’t have free access to thoughts. Plus, I think artists can also benefit from making their music free. If it were free, there wouldn’t be a reason to not listen to all of the songs you want to hear, or to spread the artist’s name around more. I can imagine a system where artists actually get paid more by the company (such as iTunes) if they get more free downloads. This would make the artists want to produce better work while it would also attract more attention to the company. It’d be a type of cause-marketing, where a company and non-profit team up and mutually benefit from each other.

    Either way, however, I don’t think this is really too big of an issue and I’m not sure the government has much say in which path to take. There’s virtually no realistic way to monitor the entire internet, and ideas and music can be spread without being detected, free of charge.

  15. Matthew Bernstein Says:

    I have downloaded music illegally (Sorry, just had to get that out there). That being said, it is completely rational to argue either side of this debate. I believe, however, that a new system for paid music needs to be put into effect. I’m sorry, but .99 cents per song is just too much to expect people to pay when there are free, alternative ways of getting that specific song in your music library.

    I think that an interesting option would be to establish a system where a paid subscription ($10 for all Kanye West songs, for example) to a specific artist would allow you to access that artist’s entire music catalog. If a person feels so strongly about getting their music legally but still wants to keep their monthly music bill relatively low, this is a good and legal way to access all the music one can imagine.

    The music industry has taken a turn for the better, recently, as the popularity of streaming music on sites such as Pandora and Spotify have increased the availability of music. However, if artists/producers are extremely concerned with making that extra money, then the idea I have proposed would be a good alternative strategy for keeping everything legal and relatively inexpensive for the consumer.

  16. madisonkraus Says:

    I think that a reason we don’t see file sharing or illegally downloading music as equal to stealing physical things is because of the anonymity of the internet. When you search for a song on Google, and a free download comes up, it’s so easy to click on the download and acquire the music you want within seconds. While you are taking away money from the artists and those involved in creating the music, it doesn’t feel like you’re hurting anyone. A click of a button doesn’t equate to the image of theft we have in our mind. There’s almost no risk. Of course every once and awhile a story will come out about a teenager who gets sued for downloading thousands of songs illegally, but we still think “it’ll never happen to me”. This easy access to free versions of music is such a temptation, even for people who would never imagine taking someone else’s’ property. Intellectual property is such an abstract concept that some people don’t see that what they are doing is wrong.
    I do think that businesses such as iTunes overprice their music to compensate for these losses, but it ends up hurting them even more because their high prices drive customers away. If music was a bit cheaper, the temptation to steal it would be much lower. Also, people acquire music in other ways that are even more removed from the actual act of theft. If a friend makes you a CD as a gift, you can import the whole CD into your computer without paying a dime. If you can do this, where is the motivation to spend 20 dollars on iTunes or Amazon to buy the same music?
    One benefit I think we have seen from this new era of music acquisition is that new and unheard of artists are able to release things with hardly any cost to them. They don’t have to wait around to get discovered, all they have to do is make their music and upload it to a sharing site and wait for people to download it. This allows many people to share their music with the world who would have never been discovered.

  17. mrau188 Says:

    I personally believe that people should have to pay for their music. It is another form of entertainment and one should have to pay to reap the benefits of something that makes them feel good. For instance, should you just be able to walk into a movie theatre and watch the movie without having to buy a ticket? No. Because the people that made the specific movie that you are able to go and see without buying a ticket are not being rewarded for all of the hard work that went in to making that movie the best that it could be and end up in theaters across the country and across the world. This is completely related to the music industry, I mean sure Nicki Minaj can sell out Madison Square Garden in New York City and make a ton of money from just performing her songs for one night at a concert. But all of the time that went in to the creation of those songs by other people besides her are not rewarded for their efforts. There were producers, mix masters, vocal coaches, record labels, studio rentals, and publicists. I mean sure they still get paid because of the touring that she does but they aren’t receiving all of what they rightfully deserve. It all comes back to the fans are they going to shell out that 20 bucks at Best Buy to get the CD or pay the 1.29 on itunes to download her new Super Bass? They aren’t going to because they know that they can get it for free out there from torrents like pirate and other sites. The fans are the problem and they need to actually pay for the entertainment that they are reaping excitement from.

  18. luniho Says:

    Certainly, people should continue for the service that musicians provide. Each of us finds a way to make a living, and these talented individuals give us songs that get some of us through each long day. However, it seems to me that these artists and their labels expect too much out of consumers.

    During this period of economic strife, it’s more difficult to motivate people to spend their money on items that aren’t strictly necessary. Do I NEED the latest Tally Hall album? Not particularly. In this day and age, it’s possible to pull up a URL that will convert Youtube videos into audio MP3’s.

    I have never downloaded music illegally, say off of a Napster website of one of its kin. However, I can certainly see the appeal. Considering the millions of dollars that popular artists make each year, I understand how people might justify a quick download. However, for smaller bands, I believe strictly that albums and songs ought to be purchased. Support for smaller indie bands is vital for their survival.

    Ultimately, I’m sure to dish out the ten bucks for Tally Hall’s “Good & Evil;” it’s available on iTunes, 14 songs for 10 dollars. Other songs, ranked more popular by iTunes wizards, can run as high as $1.29. To me, this seems a little on the pricey side, but who am I to judge? I’m just an impoverished college student.

  19. namin91 Says:

    I don’t know if we can make an assessment on whether the music industry has taken a turn for the worse or the better just quite yet. Some time needs to pass to be able to have a fully developed perspective on that.

    One good thing that has come out of the changes in the music industry is accessibility. Way more people have access to music nowadays than we did in the 90s and even early 2000s. From SoundCloud to YouTube, you can find essentially any song you want. In that way, the industry and its artists have benefitted due to heightened exposure. Many people have also been able to use these online tools to get their music out and actually get record deals (Rebecca Black, Soulja Boy, etc). Some may argue that this aspect has given a lot of untalented people fame, but that is really up to opinion.

    On the other hand, the changes in the music industry have let to a lot of illegal downloading, but that is probably because of the inflation of prices. No individual song should cost .99 cents let alone $1.29! If you have an 8GB iPod Touch and purchase every song for it, you have spend at least $1,500 if not more. That is far more money than what we would have paid in the past and frankly, far more money than anyone should have to send. I don’t see the rate of illegal downloading slowing until prices are severely lowered.

    While I do think artists and their teams do deserve compensation for their music, they do already make a lot of money from sales and could probably make even more money if they all banned together and asked iTunes, etc. to lower prices.

    So, there are pros and cons to this change in the industry. Do the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa? I still think it’s far too soon to be able to tell.

  20. marckarpinos31 Says:

    I think that you bring up an interesting issue that effects our generation. As a result of the way we were brought up as the so called “technology generation” we are always finding ways to use technology to help ourselves get ahead. With Napster and youtube video to MP3 converters, it is just to easy for us to take music. With that being said I don’t condone or believe this is the right way of doing things, it is just the way it is.

    To respond to your question of whether or not the music industry is taking a turn for the better or the worse, I don’t believe there is one right answer. In this current age there are so many different genre’s of music from rap to electric to rock to metal and that expansion of the music industry is a positive. This expansion to me is a sign that the music industry is taking a turn for the better but if one were to look at it strictly from a business perspective it is clearly taking a turn for the worse. Those who are in the business to make money are no longer going to make money even if they stay on top of the world in the music world because there are just to many ways to get around paying for music.

    With that being said I think it is almost a form of wild west justice that artists are not making as much money anymore. Back in high school when individuals formed bands, they formed bands because they had a love for music. Sure, these groups may have had dreams and aspirations of “making it big” but it used to be for the love of music. When the love of the music is gone in performing and the love of the game is lost in sports or the love of helping people is gone in medicine it is time to change your life path regardless of the money because after all, there is a lot more to life than money.

  21. JustinMandeltort Says:

    I honestly believe that music should be all free. It’s actually generally unfair to a lot of people who do pay for the music, since most people don’t. It’s way too easy to get music illegally these days, just searching for an album on google will get you a link to download the entire album. Itunes now has full albums for sale, which is a good idea, but nobody is going to pay thirteen dollars for an album they can get for free. The author of this post is correct in saying that record sales have gone way down, mostly due to illegal downloading websites. Yet, there are more and more concerts every single year, more people are going out to see their favorite artists live. Ticket prices have gone way up over the last ten years, but more and more people are still going. Sold-out shows is a common thing for most mainstream artists, seeing your favorite musician perform is way better than listening on your computer.

    In accordance to my last statement, I feel like the music industry is going in a positive direction and looks like it will be well for the future. People these days are much more into their favorite artists and will pay a lot to see them live. Fans wait on the edge of their seats waiting for their favorite artist to drop new music (I know I do). Basically, the music industry has seen their record sales gone way down the last ten years, but with fan hood and ticket sales reaching new heights, they will be able to do well in the future.

  22. srubins Says:

    This is a topic that has surely solicited much controversy ever since the development and soon after, demise of Napster.

    With regards to Eminem, I think the statistics presented here are a bit misleading. It is displayed how Eminem sold 19 million copies of his 2000 album between the release date and 2005. Thereafter, it is mentioned that Eminem has sold 5.7 million copies of his 2010 album. Yet, it is only 2011–if one were to equate the two, Eminem’s 2010 album is on pace to eclipse his 2000 album in sales. In turn, though I certainly agree that CD’s are being bought at a slower rate–this is undeniable–Eminem’s album sales are actually a counterargument to this stance. Regardless, it is true that CD sales are declining at a rapid rate. Through software like Limewire and interenet-to-mP3 converters, songs are obtained illegally with the click of a button, literally. In addition, even on legal software such as iTunes, one has the ability to buy just the songs they are interested in listening to as oppose to spending money on the whole album (a la carte spending). In turn, though an artist’s single may rise in sales, the overall selling of his album is bound to decline. And to boot, this is through perfectly legal acquisition of music that brings the artist profit. Now one can pose the argument, that most artists cope with this because they make the majority of their revenue through touring, memorabilia, and advertising but would this be the case if album sales were conducted the same way as they were prior to the internet revolution? Especially given the inflation in the economy, imagine how much profit artists would make if the virtual music acquisition industry were never created–would they still be collecting the majority of revenue from their tours? Either way it is money that is owed to them and money that they worked hard to obtain. Yet, through the illegal acquisition of music, it is money that they will never see.

    All things considered, people should have to pay for their music. It is a work of art and no different than a painting. Imagine how an artist would feel knowing that thousands of his original works are just being taken after countless hours that he put into creating these masterpieces. It is morally and ethically correct that artists should be compensated for their work. I suppose the ease in obtaining the music has trivialized the “stealing” effect but at the end of the day, it is still wrong. Moreover, it should not matter what the artist’s status is–work is work. It is at their discretion whether they want to make money or not. If they want to do their work for charity that’s fine but otherwise, they should surely be compensated.

    Lastly, I think one must look at what direction the industry is going in, in two ways. For the sake of popularity, the music industry is taking a swing for the better. The easiness of obtaining music has made artists work very mainstream and listened to in places that it may never have been played had one needed to purchase the music. The effects of file sharing is great for popularity and spreading their message. However, with regard to the financial side of the industry, there is no doubt that there are a drastic amount of profits that are disappearing out of the pockets of these artists due to the downloading and sharing of music.

  23. ngamin1614 Says:

    The temptation is definitely there for me to download music for free. I get a lot of music from my friends which I suppose to could classify as downloading music illegally. I mean, it’s hard to get all the music that I want for about .99 cents a song. I seem to always want a new album but of course I don’t have the money to just spend tons of money on music. So, most of the time I do get my music illegally. However, sometimes my conscience gets to me and I’ll just buy an album the right way.

    Honestly, I think people should have to pay to get music. Music is an art much like film. And, last time I checked, most of us still go to the theater or buy the DVD for a movie we want to see. Of course, movies have their own pirating problem but it’s nowhere near as bad as the music industry’s problem with free downloads. Why should we pay for movies but not for music? So in the end, although it may make me sound hypocritical, I think that music should be paid for.

    I think that the label could actually matter in this situation though. This really is an interesting point. I would think that downloading music illegally has hurt those big time names like Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and whoever the heck else is popular nowadays more than it has hurt indie bands. Those big time names are used to raking in huge amounts of $$$ (and for pretty freaking crappy music, in my opinion), but with free downloads, they will not be receiving as much money. I think with indie bands, it might be better to have their music free. They are not going to receive much money for their album in the first place unless it gets recognized by Pitchfork or something. So, free music can help get their name around so that they can get more popular. It’s really something interesting to think about.

    I can’t honestly say if I think the music industry is getting better or worse. There are solid points for either side of this argument and I think this topic requires further thought.

  24. mjgeis Says:

    Does anyone on here remember the online release of “In Rainbows”, Radiohead’s 2007 album? They allowed buyers to come online and name their own price for the album; however much the album was worth to the consumer, that is how much the consumer paid. They had an option to pay $0 if a consumer wished to do so. And while the majority of people chose to pay nothing, album STILL outsold the band’s previous endeavor, “Hail To The Thief”.

    Radiohead most likely has a more devoted following than mainstream pop artists such as the above mentioned Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black, etc. (and I mean across decades. Let’s see if anyone still remember’s “Baby” in 2020. They’ll remember “Creep”, I can guarantee you that.) I think that this devotion could affect album sales. If a band continues to produce music that their fans love and the lyrics of which fans are compelled to plaster to Facebook, then they will probably get more customers willing to pay for the album. This is why Eminem’s “Recovery” is on track to beat his 2000 LP: his fans are so devoted to him that they will actually pay.

    Indie bands are tricky. I think it may be to an indie band’s advantage to release a debut at a very low price just to get their name out there, but then again they’d already probably be “starving artists”. But I think that once a band truly earns the respect of its fans, then its sales will constantly be satisfactory because the devotions of fans will take over (this is why I paid $10 for “In Rainbows”).

    I don’t think that there is anything truly horrible about illegally downloading music, but I think it shows a fair amount of lack of respect for the artist whose music you are pirating. Since the music industry has changed, now the question remains: Should we automatically grant artists our respect and open our wallets, or should artists have to gain a certain amount of notoriety and fame in order to profit from the people?

  25. Daniel Pienkowski Says:

    In recent years, illegally downloading music off of the internet has become much more accessible and practical. With media programs such as ITunes now charging $1.29 for many individual songs, it has become more convenient to turn a blind eye and download the same songs for free from media sharing or YouTube conversion sites. Just from talking with friends and peers over the last few years, it is apparent that illegally downloading music is a very widespread practice that is usually easily justified. I mean, how badly could these multi-millionaire artists or big record labels really suffer if we don’t pay for their songs anyway? This being said, I still believe that artists should naturally be compensated for their work just as anyone else, and that downloading their music illegally is a form of theft. Yet I don’t think the consumers are at fault here for the most part. To really take care of this issue, organizations such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) should step up and work to reform the industry in order to make it feasible for people to purchase music instead of feeling economically pressured into downloading it freely.
    As a quick overview, the RIAA is a governing and representative organization whose primary goals are to protect copyright laws and research and understand the music industry. However, in recent years it seems that all that the RIAA and record companies seemed to focus on was condemning people who chose to illegally download music (e.g. filling ridiculous lawsuits against individuals who downloaded or shared copyrighted songs) instead of actually trying to fix the problem at hand. The governing heads of the music industry should try to make music cheaper, thus more accessible, to their consumers in an attempt to try to curb the amount of music that is downloaded illegally. If the RIAA focuses more on trying to reach an understanding with the record companies and artists on distributing cheaper music, it seems like this would results in a win-win situation.
    Finally, and on a little side note, I would like to address the issue of the unsigned artists versus those with record deals. For the most part, I tend to agree with what was pointed out before me, namely that it is usually in the benefit of the smaller, unsigned artists to release free music in an attempt to get their name out and try to create a stable fan base. I am familiar with many unsigned artists who willingly distribute free mixtapes and albums for their fans and in return book live performances as a source of income. Who knows, maybe even signed artists could benefit from exploring such an alternative strategy.

  26. lnk72792 Says:

    This is an issue that has been going on for the whole 21st century. Prior to this new era of music, retail stores such as HMV thrived selling cd’s. With this new wave, these stores have become obsolete. Many believe that Napster is the reason that this has occurred, but I believe that it was inevitable no matter what.

    In the eyes of the artists themselves, I don’t think it is fair for them. They put a lot of work into these tracks only for them to get leaked onto the internet, where they can never be taken off. Once on the internet, one can download their tracks from anywhere in the world. Thanks to search engines such as google, bing, and yahoo, this task is most simple. As a result, artists these days are missing out on rightful profits.

    However, on the other hand some may argue the opposite: that this new wave is extremely beneficial for new artists. Now, with social networking sites any new artist can release his music and let thousands of viewers listen to it, for free! This would have been unimaginable in the 20th century, free marketing? Right…

    So, this debate can really go either way. One might say that the benefits outweigh the costs, and one may argue the opposite. Either way, this new wave of music, along with all of technology, is breeding one thing: laziness. People can now sit at their computers and download music for hours without taking a step. It is scary!

  27. Michael Zanger Says:

    I wanted to let you know I wrote a response blog. There’s too much to write about in a comment (and too much to even cram into a single blog post).

  28. madelinedunn Says:

    Many of the bands that I listen to provide their music for free. Bands such as The Dead, Phish, Pretty Lights etc. want you to go to their shows and buy their merchandise. They know how easy it is to not only download music for free online, but also burn CD to your computer that you borrowed from a friend. How many times have you and a friend gone in 50/50 on a cd so you could both burn it to your computer? I can think of one or two…

    Are these bands dying..NO! Phish is a band that has taken this route of making their money off of touring for years. If you go to their website after seeing the show, you can enter in a code that comes on your ticket and download the entire set list for free. When you go to one of these shows, it is an all day if not weekend event. People come and set up camp. There are vendors that sell their own home made apparel out of their van and hippie girls and boys selling hula hoops and other festival toys. Phish has created a loving family around their music. Many of their fans, such as my uncle, have been following the band for 80+ shows. They know this band is in the business for the love of the music and not the money; although tickets do tend to be rather pricey depending on the venue.

    I do not have an opinion on whether music should or should not be free. However, I have respect for a band that allows you to download their live set if you already purchased tickets to the show. I really enjoy seeing people who truly follow their dreams, a.k.a. your typical starving artist. I have no problem spending the 5-15 dollars on their album in order to help them make their dreams come true.

    Same goes for supporting a locally based community. If there are artists or farms that produce products for a slightly higher price than what I can find at Target or Walmart, I would buy it in a heartbeat. This idea of supporting your neighbor and not corporate America is something that I wish more people found to be important. So when artists, such as Phish, give back to their supporters, it just makes the game full circle.

  29. reidmech7892 Says:

    It seems that the obvious answer to this question would be that, yes, people should have to pay for their music. By doing so, you’re doing the honest trade – money for a service or valuable. Also, you are giving the compensation the artist’s deserve through all their hard work and diligence to put together the music you enjoy. Though artists will still make a – very – comfortable living based off tours and appearances, they will definitely not make their potential income if all their music was purchased.

    Despite this, since the turn of the millennium and the introduction of mp3 players it seems just unreasonable to buy music when you can simply download the music for free through the internet. Additionally, the artists’ mentalities seem to have changed as well: they seem not to care as much about the money they earn but rather knowing that their music is being heard and their name is being thrown out there. Take the website for example: it posts hundreds of new music each day, all provided and accessible to download for free. Why should you feel bad for downloading music provided it is free? Well, you shouldn’t. The point of the website is artist exposure, which ironically will hopefully make those artists “millionaires” in their hopeful futures. So from this I agree that people pay for music based on the artist’s status; though I do not think this is the way it should be, this seems to be the way our music culture has become.

    Ideally speaking, people should pay for the music they buy. By not doing so people are technically “stealing” the music away from the artists and others who honestly paid for the same. Realistically, however, the feasibility and accessibility of free music downloads seems too good of an offer to pass up and the majority people will go for this option, especially in our difficult economic times. Through this the artist’s, nowadays with the severe competition amongst artists, simply just care about getting their name out there; the fame and fortune, if successful, will inevitably come with it.

  30. tylerhoffman1 Says:

    While the author does make some solid arguments, they are only looking at one piece of the picture. Music is not the only thing that is downloaded illegally, it’s all sorts of digital media that gets stolen everyday, and money isn’t the only reason people “steal” music and movies, it has to do with availability.

    As of current, iTunes only lets consumers download music at a quality of 256kbps (kilobytes per second), and it used to only be 128kbps. CD’s generally have a bit rate of 1411kbps (higher number is better). Audiophiles (people who have and listen to high resolution audio) can easily tell the difference in quality between an MP3 and a CD. That being said, some upload CD quality music to the internet that is then shared with everyone. The only reason this is stolen music is because hi-resolution music doesn’t have widespread distribution yet.

    Lack of quality is not the only reason why digital media is stolen, general availability is an issue across the world. Many countries and big companies restrict where their content is sold. Due to censorship, some citizens in the middle-east cannot obtain music or movies that their government doesn’t allow, such as controversial documentaries that would damage the countries reputation. Some foreign artists are not able to distribute their copyrighted music in the United States, so fans are forced to find alternatives so they can listen to their favorite bands, mostly on the black market.

    Most of the public can be divided into two sectors, those who are willing and able to pay for music and will continue to do so at any length, and those who will illegally download/steal/share digital media and will continue to do so at any length. The only chance the big media companies have a chance at gaining market share is by fixing the two key problems, worldwide distribution and distributing digital media in any/all mediums necessary (mp3, hi-resolution audio, hd video content).

  31. Lilian Baek Says:

    Although this has been one of the biggest ongoing debates of the first decade of the 21st century, I think we can admit that most people would be lying to themselves if they thought that downloading music for free is ever going to go away. I’m not saying the debate is over or that the musicians are wrong for wanting money anytime someone gets their hands on their music. But, I believe that the future of music is going to be free. One of the major arguments surrounding this problem is in relation to money. However, this situation goes far beyond that. There are other beneficial aspects to free music. For example, in his book, Free Culture, Lawrence Lessig argues that digital technology allows a new sort of creativity in which people can “participate in the process of building and cultivating a culture that reaches far beyond local boundaries.” Free access to music allows the audience to share and consume things as it sees fit, favorable to the collective strength of the culture economy. In addition, people are starting to advocate the rise of “freeconomics”, arguing that “free” is not an idea to be feared for those who want to make money. Rather, free is a subject to be embraced.

    The culture of music has been established in society and a shared sense of understanding and making meaning together. Thus, music should be about creating a relationship with the audience, recognizing that music was never intended to be a transactional, economic space between the producer and consumer.
    Thinking about the relationship between music and culture in this light, also translates to money. When audiences are invested and participate, they inevitably promote as well. Our society has become so influenced and shaped by technology. Who doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account these days? When I check my newsfeed, there are always several statuses linking you to a page that contains his or her favorite song. Thus, this is free promotion for record companies. To me, this is a give-and-take relationship as well. While music is being provided at no cost, in return, that music is being promoted. Overall, downloading music should not be considered illegal anymore since it should be free.

  32. maxmoray Says:

    The ongoing debate regarding music licensing and revenue sharing has produced many new business models and ideas. It has become quite apparent, free music seems to be on the rise. This is depicted by the widespread support of Googles new download service, along with those of Napster and other companies. However, if music becomes free to download, where will the money come from?
    In countries such as China, instead of earning directly from sales, artist share advertising revenue with big companies such as Google. Having seen prior results, UK artists earned a total of $205 million in 2008, up from $178 million the previous year. Licensing organizations are only hurting themselves by delaying the inevitable. To them, the debate still rests around whether advertising revenue will be enough to go around.
    Personally, I believe it will. Our society is to well advanced to allow money to be washed away from the table, and top business executives will be doing everything they can to step in and fill this void. Specifically, I believe artist such as Eminem lost album sales ultimately because of the “leaked” songs that are surfacing all over the internet. It seems as though people within the inner circle of the artist, or his/her record label, are giving away free information for secret sums of money. Regardless, it will only take a certain amount of time before music will all be downloaded for free, and an alternative process will be used to allocate money for the artist.

  33. shmily4k Says:

    In my opinion, it is up to the music company’s choice to decide whether their music should be free or not. In fact, illegal music downloading will not stop no matter what decision they make. If the music company chooses to give free music to the public, the artist and the company would still gain popularity. This is because more people will choose to listen to free music rather than paying ten bucks to get a CD. Besides, the artist and the company can still earn profit from many other areas such as merchandise and concerts.
    To me, the music industry is moving towards a better direction. Even though they are earning less from releasing albums, their songs become more popular. In the past, music is a luxury, not everyone can have the access to it. However, thanks to illegal downloading, everyone can have the opportunity to listen to music. I’m not saying downloading music illegally is a great thing to do, I’m just saying it increases the popularity of the songs and the artists. In other words, the free music downloading helps to promote the songs even if it actually reduces the profits of the music company.

  34. Brandon Baxter Says:

    It is impossible to prevent the downloading of illegal music. People have tried to figure out how to get free music for decades (anyone record songs from the radio on your Walkman when you were younger, or am I just lame?). The same holds true with movies, books, etc. People WILL find a way to find free stuff.

    With that said I think music companies, and all companies for that matter, need to find more creative ways to sell their products. No matter how you feel about her music, you cannot deny that Lady Gaga is one of the most successful businesswomen in the world today, if not the most, because of how she markets herself. She is a genius when it comes to advertising, branding, and giving her fans incentives to pay for her stuff. When her latest album was release she placed EVERY single song on that album on her YouTube account for free so anyone can go on YouTube and listen to all her music without paying a thing to her. What did that do? It led to her having the highest selling album of the year next to Adele’s 21. Pretty impressive for someone who placed all her music on YouTube for free beforehand. But it was a creative form of advertisement and she was confident enough in her talent that it would have positive consequences, and not negative ones. It should also be noted that she sold her album on Amazon for 99 cents, and on iTunes for the regular price.

    With that said, I think the music industry needs to take a look at how the fashion industry runs things. In the fashion industry there is no such thing as copyright protection. The fashion industry has a free and open way of doing things. In the fashion industry you can find an article of clothing from fifty years ago, recreate it almost exactly, and sell it on the market today. The ability for fashion designers to, in a way plagiarise each other, has led to them being more creative with their designs, and of course forces them to find ways to stay relevant and profitable. And it works. The fashion industry is in no danger of losing their control of the market, and I think that’s a very important system the music industry and others should look into.

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