It’s so easy to steal music thanks to the web these days. It’s become a popular and accepted cultural activity. Imagine. Thousands of songs for free! More songs than you’ll ever have the time to listen to! Cool. Downloading songs without paying for them isn’t stealing. Or is it? Some think that it’s not stealing. Shoplifting music CD’s from Wally-World is stealing. The new model of digital creation and digital distribution via the web threatens a hundred year old business model worth billions of dollars. Making money from selling music but not the actual making of music, has a long history- CD’s, cassette’s, 8-tracks, vinyl, jukeboxes and sheet music. There is also a long history of pirating music media as well. But don’t steal music! Here’s a few reasons why I say this.
First off, it’s against the law. There are some loopholes in the Canadian Copyright Act that let you make copies of hard media (CD’s, tapes, records) but downloading tunes from free music sharing sites is still illegal. Secondly, you are depriving the original artist of money that they use to feed themselves and their families. This gives them the opportunity to continue making music for the rest of us to enjoy. Don’t mess it up. I say this knowing that very little of the money paid for a CD at a retail store or online at Apple iTunes actually makes it to the artist. According to some numbers from a Wired article by David Byrne the artist receives $1.60 or 10% of the $15.99 selling price of a CD. The same article states that on iTunes a $9.99 album pays the artist a higher percentage but a lower dollar value – $1.40. The rest goes to the ‘machine’ that brings the product to market. The machine is the record labels and their various operations and the retailer. That is why a new model for artist promotion and distribution which gives the artist a greater share in revenues is being built. Things like Myspace.com.
Now onto the third reason. By stealing music you are giving the record companies an excuse for not looking into new ways of doing business. Why look for a new business model when the RIAA (Record Industry Association of America) can sue private citizens into the stone-age. There are millions of dollars worth of these settlements of which no portion ever actually finds its way to the musical artists the RIAA claim to represent. This is a very distracting activity and keeps us all from evolving a new and successful distribution model for digital content. What’s needed is something we can all live with and enables the musical artists – the actual creators – to make (more) money. Stealing music just gives the record companies an excuse to defend their old and tired ways of doing business. Buy your music where and when you can. If possible, directly from the artist themselves. This gives them more money to survive on and helps foster a new way of acquiring music.