Plenty of people have very valid arguments, on both sides, for whether or not downloading in this digital age is morally right or if it’s stealing. I’m a little in between, to be honest. Today we’ll be talking about this very complicated issue, and maybe we’ll come to a valid resolution on the issue. I doubt it, but maybe.
Years ago, I couldn’t keep up with the amount of music I wanted to listen to and have my hands on. When you’re a hardcore music fan into tons of extremely varied sounds, it gets difficult to own everything you think you require. It’s simply impossible to afford all of it. Downloading or sharing obviously helps with that, in an immense and incalculable way. Therein lies the problem and where it gets tricky. For me, I want to support the artists so they can continue providing the earth with entertainment. But obviously they need money and resources to do so.
So what do you do? If you’re me you download what you want, and if you’re given the chance you help out in other ways. Like mentioning a band you love on your blog(which helps only minimally) or you buy merch. This is the thing that happens more often than not; by seeing bands you like and buying the items they have to sell, you’re helping them in a small but significant way. You may not think that fifteen or twenty dollar shirt helps much, but over the course of a six to twelve months tour, those dollars add up, thus ensuring the band can survive within it’s means. For instance, I own four Dan Deacon shirts, and quite a few nine inch nails shirts. Now, NIN and Reznor are behemoths who sell hundreds of times more merch than Deacon or smaller club acts can ever hope to. The point is I buy those shirts, because I want these lesser known acts to continue going, and if I can’t buy all the vinyl records I want, this is the best way to help for me.
Some people think it’s stealing obviously, and I guess to some extent it is, but for a lot of these bands, the amount of money they’d make go to the record labels, and while you could get into an even longer and deeper philosophical argument about what services they provide, the point is people are getting their music from a giant underground world, which for the most part isn't tangible anymore. How many people do you know who still buy CD’s? Seriously? We have itunes, spotify and other outlets where you can actually pay for music.
But most people I know don’t do that, and I’m aware of many bands that are fine with it. Upon a very quick search you can find tons of artists who are totally fine with illegally downloading. People from Dave Grohl to Thom Yorke to Trent Reznor all suggest it’s the next stop in the same direction as passing around tapes or CD’s were in past decades. Among my quick research only Prince, and Bono( Who wipes his ass with money I’m sure) had an issue with downloading. It’s about getting the music out. Kevin Parker of Tame Impala fame had a brilliant quote during a Reddit AMA where he summed up many people's feelings perfectly on the issue. To quote him his response was”
“Eh.... I feel like music will be free sooner or later, and i think I'm all for it. There's all this talk of music needing a monetary value, this ownership of music, even that it needs a physical form. But intrinsically... it's MUSIC, it should be better than that. Some of my most important musical experiences were from a burnt CD with songs my friend downloaded for me at a terrible digital quality... I didn't care... it changed my life all the same. For me the value of music is the value you extract from it. You want to know a story? Up until recently, from all of tame impala's record sales outside of australia I had received.... zero dollars. Someone high up spent the money before it got to me. I may never get that money. Then Blackberry and some tequila brand or something put my song in an ad. Then I bought a house and set up a studio. I know what you're thinking... "wait so...when I bought an album I was helping some businessman pay for his mansion on an island somewhere, and when some dude bought a mobile phone he was helping to pay an artist? WHHHYY?" I'll tell you why, IT'S MONEY. It doesn't always go where you want it to go. It's like a shopping trolley with a bung wheel. As far as I'm concerned the best thing you can do for an artist is LISTEN to the music...fall in love with it.......talk about it.........get it however you can get it....Let the corporations pay for. This is just my brain rambling remember, I'm sure there are holes in my theories... for example I realise not everyone's music is suited to a mobile phone ad, and it would be lame if artists tailored their music for that purpose.”- Kevin Parker
For my money(pun intended) there isn’t a better answer. If you’re an artist, you WANT people to experience your music, whether they pay for it or not. Art to me should be free to an extent. Sure I’m not some well known person in the world, but for this this website and the things I wrote are things I do partly because I’d like to get paid to share my opinions with the world, but i do it primarily because I love writing, and if someone reads my stuff great, if not that’s fine too. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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