If you think it’s what all the cool kids are doing, you don’t know any cool kids…
I’ve made mention previously of the fact that I don’t and won’t advocate music piracy. I am now going to explain why, because I make those statements out of my love for music and not for any particular sense of obligation – legal, moral or otherwise. And let me make it clear right now that I have no associations what so ever to any record labels, distribution companies or even a retail outlet for CD’s. Also note that this post is specifically in regards to music piracy only, not other forms of free distribution of music, or downloads per se.
First and foremost, it’s necessary to explain that it is my own preference to have original, hard-copy versions of the music that is in my library, even though I primarily listen to it through the computer. I’m not a fan of purely digital media. It’s not because I fear losing my music collection due to a computer glitch, but because I personally get greater satisfaction from that little extra sense of ownership of something. The purchase of a new CD, appreciating the artwork, reading the lyrics when made available – it’s all part of a complete listening experience to me. That’s not to say I can’t fully appreciate music when I don’t have a physical copy of it; I wouldn’t use and/or post links to freely available downloads if that were the case. It’s because – amongst a few other reasons - more often than not the production of the CD is as much a creative process as the writing of the music, and can even heighten it.
Some artists, such as perennial favourite Tool, take so much care, consideration and effort when creating their products that it’s actually a real shame not to have them – they’re as much an experience themselves as the music they represent. Tool seem to have very specific ideas about how they wish to deliver their music to the public. Their songs are not available on iTunes, nor will they release a live DVD, stating that the experience is not comparable to the real thing. These are decisions I respect greatly – if I am able to appreciate all aspects of their music, I can most certainly appreciate the mode of delivery.
The moral side does play a part in my preference for legitimite copies. Personally, I do feel a certain amount of obligation towards replacing any free downloads I continue to enjoy with original copies of the CD (with the notable exception of Daytrotter Sessions – I do, eventually, purchase CD’s by the artists if I don’t own them already, but I keep the Session downloads in my library as they are versions not found elsewhere). If I do not like a song well enough to feel the compulsion to buy a CD, it gets deleted from my library. (My measure is if I skip it more than 50% of the time it comes up on shuffle, it goes ;)).
The purchase of a secondhand CD is a slightly more grey area, but it does still err on the side of unfavourable. However, I must admit that a fair portion of my CD’s were bought secondhand – though I do try to buy at least one brand new CD for any artist. For the most part, I buy secondhand because I can’t find it any other way. The reason I say it’s unfavourable because the artist doesn’t recieve anything from the re-sale of a CD, barring a new listener, if that. There’s no way to measure secondhand CD sales in order for them to reflect an artists popularity or anything else, and of course they recieve no monetary benefits as they would from new sales.
The continued spread of music, via digital distribution (legal or not), re-sale etc. does have it’s benefits and therefore a place. The more people that become aware of an artist the better, and as popularity grows, the artists may be afforded even greater benefits from their record companies. The problem with piracy (as opposed to freely distributed music) is that for a great many artists, the continued awareness doesn’t necessarily translate to sales, and sales is what gives record companies the most confidence in affording artists those benefits. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much of a problem for well established artists that recieve huge amounts of money regardless, but even then I think using that excuse for music piracy is a cop out. Not to mention the hordes of independent artists, as well as smaller record labels, struggling to continue putting new, quality music on the market.
It\’s not up to me to determine the wage of a musician, those things are relative as well as wildly differing in scope, but if I were the boss of a company and told one of my workers “hey, thanks for turning up to work today and making 300 hundred excellent quality chairs. Unfortunately, after we sent them out to the shops, some mug copied the design and gave them away, so you’re only going to get paid for a quarter of them”, I would be a poor boss indeed, no matter what amount I ended up paying the worker - but that is exactly what you do when you pirate music. And guess what? Believe it or not, a lot of people associated with the production and distribution of a CD worked to get it on the shelves. Sound engineers, mixers, artists for the cover and numerous other people deserve the credit and appreciation for their work, too. Using the fact that these people might have more money than you do in an attempt to essentially say that they should just give it to you for nothing, is ignorant at best.
Last of all, why should anyone else get to make decisions about how something they have not had one hand in creating is distributed, or whether or not those that did get paid?
Here is the way I look at it: Buying a CD or pirating, you – the consumer – have relatively the same result – the ability to listen to the music. But from what I see, music piracy speaks more about how someone feels in regards to money, who has it, who doesn’t and who they think deserves it more; the purchase of a CD is a sign of appreciation and respect for the music and the artists who created it. I know which attitude I respect more.