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Okay, Let’s Resolve This Once And For All

The final word (I hope) about downloading music.

by Dr. Spin
September 22, 2003

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Okay, Let’s Resolve This Once And For All_Dr. Spin-The final word (I hope) about downloading music With the raging debate over “stealing” music by downloading it off of “free” shareware sites such as Kazaa and the court cases coming down on individuals who steal music, I felt it time for a sensible solution and to weigh one final opinion on this whole downloading business.

First of all, congratulations to the courts for finally realizing it’s not the shareware company’s fault if people use their product/service to make illegal copies of music. Napster was developed by two individuals trying to find a way to share files through the internet, not create a way to pirate music. Just because some greedy people used their product to steal music is no fault of theirs. By this logic, banks ought to be able to sue gun makers and automobile makers, because people found a way to rob banks using their products.

Second, people who download commercially available music (meaning, it’s being sold at your local record store or on a website), then burn a CD of said music without paying for it are stealing. Argue it any way you want, unless Aerosmith or Sony gave you a free promotional CD, having a CD with their music on it that you didn’t pay for is stealing.

Now, before I sound like I’m siding with multimillion corporations, let’s talk about fraud for a little bit. If making copies of music for free is stealing, then forcing people to buy the same music two or three times, or forcing people to buy music they don’t want to pay for is fraud, extortion, and as much piracy as anything else. Record companies can package and re-package a group’s songs over and over again, and if you’re a true fan, you’ll keep paying. Hey Who fans, like the album Odds and Sods? Well, too bad, we’ve discontinued that, but if you want those songs you can buy the “new enhanced” version of several CDs you already own… and maybe their box set… and we’ll hold back a few tracks to release a new “lost tracks” CD somewhere down the road.

Like that new John Mayer song? Well, we’re sure you’ll love his entire album! And if you don’t, too bad, you still have to shell out the $15 to get that one song. Or you could pay just $10 for the CD “single” with only three other songs you didn’t want. And if you loved the CD and all of John Mayer’s songs, guess what? Those three extra songs we put on the single aren’t on the album! So now you have to pay us $25 for all of Mayer’s songs, including paying us twice for the same track! But if you don’t want to pay for that, you can wait until we put out his “greatest hits plus rare B-sides” album that will sell for a whopping $30, so you pay for several songs you already own twice, just to get a few measly songs you didn’t have before. But you’re a true fan, so of course you don’t mind paying us!

Hey old-time Rock ‘n’ Roll fan, remember that rare B-side that your favorite 60’s or 70’s artist released? You know, the one that both the record company and the artist forgot to include on any album or CD? Well, I hope you didn’t get rid of that old scratchy 45, because otherwise you’ll never hear it again! And don’t you dare download it off a shareware site, because that’s stealing!

So the record companies extort from the music buyer and the music buyer steals from the record companies by downloading free music. Can anything be done to fix this situation? Yes. Pay attention Mr. Jobs, because your iTunes play a big role in this. Your conception was good, but not perfect.

First of all you charge too much for your music. At first I thought 99 cents a song was fair; 15 songs for (roughly) $15, pretty much what consumers would pay for a pre-packaged CD in a store. Except this wouldn’t be a pre-packaged CD would it? No, I as a consumer would have to buy the CD, pay for the right to download the songs, and not get the nifty little booklet with the cover picture, CD contents and lyric sheets that come in pre-packaged CDs. No, I would have to make that all myself. Suddenly paying $15 for a CD I made doesn’t seem all that fair.

Maybe if you only charged 50 cents a download. Then I’d feel like I was getting a discount for all my hard work. And I wouldn’t feel so bad if I chose a song that I thought I liked, but after listening to a couple of times, decided I didn’t. I mean, wasting a dollar to find out you really don’t like Brittany Spears’ latest tune seems like an awful lot of money.

Second, you and your record executive buddies got to make all the songs, and I mean all the songs they have, available on your website. This includes the aforementioned rare B-sides that are no longer available commercially. If they don’t have the master tapes anymore, I’m sure some nice shareware person can record his or her old 45 and share it with you, for a fee of course…

Finally, to all the record executives suing downloaders for stealing; lighten up. Okay, they were stealing, and while your “stealing off the internet is the same as shoplifting a CD from a store” has some validity, if you don’t want to come across as bigger giant corporate bully any more than you already are, be a little lenient. Most of your biggest offenders are teenagers, or the parents of teenagers who didn’t realize how much their son or daughter was downloading. Like I said, charge them 50 cents a download (or less), or make them shut down their sharing folders, but don’t sue them for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Besides, word of mouth and free samples are the best way to promote all music. Perhaps if you brought down the cost of your CDs, people wouldn’t be as compelled to steal. Most people like to download bands they never heard of or know very little about. If you want us to invest $15 to $20 on your band, we want to know what they sound like and whether their album is worth buying or not. By shutting down shareware, you’re really discouraging sales rather than protecting them. Bands that can’t get much radio play will really suffer and that’s a shame, because those bands usually have the best music.

Well, I’m sure my little article will not be the end of this subject, and I doubt the RIAA will listen to me. Right now I think the RIAA’s actions will stir up more civil disobedience, and people will find new ways to “steal” music without getting caught. Rather than reach an agreement with music fans, the RIAA is creating a wider and wider gap between record companies and their consumers and artists will be caught in the middle. Perhaps what is needed is a nationwide boycott on the music industry.

But I’ll save that for another article…

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