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« How to REALLY Get Your Music on Blogs: Becoming an Active Community Member | Main | In Gratitude... I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends »
Tuesday
Jun222010

Why You Should Pay For Music

Let’s get one thing straight: I love free music. If a musician decides to give away an album, I’m the first to download it. I am against the RIAA lawsuits that sue people for sharing music. Rather than scaring people into buying music, I advocate a culture in which people actually want to spend money on music, because they understand the positive repercussions it has on the medium of recorded music, and the lives of the artists that produce it. What I hope to do in the following paragraphs is persuade you that not only does paying for music benefit that artist you claim to support, but also benefits you, the listener.

I’m not going to make a legal argument. It may be valid but just isn’t relevant in practice. A law is only as effective as the means by which you can enforce it. And, unless something crazy happens in the world of Internet regulation, no one will be able to forcibly stop people from sharing music. After all, if there was no bouncer outside a concert venue, we could expect to see ticket sales plummet just as fast as CD sales. The problem is that many people just don’t value music in a meaningful way. What do I mean by that? Well, I understand perfectly well that people value music in the sense that they enjoy it, and love rocking out on their iPod. However, they don’t value it in the sense that they will willingly fork over $1 for a song, thus helping the artist who made it continue to produce awesome music. If I’m going to convince you to buy your next record, it’s not going to happen by scaring you with abstract arguments about copyright law.

I used to illegally download in high school. I remember when Napster first came out. It was incredible. It was fast, free, and delivered on-demand music; what could be bad about that? I can say, in all honestly, I did not once think about how it could negatively impact a musician, until I saw first-hand what it was doing.

After high school, I went to NYU, hoping to become a recording engineer. At the same time, I began to record my own music, in the hope of someday making a living from it. In an effort to get a grander perspective on the business I longed to enter, I got an internship at an indie record label. There I saw artists, with sizable fan-bases, question whether they could record another album. The demand was there, but the audience was not paying for the product they claimed to love so much. This directly translated to artists not recording albums, plain and simple. Instead, they embarked on relentless tours, leaving little to no time for writing new material and recording it.

During this time I also started to look for work in recording studios. There, I saw an effect of file sharing that was not immediately obvious. Musicians could no longer afford to pay recording engineers (amazing artists in their own right). As music sales continued to decline, studios all over New York City were shutting their doors. And it wasn’t just the big time Hit Factory places; small independently run studios were going under as well. It wasn’t that they were creating inferior products. It was a direct result of people not paying for music. This led to a decline in the quality of recorded music, at least when talking about independent artists who don’t have a 1 million dollar advance to burn through.

As I saw this going on around me, I stopped to think. If I want to be an audio engineer at a studio, how can I download music illegally? It would be utterly hypocritical of me to download an album for nothing, and at the same time hope that someone else would buy one I worked on. I realized that if I wanted things to change, I would have to start by doing it myself. Hands down, the best way to support your favorite artist is financially. Of course, telling your friends about songs and re-tweeting alerts helps, but it does not necessarily enable artists to produce moremusic. At the end of the day, what good is a fan who tells 1,000 friends about your album if none of them actually buy it? Sure, those people might go see the band live, but concerts and recordings have totally different budgets and costs. When you go see a live show, it doesn’t make up for the record you ripped off LimeWire. Your ticket price pays the roadies, the sound guys, the tour manager, the gas bills, the van insurance, and maybe, if they’re lucky, the band. That form of logic reduces recorded music to a PR Tool, aimed at promoting the sale of tickets and t-shirts. And what does that say for recorded music as a medium? Will recorded music be reduced to the importance of a T-shirt, used to promote a live show? Recorded music provides a listening experience that is unique and rewarding in its own right, and listeners should strive to preserve that. Fans should respect the wishes of the artist. If a musician asks that you pay for an album, you should respect the time and effort that went into its creation, and pay for it.

Perhaps people don’t really care about how artists make their living. But there are positive repercussions for the listener. First, I guarantee you, it will make the listening experience more rewarding. You will have a recording whose quality matches what the artist intended. You will listen closer. Just like you would savor the taste of an expensive bottle of wine, you’ll savor the sounds of that record you bought. After all, good music is not meant to be “chugged”. Buying a record will also make it easier for that artist to produce another one, meaning you get a kick-ass sounding follow-up to that record you just sipped slowly with some cheese and crackers. It is, in essence, a “win/win”.

Don’t believe me? Try it out. Wait for the release date, like you would a souffle coming from the kitchen. When it arrives, set aside some time to put it on. You can end the listening session with the comforting feeling that you are enabling the artist you love to continue to create beautiful music, that you will be able to tweet about in the very near future.

At the end of the day, it’s really a moral argument. Unfortunately in the music world, as with life in general, the moral road is not always the easiest route to take. As Plato said, “[Music] gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” In this sense, it is almost as important as the air we breathe. I urge you to meditate on this. How much does music mean to you? How does it positively affect your life? Hopefully many of you will come to the conclusion that while you may not have a fat bank account, ten dollars for a record you will play 100 times is a damn good deal.

Courtesy of SoundCtrl.coma network of digital media professional who are focused on advancing the music industry through the power of the social web.

Jon Sheldrick is an audio engineer with MuseAmi, and also leads a group called Fatty Acid. You can listen to his music (and download some things for free!) @ fattyacid.bandcamp.com.

Reader Comments (58)

This is an awesome article that hits the nail on the head.

Years ago as a university student, I didn't give a second thought to downloading music. It was free, I was poor, and I justified it by saying I would buy stuff when I got a job.

I actually followed through with my promise (which doesn't excuse my prior behaviour), and I realized that recorded music actually means more to me when I've paid for it. There is some psychological connection that I can't explain, but I pay more attention to the tunes, and am more likely to actively listen then to passively listen while doing other things.

Now that I've gotten back into vinyl, I can't download the quality that I've come to expect of my audio recordings, but I really wouldn't want it any other way.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I agree with Biden. Piracy IS theft. And the author here is describing exactly what happens to an industry that is not protected from such.

The success of iTunes proves that people are willing to pay for music. The popularity of Limewire, etc., proves that the industry must find a solution for people on limited budgets for spending on music (ie: low income & students).

But there is no excuse for thievery. Period.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterJP

you think piracy is bad there its way worse in india and even harder for the young indie market here.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterAmeeth

this is perfect. it is a matter of respect, and it in the end affects directly the listener's experience of the work they receive. thanks for posting this very well written piece.

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterhobopop

and from the perspective of an artist - http://kirstymcgee.blogspot.com

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterhobopop

This was a great read, thanks.

Unfortunately, the majority of humans on the planet don't work in the music industry like us, and don't ever experience the hypocrisy and guilt that goes along with both working and stealing from the same industry.

Many friends of mine use LimeWire ALL THE TIME to download music... I always try to convince them to buy the song instead, but I just get laughed at. It's damn frustrating sometimes.

So how the hell do we change their minds about purchasing music??

June 22 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

@Chris

Probably nothing can be done about P2P. The genie's out of the bottle - not that it makes it right. And the sad thing is that most Limewire monkies can't tell bad 128kbs from raw wav so up-selling on the basis of quality alone is not realistic.

Here's what works, historically:

1. Convenience. Make something easier/better to use than Limewire. I guess that's where Spotify and the coming cloud-based subscription services may come in. (we'll see... not that the artist will see any profit from those, but they may at least have more opportunity to sell other goods)

2. High margin products. This used to be the CD. Now artists need to get creative and come up with new products to make a good profit on. .99 cent downloads is not high margin and won't amount to a median wage for most artists.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterJP

Edit: I suppose you could call .99 high margin in that it costs nothing to duplicate and distribute, but what I meant was that it's a tough sell to assume many artists are going to be able to move tens of thousands of tracks continually, year-after-year. Even if the can do that... it won't be enough to earn the comfortable living most musicians dream about. That's why the focus needs to be on a new high-margin product.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterJP

You should pay for music to be produced/published/performed, but there's nothing wrong with sharing it once it's been paid for.

June 22 | Registered CommenterCrosbie Fitch

People want to pay for music, particularly when it is independently-produced by hard-working & undiscovered artists. Not that it is right, but it is hard to argue with someone stealing some Lady Gaga MP3's. People want to support real artists, but are in need of a better way to do so. There are some interesting music/technology ideas on the rise... I have hope that there will be a proper venue for supporting real artists without burning holes in your pockets. This app is one: http://bit.ly/99T30Z

I agree with your sentiment, but not the arguements. Is it alright to illegally download Miles Davis records? He's not going to make any more records regardless my financial support. Can I illegally download a record if I don't particularly like the artist? Or if the artist has already been overly compensated?

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterKjle

I love music and I spend a ton of money on it. I've come up with my own personal rule regarding downloading. If the music is in print and available, I'll gladly pay for it. If it's out of print or was never commercially released or is unlikely to be released, I'll download. If the artist or industry wants me to pay for it, they should make it available.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterKurt

This is a great article. But, it fails to address the oxymoron that is "intellectual property" and the legal environment it resides. Property shared is divided, but information shared is multiplied. I don't "steal" music. I am not a "thief". I copy and share. The artists or their representatives still own the masters. I haven't removed anything from them. I've duplicated something. I hope if Star Trek style replicator technology ever becomes a reality we aren't still having the same argument we had over cassettes and VCRs.
I don't give a second thought to downloading music or movies. It is often the only way I will exerience some recordings that are either not commercially available or poorly distributed & promoted. It is free, I am poor, and I buy stuff when I've got the money to do so. I prefer a "real" hardcopy of an album or movie. The quality is usually better and in better packaging. I love music and movies. I collect music and movies.
There is some psychological connection that I can't explain, maybe the "hoarding instinct" that makes people collect things. I can read books, watch movies, and listen to free music supplied by any local library. But, nonetheless I and millions of others pay up for our very own copy to keep at home.
In economics, there is such thing as a "free rider". Content is recieved for free and the content provider is compensated by a third party via sponsorship or advertising. Examples are obvious in television and radio programming. You can pay directly by subscribing to cable TV or watch local broadcasts for free. Listeners regularly tape & trade free radio broadcasts, financed by advertising or donation pledges. Listeners also subscribe to satellite radio, for a monthly fee.
The impact file-sharing is having on album sales has been thoroughly researched and documented: People who download free music spend more money on it commercially than their non-downloading counterparts. The depressed economy would be a better explaination for poor sales at this time than P2P. Hypocrites like Metallica built their fanbase on tape trading. They even traded tapes of their own record collections of New Wave of British Heavy Metal Bands, in their early days, as they developed their own sound.
The success of iTunes proves that people are willing to pay for music. The popularity of Limewire, etc., proves that the industry must find a solution for people on limited budgets for spending on music (ie: low income & students). The AA's can either continue to drain their resources penalizing their audience and playing whack-a-mole with file sharing sites or develop a new strategy which benefits both artists and their audience. Until then, it is unlikely that a small entrepreneur will be able to establish any new ways of doing business, for fear of lawsuits.
I am a firm believer in free speech. Not just the freedom to speak, but to be heard. Anything which gets in the way of that is of secondary concern. Ironically, the U.S.S.R. fell in part due to pirated recordings from the west, which were made illegal contraband by their government. Do we really want to follow the example of the Soviet Union?

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterMike Nobody

Well the internet is about to become solely controlled by a select few companies including the recording industry so that might put a stop to P2P sharing. This is great write-up too the people the frequent this site all make music and those that purchase it or that would purchase it don`t come here beside the same music creators who want to support others.

June 22 | Unregistered Commentersowait

Certainly recording studios were shutting down because musicians had less money to spend on making records but i think the bigger impact was the enormous improvement in digitally based recording tools.

Software, hardware and computer equipment all went up in quality and speed and down in price. Suddenly home based recording studios became incredibly powerful and presented an opportunity to emulate what once was the sole domain of dedicated multi million dollar studios. So from a quality of sound perspective a home based musician can create recordings to broadcast standards. We still need recording studios though. They make great sounds and you can probably attract a good producer and engineer in that scenario.

But still, the fact that a musician made a record with less money doesn't mean they should be deprived of the chance to sell the record and earn some money. Let the owner of the copyright dictate whether their work should be free or priced.

June 22 | Unregistered Commentermchad

@Mike Nobody "I don't "steal" music. I am not a "thief".

It is pretty simple, Mike. In a free market economy, the owner/creator of a product sets the price of a product, and if you don't value the product enough to pay said price, you don't value it enough to own it. Obtaining the product without paying the price set by the creator/owner is the very definition of thievery. There is no rationalization that can change that.

You gotta be kidding me!

You wrote a post on an indie music blog arguing everyone should be willing to pay for music because you now want to make money from an industry you used to steal from?

The responses are also jaw dropping.

It's 2010. Please keep up.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

What I started to do recently was to by the albums in Vinyl and download the mp3.

This way I've payed the right to listen to the music and I have 2 ways of listening to it: A very high quality but less practical and a more practical but with less quality.

I think this is legal because when you buy the record you are paying for the right to listen to it. And (at least in my country) the law says that you have the right to make backup copies for personal use. So, I can say that the downloaded mp3 is a backup copy...

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterAntónio

So can you steal art with a Xerox machine?

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

What year is this? 2002? I am constantly amazed that unknown artists are STILL concerned or talking about music theft. MP3 players are the new radio. If you want to be on the radio, you should jumping up and down when someone puts your music on their radio. Expecting to get paid for your music prior to someone falling in love with it defies common sense.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

I have to agree with Bruce on this one. There are ways to track your music online to see who and which online radio stations are playing your music. If you want to get on the radio, you should be tracking your music around the net and working with online radio stations to make that happen. Online radio stations have made customization more possible than ever, so if someone is including you on their radio station, its because they WANT to listen to you, or are at least intrigued enough to give you a closer look. Those are the people you should be tracking down and adding to your mailing list.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

The article is technically correct, but largely irrelevant. With infinite supply of music, an increase in demand for music (in the form that the author advocates; that of respect for an artist) can only make tiny changes in how much revenue is produced.

But what strikes me as most out-of-date in this article is the notion that, without money, artists won't record music and good music will go away. These is the opposite of true. There are more artists recording music than there have ever been. Furthermore, the connection between being highly compensated and producing better music is dubious at best. I doubt most people would say that the richest artists make the best music. I would argue that the best music comes from people who do it for NO financial incentive, but for purely artistic motives.

Yes, on the individual level, less money may prevent a given artist from being able to record a new album. But on the larger scale, there are 100 new artists to replace him and attract his audience. Career sustainability may be in jeopardy, but listeners don't care about that. They will always be happy to turn their ears to something new. And if enough of them latch on to a particular artist, then that artist will end up making enough to keep going. There are a lot of negatives to this new reality, but advocating more "respect" for artists is not going to net them more cash.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

Justin, I could not agree more. I actually toured in an independent band for five years in the late 90s to early 2000s. The digital age of music and file sharing was just really starting at that point. I think it would have helped a band like ours more than hurt us. If people would spread the word and share our music, it would have helped us have more people show up for our shows.

Plus, on the point of Plato's comment, at that time there was no music "industry". People made music solely for the love of music, which has been completely sucked out of music by said industry. American Idol, Justiun Beiber and Ke$ha being prime examples.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterChris Motts

And another thing. You can't demand respect. You earn it. If and when fans choose to pay money to artists out of respect, it will be because of something the artist did - not an internal choice that the fans made independently. Its a nice notion to think that we can all just decide, "ok folks, lets pay more, its the respectful thing to do." But that simply is not how people operate. You will pay more money to the people who you think deserve it. How you arrive at that conclusion is dependent on that artist getting you to see them in that light - not by lowering our collective standards for what or who we think is deserving.

Yes, thats a harsh reality. Fans are fickle. Business sucks. But has it really ever been any different for artists in the industry?

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

First of all great article, but I was wondering how you would respond to this article

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/illegal-downloaders-spend-the-most-on-music-says-poll-1812776.html

It basically just states that the people who illegally download music are the ones who spend the most on music (buying music merchandise, paying to see a concert etc.) It is an article about the UK music industry but I wonder if this also applies to the US music industry?

If the article holds true in the US market then I wonder if we should be changing our strategies as musicians. Maybe we should be giving music away for free. Revenue from recorded music has dropped drastically but revenue from live concerts has gone up. I think musicians and record companies need to find ways to capitalize on live shows as opposed to recorded music. The person that figures out a way to tap into that money stream in a way that pleases the musician and the record company could hopefully turn the industry around

June 23 | Registered CommenterMatthew West

Another great article! Thank you!

I have a teen who loves to download music but we make her do it the right way. At .99c a song it's hardly breaking her bank and we are instilling the value of music in her.

And her mum is a musician, so if all else fails.. then I use good old fashioned guilt!

There will always be those who make make it ok and take the music and then there are those who will want to buy it because they know it's the right thing.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Austin

Has things really changed much for independents as far as profitability goes? That is it seems artists have never made much money from recording unless they achieved broad appeal and even when they have achieved broad appeal other parties within the industry probably absorbed much of the profit – labels, management, studio owners, distributors, publishers. Out of the millions of band businesses that have existed I’d suggest that only a very very small percentage made enough profit to sustain a comfortable living. My question for the forum is – has this small percentage of artists that have achieved enough success to make a comfortable living changed? Do you think the % has increased or decreased?

It seems to me that the number has increased slightly – there is still a small % of bands making a living like always but I think that small number would have increased so we should go with the flow. Things are improving for the indie’s and I’m not concerned that it’s getting worse for the pop stars. So my point is don’t worry about all this shit, have a positive attitude as things are getting better and focus on making the most of the tools that we now have and making good music. I don’t buy into the myth that all these changes in the way people consume music are restricting an artist’s ability to make a living. It’s always been difficult making a living as an artist and it will continue to be difficult.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterNate

@Nate

I don't think much has changed. You still have to sell an ENORMOUS amount of music to make a living from it and there's only so much money in the world. Most money goes to those musicians that provide the most value or can at least convice people to hand it over. There's not enough to go round (and this is a good thing).

What has changed is that people like me can now see a path to take and have the chance to take it. 10 years ago I would have recorded a demo and sent it off to major labels and crossed my fingers. Now I can make and release my own music, ignore the majors and work towards growing a fanbase that really values and enjoys what my band does.

@Helen

You're installing 90's values in a 00's child and perpetuating the old music industry model, which is now broken.

June 24 | Registered CommenterChris West

The original author Jon wrote:

"ten dollars for a record you will play 100 times is a damn good deal."

Fine, but there are only a handful of those each year -- less than a dozen -- and there are hundreds which I will play at most 2-3 times, and many of them I won't even get through once.

I'm happy to pay for the successes, the stuff which really connects with me. I consider it a point of honor to go back and pay for legit CD copies of such things if at all practical. Sometimes I'm even willing to pay for new, subpar releases for artists, based solely on how much they meant to me when we were all younger.

But I'm tired of paying for music just to try it out and find out that it's not for me.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterChairman Miao

I'm amazed at the amount of responses centered around the argument "I'm poor." Why should you get to have something if you can't pay for it? It's not a necessity, you didn't earn the money to pay for it, so you don't get to have it.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterKelsy

@Kelsy

Because we're talking about the change from physical to digital. It's hard to justify charging money for 1s and 0s that can be reproduced an infinite number of times.

And because this is a forum for indie artists to work out how to navigate their careers through a changing industry. Declining sales is part of that.

June 24 | Registered CommenterChris West

@kelsy: because music has been marketed as a necessity throughout the modern era.

From a Kyle Bylin essay in Hypebot:

>> "In Free, Chris Anderson talks about the basic dilemma that underpins the economics of fashion, which also applies to music in that, “[Fans] have to like this year’s [songs], but also quickly become dissatisfied with them so they’ll buy next year’s [songs.]” Yet, after decades of mixing forms of obsolescence with music in order to encourage repetitive consumption, music executives don’t realize that they are trying to criminalize the very demand they tried to create." << (Emphasis mine)

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2009/08/conditioned-to-steal-popular-music-and-obsolescence-in-america.html

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterChairman Miao

Largely a good article, but I agree with some other posters, this is a little bit misguided at times.

1.
I was surprised that you would be so heavy handed when, even after you were in the industry for a while, you were still downloaded. It was only after you saw with you own eyes what was going on that you decided to stop DLing illegally. This just illustrates what you are up against, if it's hard to get members of the industry to stop DLing.

2. BUY MERCH
You said that the best way to support a band is to buy the album. But actually, the best way is buy merch and/or go to a show. Artists get 30 cents or so from a $10 CD, whereas they get a much larger cut (it varies) from touring revenue. While record companies are now getting a cut of tour revenue, it is still true that artists still make many times more on $$ spent on merch than they do on a CD. ... So bottom line hipsters, if you feel guilty about your Pirate Bay, go to the artist's website and nab yourself a nice band t-shirt. Win win. :)

June 24 | Unregistered Commenterkeats

Yes, the format is changing from hard copy to digital, but why does that mean you suddenly get everything for free? CDs can be reproduced hundreds of times as well. A burnable CD costs about ten cents, so how come when I go to Best Buy, that same CD, pre-burned, is ten dollars? Because we don't just pay the face value of things. We also pay for he hard work that goes into creating them.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterKelsy

@Keats

Your second point doesn't apply to indie artists that self release.

@Kelsy

The change from physical to digital is not the same as it was from tape to CD. It's massivley different from the logistics of printing and delivering CDs to paying someone to sell it to you in a shop etc.

If you make a 1000 CDs you can only sell 1000 CDs so you take a rough guess at how many you're gonna sell and price it accordingly.

If you make 1 mp3 you can sell 3 billion of them. How can you determine a price based on that?

Would you argue that music was not worth anything until we could record it and sell it in HMV?

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

@ people saying they aren't "stealing" music:

What do you call it when your boss only pays you for 35 hours & you worked 40? I mean, you never had the money, so how can you say he's stealing it? & time doesn't physically exist, so how can that be of value? Because that's what you are arguing.

@ Brian Mitchell

How do you steal art with a Xerox machine?

And why are you comparing time to matter? Apples and tachyons, man. Metaphors matter.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

These comment threads make me want to steal music :)

June 25 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

@ Justin

How can you say time versus physical matter is apples & oranges while digital music versus physical copies of music isn't apple versus oranges?

I am not saying you're definitively "stealing" music. I'm saying it's the same as getting shorted by your boss or, from the opposite side, the same as visiting sites that have nothing to do with your job while at work. If you want to justify any behavior, you always can. But especially in this age when there are so many "free" streaming options available, why are people still obsessed with trying to fill a hard drive?

I do think if we'd had someone more like Frank Zappa & less like Lars Ulrich speaking up on behalf of musicians in 2000, we'd be having a very different industry right now.

The bottom line is if you believe it is important for their to be professional musicians & artists in the world, you need to be willing to support them with food/money/shelter. If you believe that art is a luxury for people to make in their spare time, then you shouldn't pay for it. Either is fine. Our culture has been headed for thinking of art as a luxury & waste of time for quite a while.

"I do think if we'd had someone more like Frank Zappa & less like Lars Ulrich speaking up on behalf of musicians in 2000, we'd be having a very different industry right now."

Amen.

Side note: I never mentioned anything about any oranges.

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I think that when your strategy is to rely on other people to exert will power and 'do the right thing' then you're fighting a battle that you can't win and you're not taking the responsibility to do what it takes to be successful as an artist.

If we could burn copies of Ferraris and Porsches without any repercussions then I think we can agree that a lot of car copying would be going on. This doesn't mean that people don't think the cars are valuable or that they don't like the idea of supporting the manufacturer so that they can make more cars, it just means that the conditions were set up in such a way that a lot of people would decide that the benefits outweigh the cost.

The truth, as I see it, is that piracy isn't really the problem. It's going to happen, but what's also going to happen is that people are going to buy CDs if you're able to create a demand for them. A certain percentage of the population likes to support artists, prefers music on CD, etc. Unless you're going to make it more difficult to burn songs or make it easier or more beneficial for people to buy music legitimately then I don't think you're going to change the equation.

If you want your fans to do something (like buy music, or go to a show) then A) make it worth it and B) tell them about it. If you see it as a charity then you're taking your foot off the gas pedal and not stepping up to the plate to do what it takes to make people actually want to buy what you're selling.

I think the best approach to selling more music is not to clamp down on piracy or to beg people to give their support, but instead to focus on making better music and learning how to sell it more effectively.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterScott James

@ Brian John Mitchell

"But especially in this age when there are so many "free" streaming options available, why are people still obsessed with trying to fill a hard drive?"

I think this is the important point. New generations of kids are not going to be concerned with filling their hard drives.

The change that is happening is the move from owning music to accessing music (think I'm stealing this idea from Gerd Leonhard).

There's no point stealing/owning music if you don't had to.

Professional musicians existed before the technology existed that enabled them to record and sell their music.

Professional musicians will continue to exist after technology stops them from being able to make money from recorded music.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Sure everybody who work honestly must be pay

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterArnaud

You certainly got a point. You're ABSOLUTELY right.
I actully do not understand why there is a trend of trying not to pay a penny to music they are listening. They have to pay for commodities, likewise, they have to pay for music. Also many people are not really in promotional side of music in general. They do not understand how hard it is to produce new music and even try to survive on music. Without promotional people, good music won't be around anymore.

It's a good article but it misses a few things. First, don't underestimate the income generated by live shows and merchandising. For most high profile bands this income (far) exceeds that from record sales, and even beginning bands can make a good buck out of it.

Second, although it doesn't necessarily justify downloading music off P2P networks for free, 'illegally' downloaded music doesn't always have to translate directly into loss of income. Although not airtight, there's ample evidence suggesting that a lot of people who download music would never buy that same music if downloading wasn't an option.

My opinion on the future of (online) music is to make it more about added value than the music itself. Initiatives such as Spotify are already a good step. For the price of 1 traditional CD a month, you have access to all the major labels' music catalogues. People just won't buy a CD for 15 bucks (or a track for 1 for that matter) anymore when all you get is a plastic disc with just 10-15 tracks on it. That was the way to go at it 15-20 years ago. Not anymore.

The problem I see is the way payment works. Last thing I heard was musicians receive only 9% of the price the customer pays for a CD, the rest is distributed among the retailer, logistics, production and of course, the label. But in an age where everyone is connected all the time, where recording technology becomes more powerful and cheaper (most musicians are capable of recording and uploading a half decent sounding .mp3 of their music to the web for a relatively small investment in equipment) and where people can distribute their music through word of mouth so much faster than before, why do we still need record labels?

True, that doesn't mean labels will disappear overnight, but just think about it for a moment. The only purpose I can think of is promotion, sort of a startup. But the relation between the label and the artist needs to change. It should be the labels looking for artists to serve, not artists praying to get discovered and signed.

As for the way consumers should pay for music, I would suggest something like the distribution of water (see Kusek & Leonhard's 'The Future Of Music' book). You pay a flat monthly fee for the water from your home tap: a huge catalogue of unlimited music. You can buy 'bottled water' seperately, these would be your documentaries, live registrations, 'out of print' music, etc. Not to advertise for Spotify here, but again it does a good job at this already, at least the flat fee part. Plus it's available for non-signed artists to use as well.

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Great article.

Shame on all the cheap pirates!

Great music ain't free to make!

June 28 | Unregistered CommenterFebreze

Absolute bollocks! paying for music is for suckers. As a consumer I dictate the value of the music i hear. 100%. You can come up with whatever "moral" argument you wish. A free market dictates the value.

"Consumers dictate music should be free!"

They also dictate is should be crappy.

I agree with most of this, but it will probably grow more difficult to make the "quality" argument. First, studies have shown an increasing preference for lower quality music among college students:

http://www.macworld.co.uk/news/index.cfm?newsid=25288

And the higher resolution audio formats (DVD-Audio and SACD) that were introduced around the same time as the iPod have been miserable failures. I would be spending a lot more money on music if it could be had on DVD-Audio or something of equivalent quality.

July 5 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

If the title was "Why you should PAY THE ARTIST for music" we could be getting somewhere. At the moment on a CD release the artist is usually last to be paid. Everyone else (record company,studio, promoter, session players etc)is paid off in full before the artist gets a cent.
On a digital download the artist gets a share of the first dollar.
What digital music is doing is destroying the bloated record company business model (good), giving the artist a part of the early return (good) but also lowering the value of music and going back to a time when artists were not able to become multizillionaires with a royalty living way beyond the time of their actual work (regrettable for some but thats life).
There is something a bit strange about a couple of hours work when you are say 21, paying you for the rest of your life. Everybody has come to expect it but it is quite out of line with a other kinds of work.

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