On an average day, you’re bound to find a debate for whether “downloading music through your favourite blog” is actually supporting the band. The easy answer is no, but it doesn’t simply stop there.
The main topic for discussion is that the music industry is dying. That may seem a little melodramatic, forced and …somewhat inaccurate. Let us dive deeper on the subject and take common observations into account. Some take to hiding behind so-called pro’s of pirating off blogs and torrent sites, simply stating that the effect “promotes the artist”. For the most part there’s some truth in every lie, but there’s no other explanation for why this person is taking music without paying for it. For the artist, the word of mouth works, but not in the way it should. Let me explain: Person pirates brand new album “X” released in two weeks, tells his mate about it who downloads the same album from a “leaked album” site instead of pre-ordering off the label’s site, iTunes (insert other similar legal options here – Bandcamp, distributor, even the local record store). Does this benefit the artist, label or press person? Not really, the same pattern occurs even after the release has hit the shelves.
At this point you probably think I’m pretty cynical. Go and spend the dollars on the new album, give some money to the band and support the industry you say you “love”. Deep down you’d be right. I want you to buy the EP’s, go to the local shows, buy a band shirt, throw a few dollars at a full-length and if you’re especially keen on supporting the band collect their vinyl. The only problem is at the end of all that, you’ve probably spent a week’s wage not only on the shirt and album, but also in the hotel room near the festival, drinks, food, merchandise and travel to and from events. For all the struggling bands, they’re are struggling fans and cost of living has been on the rise (but I’m not here to talk politics or speculate on the cost of living). What I want focus on is where does the listener draw the line between theft of product, support for your bands and the impact the internet has on the industry.
It’s without a doubt that the music industry has blown up with the inclusion of the internet. Files sent at the speed of light across continents to some music geek’s computer, only to be re-uploaded and sent to any number of locals. Even PR has been taken to a whole new level. Not only can adverts reach the guy one street over, you can also let some guy a 23 hour flight away know about a new album in a matter of seconds, just by hitting a few keys in the comfort of an office. The internet has helped the industry grow, but for all this convenience there are those that exploit the basic features of the world wide web. Take “Napster” for example; Just before the year 2000, Napster made a push for the sharing of files easily over the internet, this created an impulse spray of millions sharing, uploading, downloading and pirating files. Since then, countless sites/sharing platforms have been created, shut down, re-spawned creating a cycle of torrent sites. Downloading music through torrenting sites and pirating blogs has more-or-less become the norm in today’s musical community.
So it should help for a band to know that on any given day that their album is “obtained” by thousands of potential listeners? Publicity yes, the band… not so much. Does it help a Polish band to know that some Bolivian teenager just pirated your latest album off a blog, to listen to it once and not go to the show 6794 miles away? The teen might like the album, but he doesn’t act on the impulse to order a physical CD at the local record store. Does the band profit? No. Does the band’s label see some measure of income? No. Did the Press guy do his/her job? Well, the Bolivian teen found the record, but does he receive some incentive for his work? Well, no.
For those looking for a way not to spend money on music, there are other options, other platforms. One that hits the top of the list is Bandcamp (bandcamp.com/). Bandcamp utilizes a self-managed page for bands and labels to price their music and release music according to their wishes. Some bands even feel that music should be a ‘gift’ given freely, allowing for a “Free Download” or even a “Name Your Price” all the way down to $0.00. Usually this allows for some lee-way for “buyers” who would like to give “something” to the band they feel deserves something for their music. However the system allows for fans to get free music at the wishes of the band.
The negatives of illegally downloading music outweigh the so-called positives. First and foremost (it’s in the first sentence of this paragraph), it’s illegal; Pirating demonstrates theft of property, in this case profit from sales, intellectual property etc. But it doesn’t explain how a band can advertise that album “X” is for sale. If you take a morale stance, pirating albums is insulting to those who produced, recorded – put there blood and tears into an album so you could turn around and buy them, supporting a career. By pirating their music, you may actually be putting your favourite indie group out of pocket, unable to buy rent, providing them a need to have a second/third source of income. There are other reasons not to pirate music; the internet can be a dangerous place. Filled with all sorts of “nasties” and without the correct protection you could be opening your digital world open to viruses. I know, it’s properly not the first thing you thought you’d get when you downloaded that Metallica discography, but CD’s at your local store aren’t going to carry any of those horrific things. Another negative of illegal music is its domino effect on the economy. I know what you’re thinking; “it’s one album! How is that going to effect anything?” Simply, the roll on creates a wave of financial instability. You may not notice it until your favourite local acts quits with a statement that involves a certain lack of finance. But it doesn’t stop there, remember all the others that work the back lines of the industry? The label owners, the distributors, press workers, event organizers, store owners/floor staff, roadies — this list goes on. Even if a band sells an EP for a measly $2.00 and 585 people decide to download off a blog, the band is missing out on a potential $1170.00 before worrying about there other expenses. It may not sound like a lot to a single listener, but it’s even less to a band who has to pay for space, gear, PR, CD printing, etc.
In the end, everything comes down to a number. This post may not change your mind, in fact you may stand by the fact that you would never have heard band “A” without some random blog telling you about their latest release. It’s pretty clear that I (as well as many others) want you to spend those hard earned dollars on music, on merchandise, on something to show the band that you care, that you will contribute. It’s also as clear that with a mindset in today’s music community that I won’t change anyone’s opinions, but if someone simply thinks, thinks about the roll-on effect and wonder why some bands are being disbanded so bricklaying can continue, it’s because the value is disheartening to those deep in the industry.
All in all, buy a band shirt, go to a show, buy an album and enjoy the experience.