I read this post via The Smoking Section and it’s counterpoint regarding why fans download songs and what the industry can, and can’t, do about it. The authors present some thought provoking explanations pertaining to why heads share music so freely. With that said I feel like both articles glossed over some major points in regards to music file sharing.
File sharing boils down to being a habit first and foremost. Cats do it mainly because they can and since they’ve been at it for so long they don’t see an issue with it. At that point it doesn’t matter much if you can or can’t afford to buy new records. People usually rationalize downloading by saying gauging album quality is a crap shoot. And let’s be honest, plenty of us have shelled out on albums that were either alright or flat out disappointed us and that’s never a good feeling. Alternatively, some say they wouldn’t buy a wack record anyway. So the fact that they downloaded it equates to no blood no foul or, in other words, no lost sale.
However, lets not get it twisted. If you can get something for free and access it wherever you want VS buying it or being tied to a system, odds are you’ll go with the free option. The illegalities and moral issues that come with most music file sharing doesn’t phase most downloaders anyway since they’re rarely caught and made an example of. From there it’s hard to shake that practice of getting and sharing something freely without consequence.
The phenomenon is akin to a kid taking as many cookies out the jar he/she wants while his/her parents, more often than not, turn a blind eye. It doesn’t help that pretty much any music format out now, even streamable ones, can be ripped, downloaded, and shared by anyone willing to learn how to do it. And, believe me, millions are willing to learn when they can get something relatively easily without paying a dime.
Like I said previously, I don’t totally buy the “make more quality music and more people will cop” argument since music is subjective. Even then, labels are promoting and selling products en masse with no regard for quality, according to your or whomever’s standards, isn’t anything new. Also there’s no stopping fans and fence sitters alike with a computer and internet access to get an album for free.99 no matter how good or bad it is. Then they can hook up their friends and complete strangers with copies as if the album grew on trees.
People didn’t have nearly as many effective cost free alternatives to try out music before programs like Napster hit along with the rise of internet ready home PCs. Labels sat on their hands when downloading to “preview” tracks became a regular thing. Now they’re still trying to charge consumers for products that many can get for free without much hassle.
The same goes for movies, TV shows and games to a lesser extent. Yet they’re not hit as hard because their respective industries acted somewhat accordingly with the successes of Hulu, Redbox and Netflix serving as key examples in the TV and film realm. They’re not perfect in that Hulu’s ad based, you don’t own Netflix streamable movies and DVD’s come with annoying trailers you might not be able to skip. But they’re viable and still growing in a world where you can download movies and shows with no trailers or adverts. Also, going to the movies is still a past time and while TV ratings are declining, some of TVs most popular events are live and rake in ad money. There’s almost no point for many to download something like popular sporting events or award shows since they’ll know the outcome after they air. Either that or, in the case of console games, copying and downloading games illegally isn’t as effortless as it is for music files even though it’s quite prevalent. Plus you can get your system locked out of essential features like playing online depending on which one(s) you own. So active policing helps curtail things in that regard.
Fans still go to shows and buy merchandise. But selling an album that can be copped for free, most times before it drops, is the name of the game these days. Of course you have to put personal accountability from all sides into the equation but that’s almost nonexistent with lax regulation. File sharing will become a bigger issue in future generations unless a totally new model for selling music offers enough substantial incentives to purchase it over getting it for free. Until then, it’ll keep growing like weeds in an empty lot.