Is File Sharing Here To Stay?

 |  October 13, 2010
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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.

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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.

  • Cool

    Good article! Though I feel the “make more quality and more people will cop” argument has been proven with movies such as Avatar making billions. Most people who download are prepared to sit and wait until a movie becomes available, but everyone understood that film had to be seen on the big screen and were even prepared to pay a little extra to see it in 3D, but then what does the movie industry do? Start making every piece of shit film into 3D thinking we dumb asses are going to fall for that shit!

    Music I would agree is slightly different as many aren't bothered with quality (apple headphones?), however my wife has an iphone and she pays for music I already have, as it's only one or two touches and it's there. Thats why itunes makes all of the money these days.

    The industry as a wholes still wants to do business the same way it has for the last 100 years. It refuses to accept that shit has changed and it needs to come up with a new business model. It needs to understand that no amount of court cases is going to change this. The industry needs to get off of its fat ass and start doing some real work again.

  • Jim jones

    this is an interesting article. another reason for file sharing music tho is that MP3s are also a lot easier to download than TV shows and movies, which are much bigger files. but besides that, the quality of songs when you hear them live, versus just in your headphones is not always as good. i was talkin with some friends about how live acoustics for rap songs are terrible at most venues — half the time the beat is too loud and you can't hear the lyrics, and the other half everything is too loud and you can't hear at all.

    i'm pretty sure hip hop and electronic are the two most popularly shared genres of music (trying to find and DL the newest taylor swift or miley cyrus single is really not THAT easy) but also, with technology advances, at least for hip hop, the sound quality is much better at home or on a speaker system than live at a concert. rap does not sound good live bc half the time you can't hear the lyrics cuz the beat is too loud, and the other half you can't hear anything cuz everything is too loud. this is the opposite of a movie, where movie theater screens are much bigger than home televisions (although this is changing slowly too).

  • SCadet

    @ Cool – Thanks I'm glad you enjoyed it. I did gloss over the whole 3D film phenomenon kicked off by blockbusters like avatar but it did bring more interest back into going to the movies again. It'll be interesting to see how long interest in 3D films will last Now that the studios are on the bandwagon. I think audiences will keep putting there money towards 3D action flicks and summer blockbusters yet it won't catch on to 3D TVs for awhile. They're simply too expensive right now.

    Yeah that's another thing I talked about briefly. I mentioned various formats but obviously different codecs provide better (or worse) sound quality. But it seems like the general public are cool with mp3's and AACs since they're so popular. I'm not gonna knock iTunes's popularity either. But they shouldn't be the only big digital music retailer in town.

    You also touched on a very important point too. A lot of labels are still forcing old business models that aren't viable anymore. I think things would change for the better if we got more younger execs along with vets that “get it” to lead the charge. But who knows when that'll happen?

  • SCadet

    @ Jim Jones – Thanks and also thank you for bringing up that point I glossed over. Downloading movies, especially blu rays, is a much bigger undertaking for folks since the files are so large. Things aren't helped when ISPs are putting download caps across the nation too. But people grit through it b/c to them free>paid even though I don't know how many HD movies get bootlegged and shared.

    Also with live rap shows and acoustics, it's really annoying how the bass bleeds through the speakers. I like my bass and all but it never sounds good when it's buzzing. You really have to wonder why whoever on the boards doesn't EQ the mics and the speakers better since it happens so much. But I guess that comes with the venue, wack engineers, or both.

    I wouldn't know about finding Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift singles haha. But I'll take your word for it in regards to hip hop and electronic music being easy to download. My thing is a lot of people don't seem to care too much about sound quality. The average listener doesn't seem to clamor for OGGs, FLACs and whatnot. They're mostly good with clear mp3's from my estimation. The movie watching experience is changing with HDTVs becoming cheaper by the year. But it's been a slow burn and, from what I can tell, ticket sales haven't fluctuated much in the US in the past five years as HDTVs emerged in the same time frame.