A Pirate’s Life For Me
By Ryan Jory
Over the past several years, a rising trend has become a major struggle for the music industry. Its the same trend that led to the creation of Napster, and shut it down. I am referring to the illegal downloading of music, and the industry’s response. Millions of people across America “steal” music off the internet, but is it really such a crime?
Napster and Limewire, some of the first media sharing websites, started this illegal activity on the internet. Teenagers would download thousands and thousands of songs for free, and they still do. When Napster was shut down after the creators were sued for millions of dollars, Limewire continued on. However, a more successful form of downloading music came into being. It’s called BitTorrent, and it uses a “swarm” of hosts to download files. This form of downloading is faster and more reliable than Limewire or Napster. A website called The Pirate Bay is the most successful and popular Torrenting website, even though record companies have tried to shut it down many times.
The websites that receive the most attention, however, are those that follow the Napster formula. Websites that allow members to post and download whatever music they want, without the intermediary of BitTorrent, have been heavily persecuted. Just this week EMI, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group are suing Grooveshark, one of aforementioned websites, for failing to pay royalties. Grooveshark has let its users download music without paying EMI any money. EMI was the only major record label that made a licensing deal with Grooveshark, but their relationship has clearly dissolved.
Rumor has it that EMI is suing Grooveshark $150,000 per song, which amounts to a sickening $17.1 billion. Last year, Universal Music Group sued Grooveshark after it was revealed that Grooveshark employees posted 113,000 pirated songs online. Grooveshark has lost EMI’s trust, so another deal seems impossible. This signals the likely end of another file sharing website.
The most popular website to file-share legally is Spotify, a website similar to Grooveshark, but they seem to have the whole royalties thing figured out. Spotify has limits on how much a single user can download a month, and membership costs money. Spotify exists because it respects the rights of record companies, and any major website that does not will be attacked until its demise. This is the best way to legally share music because it is cheaper than buying CDs, but it still remains in the legal realm.
Record labels think that we (yes I take part in such activities) are stealing their music without any benefit to them. But what is a record label without its artists? Bands, especially not-so-famous bands, want only to get their music heard by the people. Without fans, there is no record deal, without a record deal, there is no money. The easiest way to get people to hear your music is to either post it online for free, or stop whining and let us torrent it.
If I have a car, I will get mad if someone takes it and does not give it back. That would be theft. However, if I have a car that people know is mine, I would let anyone “steal” my car as long as I still had the original car. This is what file-sharing is. No true thievery takes place on torrent websites, its free copying to the possible betterment of the artist. This topic is so heavily disputed because while artists benefit in a way, record companies do not. It is clear that illegal downloading has deeply damaged the music industry, but now that it is unstoppable, record companies have started to focus on touring.
Touring is now the greatest form of income for both parties. Due to the growing number of people who illegally download music, artists rely completely on touring to make money. Illegal forms of downloading and legal blogging spread music very quickly, so small time bands are getting much more publicity. However, record companies only care about how many songs are sold, not just heard. In 2009 a 12 year-old girl was sued by record companies for illegally downloading music not because the artist was mad about losing money, but because record companies want every penny they can get. And the worst part is, the girl even paid to use the website where she got the music. Somehow it was her fault and not the website that failed to pay the royalties.
This kind of persecution will never reach the titans of torrenting. We live in a world where technology dominates almost every facet of our lives, so its not a surprise that we know how to “steal” with it. Record companies might as well give up now. They have tried time and time again to stop The Pirate Bay, but what about the dozens of other torrenting websites?
Music is made to be heard, enjoyed, and loved. For example, do you think that Robert Johnson, essentially the creator of blues music, cared how much money he made? He ended up being arguably the most influential artist of all time, but was he a millionaire? No. The music industry needs to stop caring about the losses in sales and let the people who love the music keep on loving it. Besides, music is best heard live, so focus on touring. I’ll pay through the nose to see my favorite band live, but you will never see me pay for their album.