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Love Music? Music Piracy Hurts All

College students are accustomed to living life on the cheap — including their music habits. But using pirated copies and services such as Pirate Bay hurts artists and their fans.

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Music has defined each generation for at least the past 40 years and this generation is no different. The thing that separates one generation from the other is how they obtain that music and, unfortunately for musicians, the old vinyl gave way to dubbing of cassette tapes, which has given way to the new free album download.

Whether it’s Pandora, iTunes Radio, Spotify or Pirate Bay, kids are trying everything it takes to not buy music.

For some reason stealing a CD from the store is wrong, but downloading the album illegally has lost its taboo.

There shouldn’t be a disconnect between someone stealing the Mona Lisa and someone illegally downloading an album on Pirate Bay. The sin isn’t found in the way of obtaining the art, it’s found in the theft itself.

Taylor Webb, an MBU alumnus, works in St. Louis as a recording and sound engineer as well as working as an artist himself.

“It may be easier to absorb if you’re a millionaire, but for someone like me, it directly affects my ability to put food on the table,” Webb said. “Most people think that piracy is a victimless crime, and that they’re only taking from rich celebrities and rock stars. In reality, though, everybody in the music industry is hurt by piracy.

“When people steal music, they take away the incentive for artists to make records. If you can’t make a living, you’re going to have to work a job other than making music, right? That means that everyone in the industry — engineers, mixers, players, publicists — everyone has less work.”

It’s not always straight stealing the albums either. Pandora and iTunes Radio, among others, have given listeners outlets to listen while not paying, while Spotify and Last.fm are among those subscription services whose incredibly affordable rates seem to fly in the face of fair compensation of artists.

Pirate Bay has pushed the envelope so far into copyright infringement that it has been cited by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act for numerous violations.

Pandora works more like a radio station, with some randomization based on your musical interests, whereas Spotify and Last.fm can charge monthly fees for unlimited music of your choosing. For Spotify it is $5 per month for a basic level or $10 per month for a premium level.

Unlimited music, for only 5 bucks? Let that sink in to your brain for a second. That’s less than the cost of one CD from the used CD bin. How can this be legal?

Spotify claims to give away 70 percent of its revenue to artists in the form of royalties, but of those royalties only an extremely small fraction goes to the artists themselves. The majority goes to the four major labels, EMI Group, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group, with whom Spotify developers worked out licensing agreements after lengthy negotiations.

So, when it comes to exactly how much money the artists see when their songs are offered on Spotify, a classical cellist named Zoë Keating has had a little test of her own.

Keating put all of her music on Spotify over a short period of time and she got over 72,000 plays.

Keating, thinking she would get some sort of large paycheck for these hours and hours of plays on the new Spotify, was fairly disappointed when the check arrived.

Keating made just under $300. That’s right, $300 is all that Spotify could offer Keating for the countless hours of streaming her music.

It’s a complicated formula that you can read about at this link to howstuffworks.com. But the entire situation reeks of a well-trained musician being ignored while playing in a subway.

Spotify and other online music streams claim to be supporting musicians by making their songs more legally accessible, but if one looks at the stats, they are only stealing from the people they wish to help.

Even iTunes, who no one really complains about because it charges around a dollar a song, is still giving its best musicians only 30 cents on that dollar.

The fact that these sites have become more and more popular is no mystery. It’s cheap or free music, and for those musicians who want massive reach, their options are limited.

However, the idea that downloading music for free or close to free has become non-problematic to the vast majority of the world’s population. Sure, Spotify is only available in a few countries around the world, but this has to do more with technical and bandwidth issues than ethical reasons.

Cards on the table here folks, I believe a few unpopular things.

Music should not be free. Music should not even be cheap. I understand that is not the majority opinion.

Yes, musicians who only set out to make money end up hurting the industry just as much as the consumer who pirates.

But consumers who could care less about the musician behind that 3-5-minute song they enjoy so much aren’t doing the musician or themselves any favors.

When Spotify, Pandora, iTunes Radio and pirating sites like Pirate Bay ruin the industry and music becomes a rarity, we will only have ourselves to blame.

 

Travis Page

Travis Page is a senior broadcast media major from Lake Ozark, Mo. Page is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline and writes for MBU as well as spending most of his time on campus behind a camera. When Page isn't on campus, he spends most of his free time leading worship for various churches and events around the Midwest. Page will continue his worship ministry after college with his wicked awesome wife-to-be, Emily.

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