Editorial: The Epidemic of Illegal Downloading

There is no easy way to start this article…oh wait, yes there is, downloading music without purchasing it later is illegal, immoral and downright disrespectful to the artists that are willing to put their careers on the line to make music for a living.

Am I being a bit crass with my opinions in this article? Yes, but this is an editorial and I have a point to make, so why beat around the bush? Downloading music, be it in the iTunes format, mp3, wma, ogg, or any other downloadable format is perhaps the easiest and most functionable modern format for acquiring your preferred songs, however, there is NO difference between going into a store, picking up a CD, pocketing it, and walking out, and downloading music without paying for it. Now, I will be honest here, I am a self professed music junky, and in order to keep myself up to date with the latest and greatest, I couldn’t hope to pay for all the music I want to listen to all at once, so I download illegally. Is this morally wrong? Perhaps, I am not going to be a hypocrite and profess how I am above the law in some fashion, however, there is a key difference between myself and others; I make sure to buy a few CDs every month of albums I downloaded to add to my collection. To further the endeavors of making myself pay for music, when I purchase an album, I delete that album from my computer which compels me to return to my ever increasing CD collection in order to get my proper fix for the day.

Few people truly understand how much downloading music illegally can effect people. I have heard countless individuals in person and online who feel they are the digital Robin Hood for stealing from the rich record labels who leech off of the common guy by releasing digipaks and similar artists who plague radio stations. My response to this, is go fuck yourselves…seriously, especially when it comes to metal. The truth is, most of these bands you fail to support cannot play music for a living, but rather have to work their asses off at a fulltime job to even maintain being on a halfway decent record label because they don’t make enough money on record sales even when it sells well, because these indie labels gobble up most of the profits to keep their company afloat. Even bigtime record labels like Roadrunner, Metal Blade and Century Media have to promote popular records fulltime (i.e. metalcore and brutal death metal) in order to have the cash to promote up and comers. You put the entire industry in a tough situation by not giving them their 10-15 bucks. Hell, even buying a used cd is fine (you can get some cheap shit on Amazon if you bother to look), but it seems even dishing out a few bucks is tough for some people.

I graduated with a BS in computer networking, so I am not ignorant to the advancements in digital hardware and software, where you can listen to countless full albums on your phone, however, the human element is still there, and will forever be there. If you don’t recognize that there are people who create, produce, package and market these songs you listen to on a daily basis, you are only hurting your music, especially if it is independent. Use your brain, buy your music if you enjoy it, even if it takes you awhile to get through that pile of mp3s you have like myself.

Links to great sites that may help you turn to the ways of the Jedi:

www.last.fm (great site for exploring your musical tastes for free)

www.pandora.com (another site similar to last.fm)







www.lala.com (cd trading service; if you get bored with your collection, trade them in for some new ones!)


6 Responses to “Editorial: The Epidemic of Illegal Downloading”

  1. 1 deadwing
    October 10, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Are you saying that downloading music–even if you *pay* for it online (i.e.–iTunes music store)–is the same as lifting that CD from a music store? In the age of the iPod, having the physical CD is almost a burden. Now, I get your point about having the collection. There’s potential pride to be found in it…

    BUT, if you legitimately own a CD, I don’t see the point in not having it on your own computer. Quite the opposite, I don’t see the point in keeping the actual CD, or buying it in the first place. It is an obsolete format, for one. It’s a lot less accessible, and I think you’ll find that eventually digital copies of these songs are going to be the most prevalent. Maybe not in the next five years, but in time CDs will be phased out just like cassettes and that ‘other’ format people used to have piled in the back seat of their car.

    The online experience isn’t the best it can be–yet–but it’s acceptable to think that those ‘collector’s’ CD-inserts can be digital, and be downloaded (and I’m talking about legitimately, it can) as a ‘package’ that can be loaded onto an iPod or other music device to simulate (and even replace, eventually) the experience of having the physical item.

    To me, it just makes more sense. Digital copies are a lot more accessible now, and will always be, mainly because if it’s on a computer that’s hooked up to the network, we’ll eventually be able to reach all the music in our libraries from anywhere. And to me, that’s the most important part of this argument. It’s also better quality than a CD can ever hope to be, especially with the advanced compression formats that are coming out as successors to the mp3 format, such as AAC (which is the iTunes music format). The files are getting smaller, and more lossless. And if you buy the fully-lossless–FLAC–copies (some artists provide these copies for download in their online stores), there’s even less reason to buy a CD in-store. A booklet is only worth so much to me–and I realize how much work goes into them–but how many people honestly sit there and read the “Thanks to:” sections? The artwork is great, but it’s a print of an image that started out on a computer anyways.

    Also, consider that a middle man wants his cut too. So from the artist to the record label, label to the store, and store to your collection, think how many hands that passes through (and how many of those hands try to grab all the money they can from it). Buying it directly from an artist’s website might cost just as much to you, the consumer. However, if you truly intend to support that artist to the fullest, you’ve got to think they get a little more profit from a *nearly* direct transaction.

    A collection to a collector will always be his/her pride, but in the end, what’s the difference really between showing it off in your dingy closet, or on a nice bright computer screen? I’m sure it can be debated endlessly whether or not actually having a physical and legitimate copy of the artist’s work is different than that same legitimate work on a computer. It’s becoming the age of computers in almost every sense of the phrase, and I’m not sure of any sort of monetary bottom-line difference when it comes to where a artist sells his/her work.

    Maybe I’m way off base with your argument here…maybe your main point is to say that people who steal music (without paying for it later) are hurting the industry. I can’t say that I fully disagree–however, in that sense stealing is stealing, even if it’s just for a short amount of time (or longer, depending on how quickly that money is pouring into your CD fund). But if what you’re saying is that buying the physical copies of these CDs (or Vinyl/other applicable media types) is the only way to fully appreciate an artist’s work, I’d have to say that I disagree with you on that.

    So whichever way you meant this argument, look at this post as either an addendum or a contradiction to your argument…in full or in part…etc, etc…

  2. October 10, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    No, I specifically mentioned illegal downloading because I am a complete proponent of digital downloading. I am personally a fan of CDs, but if your avenue of choice for listening to music is digital copies, then by all means, hit up iTunes or Rhapsody or another online music outlet. My point is just expressing the obvious, that downloading music without paying for it, and then not buying the CD later (I guess I can see your confusion with this since I basically only mention CD, but if you want to delete the illegal download and re-download a purchased copy, then that’s cool too) is a gross slap in the face to the artist. But you are right in your point that stealing is stealing, and perhaps I am being a hypocrite by illegally downloading the music first and then purchasing later, but I guarantee you that if I enjoy the music, that artist will be receiving my money through CD, apparel, and concert sales.

    On another note, I think my main problem right now with downloading music legally, is you don’t have very much say in how much each song costs since there is a stranglehold on the market by a few corporations. I think this is the reason why I prefer to purchase CDs. However, just because digital music has little variance in cost does not mean one should take the easy route and just download illegally and said fuck it.

  3. 3 deadwing
    October 10, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    Right, well-said. I agree that a per-track cost basis is somewhat retarded as far as the general music scene goes. The music I’m typically into is good across an entire album (i.e. – not “POPULAR” music, in general), and thus I’d always tend to buy a full album. As a painting or series of art works is generally supposed to be appreciated as a whole (or even a trilogy of movies, such as Lord of the Rings), I look at music albums in much the same way. Whether they’re concept albums or not, if an artist is good enough to receive my full appreciation, they’d have to put out a decent album in its own entirety.

    With that said, I know off the top of my head quite a few albums with songs I *could* do without, while also considering it as an album that I *could not* do without. If that’s the case, the album has gained enough of my respect to tolerate or ignore the other tracks. Enough in the respect to purchase it, via any means.

    But the black & white approach to stealing music never quite works…does it? In my own mind, there are quite a few bands that have gained quite a bit of respect through careful execution of their craft, but I only realized this after several listening sessions. A very apparent genre that comes to mind is defined by a lot of terms, but solely by one generalized “progressive” classification. And I think most of this music has just that effect. You may give it a couple listens and not think much of it, but as you learn the interludes, lyrics, melodies, and the overall atmosphere of the music, it becomes clearer what the band was trying to create. One band that I used to love to hate has grown on me quite a bit–Tool. I’ve heard a few of their songs on the radio, and while radio play certainly helps a band, I was put off in the beginning. Not until I committed myself to listening to the music in a more intimate setting did I “get” anything this band was aiming for, and while they aren’t one of my favorites, I could certainly justify buying at least a couple of their albums now. If anything, that’s all a band can hope for these days with the download dilemma.

    I think for bands like this that can get in the spotlight and still make music that MEANS something–music that has an aim–buying their stuff is very important–just as important as helping the ‘little’ guys and girls of music. But for bands whose sole purpose is to dilute the importance of music (i.e. Britney Spears, N’Sync, most new rap & pop-country, etc…), their popularity hurts the underground acts more than anything else.

    Think about it this way–if music is all about lyrics and hooks, then nothing really has to be absorbed and digested. No thinking is involved. It’s the different between an action movie like “The Fast and the Furious” and a drama like “Lost in Translation”. Both may be enjoyable, but people tend to lean towards the former rather than the latter because of what the industry tells them to like. And the latter gets lost in the frenzy of advertisements for the former, never to be seen by the majority of the population. And a substantial bit of the population that does watch a movie like “Lost in Translation” doesn’t get it, because it isn’t made to be flashy enough to absorb in a single session. It’s made to be analyzed, and reviewed, and discussed, and respected, not for the story alone, but the execution and the importance of making movies like this.

    That’s quite a round-about way of saying that it’s hard to find the albums you REALLY want without having the full opportunity to test them first. And for people like me that don’t have the money to take chances (although I admit the sense of adventure is quite fun when buying an unknown album–could it blow you away or be your collection’s biggest disappointment to date?), it would seem that downloading it or at least acquiring the promo copies is almost necessary. It’s quite apparent right off whether or not you’re going to like a band like Creed–I personally like the band, but admittedly, there really isn’t much to absorb. Bands like Porcupine Tree are a lot more obscure, but being into them as much as I have been lately leads me to believe there’s something there for everyone–for those that, at the very least, are true fans of music.

    Anyways, to sum up my point: I know art is expressible in many different varieties, and via many different mediums. Whether a band is accessible through online sources or just through local record shops, if they’re respectable it’s totally worth a commitment to that band in the form of monetary compensation. But getting to know the band falls under that gray area. When all is said and done, you should have the moral strength to pull yourself through to the other side of that gray area and make a decision on the band–delete what you’ve downloaded, and either pay up to earn the right to own it, or not.

  4. October 16, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    I do not download music that I can buy on CD, cassette, or vinyl. I am a collector and I would rather have the physical product that some digital file, with questionable sound, that I can’t hold in my hand. I want the album cover, the lyrics, the liner notes, etc…..I want the package!

    Now if someone wants to buy their tracks from legit sites like iTunes, I have no problem with that, they are paying for the music. My problem is with the illegal downloading. I have never downloaded legally or illegally but my wife does and I can’t stand it. She fills her MP3 player with all these songs from whatever service she uses and never pays for it. I can’t remember the last time she bought a CD.

    I upload my CDs to my MP3 player and then I delete them off my computer. I buy music at an enormous rate (I have no other vices) and it does get expensive. I’m 35 years old and a creature of habit: I like searching record stores for hard to find items, I like to find bargains, I like to display my collection, I’ve been doing this since I was 8!

    Lower CD prices, have good content, and cater to the consumer – this will boost physical CD sales. The CD medium won’t go away anytime soon because people like to have physical objects, it’s human nature. Explain to me why I can go out and spend $20 at Best Buy on the new Transformers movie and get 2 DVDs worth of content, deluxe packaging, and a poster but I can go to their music dept and spend the same amount and get a CD of 14 songs with questionable material from a band I’ve never heard of.

    Sorry, I’m ranting…..it’s a touchy subject for me…..

    Heavy Metal Addiction

  5. October 17, 2007 at 1:00 am


    I completely agree with you in every way. If it weren’t for the dirty habit of me having a constant itch for new music in my ears at a constant rate, I would purchase each and every bit of favorable music that I came into contact with. Unfortunately, because of my voracious appetite, I can’t keep up with my purchasing power. However, like you, I pride myself on purchasing the physical CD as it seems like more of a possession than a digital copy. I also enjoy perusing on the Internet and small brick and mortar shops here and there for good deals on albums I have always wanted. Simply buying digital music as a matter of convenience isn’t something I am interested in, I guess I am old fashioned like that. Thanks for the comments Steve.

  6. 6 whatwhy
    May 17, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    i download a lot and buy a lot of the albums in vinyl and cd format. to me the best thing about downloading is i can check something before i buy it. now i know there are people who just download without paying for it. but maybe those are the same people who wouldn’t buy cds if there was no internet. its like making a copy of an album from your friends collection. everyone did that, its just not possible to buy everything.

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