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Pirating music: A problem? Or a response to a problem?

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Pirating music: A problem? Or a response to a problem?

Local record shops have made a major comeback in recent years, much thanks to the resurgence of vinyl record sales.

Local record shops have made a major comeback in recent years, much thanks to the resurgence of vinyl record sales.

Photo: Jake Shook

Local record shops have made a major comeback in recent years, much thanks to the resurgence of vinyl record sales.

Photo: Jake Shook

Photo: Jake Shook

Local record shops have made a major comeback in recent years, much thanks to the resurgence of vinyl record sales.

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For some students nowadays, there’s nothing like dropping the needle on their favorite record. Other students don’t even know what that means.

Music formatting over the years has become a storm of different approaches and opinions. While our parents listened to records and cassettes, our older siblings listened to CD’s and the early digital forms of music. That leaves a question. Is this current generation defined by a music format?

The obvious answer: this generation is known for music piracy and downloading digital music. But certain pockets of today’s young adults are bringing back music on wax records, as vinyl sales are up 47.5 percent from 2013.

As a large contributor to the comeback of vinyl, I understand the sometimes odd attraction to physical forms of music. But most of my peers don’t even own a single CD anymore. They download their music off of 3rd-party websites for free, but why is that?

I think the general population subconsciously realizes the steady decline of music quality and no longer sees it as an art form. Young consumers no longer see value in the music most artists are putting out. To me, if the “artists” don’t write it AND produce it, they don’t deserve my money.

And this opinion, I believe, has changed the music format of this generation again, turning consumers on to digital streaming.

Examples of digital streaming services include Pandora Radio, Spotify and iHeart Radio. These services provide consumers the opportunity to listen to their favorite artists for free, but with a catch. Every 4-5 songs, your music listening experience is interrupted by an obnoxious advertisement for McDonald’s or some auto parts store. Most listeners of this generation don’t mind having such interruption, because they no longer see a song as a part of a larger album or playlist, but as its own entity.

Many artists no longer blend songs together on albums, because the music has become much more marketable as single songs (which consumers are willing to pay $1.29 for) instead of a full album (which start at $9.99).

Many musicians have come out saying that the album is dead, and that there is no money to be made in selling physical music, but I beg to differ. As a collector, I’ll see record labels press a run of 3,000 copies of one limited record and have them sell out online in hours. How can you see that and think physical music is dead?

According to statista.com, LP (vinyl) album sales have increased steadily from 2006, going from 0.9 million units a year in 2006, all the way up to 9.2 million units in 2014. Despite this rise in vinyl, CD’s have suffered the same fate as records did through the 90’s-2000’s, becoming the armpit of physical music, as seemingly no one collects or purchases them anymore. When’s the last time you heard someone say “Hey! I just got the new (insert artist here) CD!”?

All sarcastic rants aside, the music industry (and music in general) has taken a large dive in the last 20 years, mostly due to the advancement of the internet and file sharing. But you can’t fault consumers.

I look to South Park for a snarky, yet honest quote: “Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich always wanted a gold-plated shark tank next to his swimming pool, but thanks to people like you [who pirate music], he can’t have that. Still think music piracy isn’t a big deal?”

1 Comment

One Response to “Pirating music: A problem? Or a response to a problem?”

  1. Bradley Cordonnier on February 3rd, 2016 10:46 pm

    First let me state that yes, I’m a musician. The thing that irks me most about today’s consumer, for example, is that they will pay at $5 for a coffee from Starbucks that last for 20 minutes, but they won’t pay $9.99 for an album that will last a lifetime. I also don’t agree that you shouldn’t buy work that isn’t written and produced by one person / artist / group. While many of the great albums of yesteryear were written by a band, they didn’t produce them 100% themselves. Led Zeppelin IV is a great example of that. While Jimmy Page did do some of the mastering and production, they had other people in to help with mastering and mixing and whatever.

    You also have to remember the human element behind the music. While all you might hear are drum loops and samples, there is a human behind all of those. And that human must be compensated for that work. On top of that, you have to rent studio space, equipment, and bring in some people to produce the album, market the album, design the artwork, make the music video. Those people all have to be compensated. $10 for an album doesn’t look that bad when you consider that many of the top drummers bring upwards of $10,000 worth of drum equipment to these recordings.

    I’m not going to fault the streaming services like Pandora and Spotify as well as YouTube. There’s nothing I love more than finding a new song or new playlist. But if I find a song I like, I buy it, to support the artist. The streaming services make a fortune off of their consumers. Most streaming services offer a pro version, and many people buy it. In 2014, Pharrell made about $25,000 off of 43 MILLION plays of his song “Happy” on Pandora. That is paltry compensation any way you look at it.

    Bottom line, support the artists. We all love good music.

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Pirating music: A problem? Or a response to a problem?