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


Photo: Jake Shook

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

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?”