We live in a wonderful age where you can create your own customized music collection, load it on your computer, smartphone, or even a small mp3 player, or a zip drive. You can take it anywhere with you. Many of these devices can store thousands of songs, all your favorites. And here’s the kicker… you can do this for FREE! You don’t have to buy any CD’s anymore. You can find several online sources for free music downloads. Ahhh, sweet FREEDOM! There’s never been a better time to access all the music you could ever want.
But wait… if nobody buys CD’s, how do the artists, producers, engineers, manufacturers, and even agents get paid for their efforts? The answer is: THEY DON’T. While free music downloads may seem like a wonderful thing to music consumers, it has caused severe losses in the music industry.
Let’s create a scenario to illustrate how this happens. A singer/songwriter (let’s call him “Adam”) records a CD of his original music with the help of his band and some studio musicians. He had moderate success with his first CD, and this is his sophomore effort. Debut albums, no matter how successful, do not make a music career. Following a successful debut with a strong-selling second CD can establish an artist or band. So Adam and all those involved are looking for strong sales. But when the CD is released, one of the early buyers loads the entire CD onto a file-sharing website. It’s a very popular site, with millions of users. File-sharing allows anyone using the site to download a music (or other types) file without any purchase. Hundreds of thousands of users on the site download Adam’s music. They spent no money. Since they got it for free, why would anyone then pay for it? Adam and his band may have acquired millions of listeners via illegal music downloading, but the CD sales are negligible. Their career in music is over.
The effect of this spreads. Recording companies and people who invest in the music industry become skittish with their dollars. New talent finds it harder to find willing investors. The entire music industry suffers because of free music downloads.
But, are free music downloads really illegal? Some 10 years ago, music piracy was rampant. People were downloading free music and creating their own “bootleg CD’s” for sale. Also, some websites “acquired” free copies of music and then charged users of their website to download that music. That is clearly illegal. Nowadays, there are legal sites for free music downloads. There have been some significant lawsuits against individuals for illegal music downloading, even though it was for personal use. One young man in Boston, MA was fined about $675,000. Generally speaking, the music industry no longer seeks legal action against individual downloaders.
Mostly, free music downloads are done legally; however, if you have any doubt… if you think it might be illegal music downloading, it may be very costly for you to take that chance. Remember what it does to the people who created the music. Enjoy, but do it legally.