Free music guilt


These days I’ve been thinking to write an entry about free music downloading because this issue is really flummoxing and intrigued me. And I’ve been grossly bad on english writing since my organization is really out of practice lately.

So lets start with the most controversial part, that is whether free downloads of music is causing depression to the music industry and hardships to artists(mostly indie and start up ones). I’ve seen articles debating with great contrast, some say it has literally screwed the entire music scene by suffocating start-up artists because their capital for practice spaces and tour buses and merchandises comes from mainly album sales and investment of labels, which was being cut down because of drop of revenue. See below a quote by one of the suffered musicians:

“one person uploads it to pirate bay and nobody buys it. The band has a good local following but without capital they can not afford to go on tour and of course without record sales the record company can not afford to promote the band EA The band is dead in the water

Illegal downloading has made it next to impossible for new bands to get off the ground.

who is going to carry on when there is nothing new? Who is going to innovate when all of the innovative people are no longer inspired to join the fun? Who is going to want to be a part of a dead industry?” – Decadepasts  from The Blacktop Cadence

Some say it did not, in fact the music industry did that to themselves. Here is the reference:

What the music industry says What actually happened “Music (new music in particular) was losing its edge and becoming more commercial.

Music since that time, at least comparatively, has not inspired the creation of heaps of new bands,…

Why does the music industry expect current revenues to be the same as the 90s or even higher? Aren’t we in a time where new music passes many people by save for the occasional epic hit like Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance – just like the 80s? Shouldn’t the music industry expect revenues to subsequently match the 80s and not the 90s?

The record industry is adamant that downloading is decimating music revenues but the facts are that the current global music scene is incomparable to the 90s and the industry still won’t sell MP3s to people at a reasonable price.” – The real reason Why the Music Industry collapsed by Ross Nick

Depression of music industry?

There is no space for further arguments on whether illegal downloads has actually caused fall of CD sales. It has been the but the impact is in fact more critical on developing artists and indie musicians.

To clarify, the musics we get from the free listening stations are not really free. The musics we enjoy and download from Youtube, SoundCloud, Hypemachine and Spotify(only americans) are actually licensed  and paid by the corporates who run the sites. Sites who released unlicensed musics without permission of the record labels will face threats of lawsuits for copyrights infringement. A recent case of Grooveshark sued by EMI can be an example.

Hardships on Artists

Difficulties happens predominantly on indie-music artists. They are minor group of musicians who produce records without the help of major labels. Limited examples I know includes: When The Clouds from Italy,  Mogwai from Scottland, the Irish band God is An Astronaut, and The Blacktop Cadence, GetBusyCommittee, Cherub in the US, etc. With little to no promotion, their musics are hidden at the bottom and are barely exposed to wider audience. But are these directly caused by illegal downloading? Or is it the Record Labels who refuse to lend them a hand?

Artists don’t get opportunities because record labels have biased artistic or non-artistic decisions on investing the band under the influence of commercialization. See Miles Copeland on how labels selectively choose to market artists on here.

Some may choose to sacrifice their own style(sell out) of approach to survive. For example Lady GaGa produce weird, freakish music videos in extravagant, almost naked outfits to rise prominence, Justin Bieber sings love songs over and over again to lure 13-year-old girls, One Direction have similar looks as Jonas Brothers which is also a typical attraction to young girls.

Record labels nowadays do invest more in certain type of artists with good looks, young age and sex appeal so they act like models in commercials that can promote a product. That is when artists start creating their art strictly for the money – when creativity goes out the window, and is replaced by cookie cutter work that serves no higher purpose than a paycheck.

“The trouble with commercialism today is that many musicians are steered toward a particular type of music, performance style and look, simply because it is commercial. ” –  Ethel Smith(a Freelance writer)

Indie artists also get more troubles in holding big events like live performances and overseas tours. They have less chances of doing world tours because their audiences are confined at local fans. They also have more troubles in touring as they have less insurances and money to hire people to guard them along. Here is an example:

In early 2008, the band(God is An Astronaut) embarked on their first tour of the United States. On the day they were set to return home, $20,000 worth of equipment was stolen from their van in New Jersey. Their equipment was not insured and a tour that had reportedly already cost the band $20,000 to organize had suddenly doubled in cost.

The Economy 

It is also sensible to attribute part of the drop of CD sales to the depressed economy, especially for the western countries. But not entirely because it is evident in some countries like China and Hong Kong, their music businesses are drooping despite the thrive of economy.

It is always good to have diverse opinions and contentions. So let me quote a thesis done by another fantastic human-being who write much much better than I here.


Free downloading had not directly damned the whole music industry nor the music scene in the past decade. Record labels had been exaggerating to convince the public to dish out more money in their pockets. They are also too slow in acknowledging their wrong direction of keep battling with illegal downloaders and out-dated business model of focusing on vinyl record sales that they should have turned to digital sales earlier before the CD sales get hit. In fact, the real damage has been on minor artists who suffers as a result of  not getting enough capitals.

Besides, free music downloading services are helpful in increasing exposure and gravitation of music to the the public and thus brings more consumers to the market.

“I love the fact that all the new digital services make it easy for people to discover my music, and for me to keep my fans updated on what I’m doing.” – Jason Derulo

Hence, there is no need for us to be guilty listening to free musics.

What (I think) can be done

Record Labels – Stop selling crappy musics and blaming illegal downloads for killing CD sales. Start making better musics by increasing the funding on new artists with potentials to innovate and create new music scene. Also by streaming more fresh releases by artists on radio stations, TVs and any free listening stations would probably do to increase exposure of musics to the public and thus gravitate them to the market.

Artists – Avoid being over dependent on CD sales. Live concerts would be a necessity.

Listeners – Support local bands by purchasing their albums, merchandises and concerts. Avoid mainstream pop musics so as to discourage this musical malady of over-commercialization which inhibits innovations and cutting edge musics.

Government – Consumer education is very important in changing the mind sets of listeners who do not want to pay for artists. They will have to know potential artists are likely to be killed without album sales as well as the good musics they make.

I look forward to a better future of the music scene of our society with diverse and innovative productions to bless our ears, as well as my enhancement of writing skills.

This is my very first attempt to write such a long article and the contents are rough and inaccurate. I will be grateful for comments regarding my inadequate analysis or information and misuse of languages.


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