With the RIAA coming down hard on university students who download music illegally, the whole issue of the condition of the “music industry” has now become quite relevant to millions of people like us around the country. Thought I will never admit it in a court of law, I haven’t exactly spent hundreds on the hundreds of albums I enjoy having on my computer.
But what’s the reason why sharing music is a good thing? The fact that music is an art form, first and foremost, not an industry.
Of course, getting hundreds of albums for free hurts the bottom line of the big record companies and radio stations around the country. Sure, it’s sort of like stealing. But in the blatantly capitalist music industry, a plethora of subpar artists makes it big, while the truly relevant musicians trudge along in the underground, figures straight out of Dostoevsky.
So where does file sharing come in? For one thing, having an unlimited availability of choices creates a competitiveness that will only help music as an art thrive. The downloaders get to pick and choose which artists are viable, as opposed to MTV stuffing low quality pish-posh down a our throats. To their credit, MTV did provide a generation with great music, playing bands like Van Halen, The Police, Nirvana, Radiohead, etc.
But the internet changed the world dramatically. File sharing has become something people see as a right, not a privilege. So with increased competition, the music industry will inevitably have to move to other sources of revenue. People will still buy CD’s of bands that they are loyal to, and if not, they will still buy their merchandise. Concerts are still pretty fun, too. Sure, you can see the Mona Lisa on Wikipedia, but isn’t it way better to go see it at the Louvre and bask in all its glory, enjoy its subtleties?
While all these things are good in theory, I still have to accept the fact that hard-working artists like Metallica and Sheryl Crow are getting shorted thousands of dollars. But what do the little guys say? One band probably very few people have heard of, The Books, explicitly plead fans not to steal their music. They privately fund their own music, and barely make ends meet as it is. I felt bad reading this, so I bought some vinyls and a t-shirt.
But it’s hard to assume that little-known artists in general wouldn’t support the idea of file sharing. For one, it makes their music easily accessible to an infinite number of new fans who will end up buying coffee mugs and concert tickets if the music sounds good enough.
In the end, the fact remains that file sharing will be a highly disputed issue with arguments working for both sides. Let’s just hope America has enough sense left to stop putting dollar signs all over the beautiful, untouchable things of humanity.
Patrick Pineyro is a junior majoring in economics and English. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org