Music: To pay or not to pay?

Now that the music industry loses 71,060 jobs each year (according to the Institute for Policy Innovation) to piracy, music fans can no longer justify illegal downloading on the grounds of keeping greedy labels in check. However, new arguments have arisen.

Some argue that the first person to share an album online bought it, and therefore P2P sharing is no different than burning a copy of a CD you own for your friend. Even if this analogy did not make the viability of labels inconceivable were everyone to abide by its logic, copying CDs for friends is also piracy.

Buying an album does not give you the right to distribute it. Nobody thinks physical products should be distributed without paying the appropriate authorities.

Think: if you owned a cafe and you let employees help themselves to coffee, would you approve of them using that privilege to give customers free drinks? The same hard work goes into intellectual products that goes into physical products, and that hard work deserves compensation. Music could not be distributed if customers did not treat them like they would treat physical products.

But wait! Some say that, nowadays, music can be distributed without evil labels. Music production is becoming cheaper, evident by the rise in self-releasing artists and studios like Abbey Road collecting dust. Labels are now superfluous, they say, so why pay them?

Well, if an artist self-releases an album for free, then go nuts. If the artist requests a fee, customers should pay to support the artist’s livelihood. But if an artist chooses to sign with a label to receive its many benefits (e.g. promotion, tour funding, good equipment), then the artist has decided to give up certain freedoms.

Just because you do not like how labels operate does not mean you can deny their contributions. After all, musicians could be self-recording. If labels are evil, what does that make their musicians? If the answer is sellouts, then why steal their music?

William McAuliffe is a freshman majoring in philosophy. He may be contacted at