NOTE: ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 2010
Since Napster made file- sharing widely available in 1999, consumers have been looking for more and more ways to get music for less and less. The availability of digital formats of music has made songs and albums easy to pirate. Despite companies’ best efforts, hackers can easily strip an MP3 track of its security devices and re-upload it for download. Countless sites for converting YouTube videos to downloadable formats exist. Sites like mp3Skull and LastFM offer ready- to- download tracks, while other pirate sites give free music in exchange for personal information in the form of registering for an account. It’s easy to find music for free.
But I buy music. And I’m proud of the fact that I buy music. Why? For six simple reasons:
1. Legal music sounds better.
Formats like CD’s and licensed digital downloads store more data and give music and richer, more high- quality sound. Fast, ready- to- download formats like .AAC, .WAV and .MP3 strip an audio track of much of its data so the file can be transported quickly and frequently. It can reduce a well- mixed track to something that sounds like it came off AM radio. I like my music to sound good.
DISCLAIMER: I am aware that torrented music files (like free lossless audio codec (FLAC) files) can be HUGE and awesome- sounding. They make my computer hurt. Wah.
2. Buying music helps people.
Buying music helps the people who made it. Many people justify their free downloads by saying, “The band doesn’t get that much of the money anyway.” Right. The band doesn’t get that much of the money. But there are a lot more people putting their work into a record. The songwriters, backup singers, musicians, audio engineers, mix artists, arrangers, and producers all make money, too. You’d be right in thinking the record company makes most of the profit off a record. And who do you think pays all those other guys? The record company. Duh.
Buying music helps people who love music. You know the people who own stores like Hasting’s and F.Y.E? Buying music helps them stay in business. Most independent record stores are locally owned and operated. Buying music helps them. Buying music helps the people who own the store, the people who work at the store and the people who shop at the store. If you like stores, buy from them.
3. Buying music backs you up.
iTunes stores your music downloads on your iTunes account. Amazon stores all your music on a cloud drive, so you can re- download it on any device. And when you buy a hard copy, like a record or a CD, you’ve already got a backup. When your hard drive crashes and you, like an idiot, forgot to back up your data, all those shitty low- bit audio downloads will be gone. Buying music once ensures that you don’t have to buy it (or find it!) again.
Tip: If you get sick of accumulating stacks of compact discs, sell them back! Record stores will buy used CD’s and LP’s and resell them. Or, sell your stock on Amazon. Because record companies have a hard enough time turning a profit off CD’s, they stop manufacturing certain ones after so many years. You could be doing someone a huge favor by putting your hard- to- find discs on the market. Plus, you make money. Buying music makes you money.
4. If everyone bought music, it’d be cheaper.
In 2009, iTunes upped the price of certain songs from $.99 to $1.29. I don’t like this. In some cases, this allows iTunes to charge more for music by artists who are already making a sick amount of money (Justin Beiber, Beyonce). But it’s not fair for the consumer either. Why should I have to pay thirty extra cents for a really popular song? iTunes did this because record companies bitched about lost revenues from illegal downloads. If record companies weren’t losing revenues from illegal downloads, this wouldn’t be an issue. I agree that record companies are total Nazis when it comes to licensing. It’s illegal to use the “Happy Birthday” song in a movie without paying an exorbitant licensing fee, and you can technically get arrested for playing unlicensed music in your business. But overcharging iTunes customers doesn’t make us want to buy from iTunes more. Neither does suing everyone who uses music without permission. Companies’ vindictive actions just make me want to download music illegally to get back at the rights holders. That’s fair to everyone else who makes money from music. It’s also a big reason why many artists choose to self- produce.
5. You get presents!
I love buying a CD because it comes with pretty album artwork and a case. Sometimes it even comes with lyrics. And sometimes it comes with a poster!!
6. Buying music means making music.
Would you do your job for free? Making music is a job for some people. And if we want people in this country to have jobs, shouldn’t we be willing to pay for them?
So buy music. Get Spotify Premium, pay for Pandora, buy that single you’re always praying to come on the radio, purchase your favorite artists’ new album. I promise, it’s worth it.