When people illegally download and share music, it’s big news. Is anyone trying to figure out why and do something about it?
We’ve all seen it on the news, people being charged thousands of dollars or being faced with jail time for illegally downloading and sharing music over the internet. Many people are outraged at the penalties for these seemingly minor offenses when far worse crimes are being committed. Others wonder why it’s a big deal, and still others don’t understand why people pirate music in the first place.
It seems to me that a lot of people download and share music illegally because they can’t afford to buy it. At an average cost of $15 for a CD, it’s more than some people can spare in the current economy. By downloading and sharing music on the internet, they can get what they want without paying out their precious dollars for it. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, but it makes sense.
There are also people who want to get a variety of music, and have no interest in buying a whole CD every time they want one song by an artist they like. This is likely why music sites have been created that allow people to buy individual tracks. While the ability to get only what you want is wonderful, at an average cost of $1.00 per track, the cost is actually the same as or more than buying a CD. Many people also steer clear of legal music download sites because they use DRM or proprietary coding that forces you to buy the track again and again for every device you want to have it on, which can add up to a hefty cost.
There are sites online where music can be downloaded legally and for free, but the problem with those sites is that the audio is typically low quality, from unknown artists, or so old no one has any interest in them. It can also be difficult to discern sites that are legitimately free from ones that claim to be free but are actually distributing music illegally. There’s also the worry of downloading viruses or fake files.
All of these artists are so worried about squeezing every possible dime out of their fans, and they fly into a frenzy when they find their music being pirated. They will go to great lengths to fine people dollar amounts that are impossible to pay. What they should be doing is working together to make their work more affordable for the public. If music were easily accessible and affordable, the desire to download illegally would be lessened. There will still be people who do it just to break the law and get things free, but many people would take a legal route if a good one were available.
I would suggest that the music industry take a multi-pronged approach. First off, make downloadable music more accessible. Expand the selection of music on legal sites to cover old, not-so-old and brand new music, and keep sites updated regularly. Also, follow ideas used in other countries and place download kiosks in public places such as bus and train stations, malls and other places where people might want to download music with their mobile devices. People can either insert change or a credit card and download music directly to their laptop of MP3 player. Next, remove any coding that would prevent a person from moving their legally purchased music from one device to another. Making someone pay again for every device they want a song on is like saying a person has to buy a new DVD for every DVD player in their home. There is no sense in that at all.
The final step would be to make the tracks more affordable. If instead of costing $0.99 per track the price were dropped to $0.25 per track, it would be more affordable and more people would be willing to download legally. And for any artists out there thinking that they wouldn’t make enough money at 25 cents per track, let me propose this question: Would you rather make 25 cents per track, or zero cents per track because people are downloading and sharing illegally? Suddenly I think $0.25 sounds really good. You also have to figure that the number of people downloading legally would probably increase greatly, thus easily offsetting the lower price with increased volume of purchases.
If the music industry and the artists would stop being so greedy and really think about the issue, it wouldn’t be that hard to get a lot of people to download legally instead if illegally. Like anything else, people often steal because they can’t afford something. With an economy that doesn’t afford people the disposable income they once had, lowering prices and expanding availability seems completely logical. With any luck the music industry will take the hint, and start doing more to encourage legal downloading instead of spending millions working to catch and stop illegal downloaders.