Downloading music for free is stealing money and success from artists

In 2017 Financial Issue, Opinion
(Hannah Miller / Daily Titan)

Any music lover can relate to the rush of excitement one gets immediately after a new album drops. A dozen or so brand-new songs can be played a thousand times on repeat and it can make any boring day slightly better.

In order to keep music artists inspired to write more great music, students need to be willing to pay for it.

Imagine getting a sizable cut from a paycheck after working for weeks. That’s the struggle music artists face because of illegal music downloading.

Thirty-five percent of internet users get access to music illegally, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. Of those who download music illegally, 49 percent of 16-24 year olds use sites like YouTube to freely view content.

Some might try to justify their actions by assuming artists make enough profit, or that they would buy the music, but are too broke to afford it. By illegally downloading music, millions contribute to major losses in the music industry every year.

If fans refuse to pay, music companies can easily drop artists who aren’t profitable. It can also affect struggling artists by causing them to take longer to produce or worse, become nonexistent. Paying for artists’ music directly contributes to their success.

If doing the right thing and making sure artists are compensated for their work isn’t enough motivation, students should also be aware of the risk of being caught by the Recording Industry Association of America. Those who are caught making unauthorized music copies of songs can face up to five years of jail time and fines up to $250,000.

People aren’t likely to steal a packet of gum or a candy bar — both of which cost about the same amount as a song — simply to get it for free. Most people know better than to do something as silly as stealing, not because they are morally right human beings, but because they don’t want to get caught.

The same mentality needs to be applied to music downloads. Don’t get caught doing something stupid and end up paying thousands in fines for a song that only costs around a dollar.

While choosing to stream music with popular streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora may seem more convenient and ethical, it can also cause problems for artists. These are better methods but the amount these streaming services pay the artists can be ridiculously low.

For example, artists earn $0.00014123 per stream from ad-supported streams on Spotify, according to Digit Music News, which means artists would need to have their song streamed 703,581 times to earn $100.

Popular artists might not struggle to get their music streamed millions of times, but the thousands of lesser-known artists don’t find it as easy to make a profit they can live by. There are millions of musicians out there but only 650 artists, groups and collaborators appeared on the Top 200 Song Consumption chart in 2016, according to Nielsen’s 2016 U.S. Music Year-End Report.

For those hesitant about buying a certain song — or those just too broke to buy it — it’s perfectly fine to use a streaming service. Spotify has over 140 million active users and Pandora has over 76.7 million active listeners. It’d be unreasonable to suggest that students should abandon their accounts.

However, students shouldn’t use streaming services as their only means of listening to music, especially when it comes to lesser-known artists.

Even if it’s their passion, talented artists won’t produce music if they can’t make a living from it. If students want more new, good music, they need to pay for it.

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  • So encouraging to read a pro-artist article in a college publication. There has been so much confusion about music and money. The number of people who can make a living from their music has dried up dramatically over the past twenty years and as you accurately point out, streaming has not been a good business for songwriters or musicians.

    Thanks Sophia.

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