After a brief time out of the spotlight, file-sharing is back in the news. The music industry recently filed suit against 8,000 Internet pirates.
I buy tons of CDs, but I’d be lying if I said I’d never downloaded a song illegally — most anyone my age who’s had access to a high-speed Internet connection would be. I have to admit, though, that the arguments that file-sharing is somehow OK are virtually all bogus:
–”It promotes the music.” In some cases, a downloaded song can inspire someone to pick up the CD or see the band on tour. But most of the time, it just inspires them to download the rest of the album. Even if it does promote the music, the artists and labels, not the consumers, have the right to decide how they’d like to be promoted. For those who are fine with filesharing (Limp Bizkit, the South Park creators), filesharing can be an invaluable resource.
–”Sales may be down, but that’s because the music is crappy these days.” It’s true that new music stinks, but it’s arguable that the music being stale is a result of filesharing, not so much a cause of poor sales. It is well known that popular CDs subsidize the zillions of artists who get record deals but never break into the mainstream. Filesharing forced prices down — good in the short run — which, it seems logical to assume, hurt the cash reserves of record companies. Therefore, the companies could take fewer risks and had to stick to the two-dimensional, no-edge groups the radio has been jamming down our throats since the end of post-grunge. These groups won’t have 30-year careers or make the public see music differently, but they won’t bomb and bankrupt the company, either.
–”Britney Spears is rich enough already.” OK, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to steal from her. Nor does it change the fact that CD distribution also requires factory workers who get laid off when the industry’s sales decline.
–”Record companies fixed prices in the past, and filesharing is a good punishment.” Fair enough, but I think it’s time to get the industry back on its feet. Unless we like having to seek out indie label acts instead of turning on the radio.
Robert VerBruggen blogs at http://robertsrationale.blogspot.com.