The Real Victims of Music Piracy
In life, we all know that when we make an action to anything, there will be a consequence, good or bad, to the decisions and actions we make. You tie your shoes, you wont trip. You study for a test, you’ll get a better grade. You eat a meal, you wont be hungry, and so on. For the most part, our the effects of our actions are generally pretty obvious, and this is no different with the subject of file sharing of pirated music. If something is stolen, it is going to cost someone. One of most common misconception by people who use file sharing to illegally download pirated music is not that they don’t think anyone is losing profit from their actions, but focus on the wrong people who are losing profits.
“Artist aren’t even losing that much money from file sharing.” This is an argument that pops up a lot when looking into debates on file sharing and pirated music. On a high end royalty deal with a record company a band will make about one dollar for every CD sale. By downloading a CD and not spending money on it to buy it legally, you are depriving that artist of a one dollar profit. If you take in account for ever CD that is downloaded illegal, the band or artist is deprived one dollar from every fan that doesn’t pay for their intellectual property. Although the artist is losing money because of the immorality of those who steal it, it is true that this is a small percent of the artist income. Artists make the largest percent of their income from going on tour and selling merchandise. The real people who are at risk of losing their income are the various workers that go into CD production. Those who are in the music production workforce like record producers bookings and studio managers, studio technicians, record and mastering engineers, and many others are at risk of losing their jobs now more than ever because of the amount of people that do not pay for their music.
The secondary claim in regards to who gets how much from CD sales by those who defend file sharing is that record labels profit too much from CD sales, which is not necessarily true. The record labels do make more money than the artist, but all around not that much more. On standard CD sales, record labels only make two dollars per ten dollar CD sold. Although they are making double what the artist makes, that leaves eight dollars to pay for the salaries of those who were involve in the production of the album and to the store that is selling the album. Because people are illegally downloading pirated music without real regard to who is being harmed and cheated, there is a negative economic result. An entire industry is failing because they are not able to enforce laws easily on those who willing commit a crime. From 1975 and 1999, US shipments of recorded music increased at a steady rate from $5.8 to $12.8 billion. But between 1999 and 2008, around when Napster and illegal file sharing of music first came onto the scene, the annual US revenue of physical CD sales fell from $12.8 billion back to $5.5 billion. Because of these kind of dramatic losses in revenue, many people have lost their jobs in the industry from cutbacks in spending.
“Nothing in this world is free.”
This is something my parents told me when I was growing up, and I am sure I am not the only person who has heard this saying. And ain’t it the truth! If something is free, there is always a catch or a reason for it. Being able to download music for free and not hurt anyone is obviously not achievable because someone is losing money that should be made. But what most people don’t realize is that when they are downloading their favorite artist’s pirated music, they are also hurting themselves and the other fans. When a major artist loses sales on CD sales, they need to make up for that loss in some way. Over the past decade, concert ticket prices have skyrocketed. Each year it costs more and more to see your favorite bands because of the loss of CD sales and revenue from their actual music. This is also why merchandise for bands is at ridiculous prices.
When I saw Blink-182 and Weezer for the first time in the summer of 2009, ticket prices were about $50 a person for lawn seats after additional fees and charges. On top of that, a sweatshirt I bought (which was destroyed when shrunk in the wash) was another $50. When I saw Blink 182 again this past summer, ticket prices were even higher for the same venue, and the merchandise was also at a similar price to the concert two years prior. Going to this with my girlfriend, who I paid for her ticket and bought her a shirt, surely burnt a hole in my pocket. I bought my Blink 182 CDs legally, some on iTunes and others on hard copy from different stores, but I was still punished by outrageous ticket prices because of the loss in profit from those who illegally downloaded it. There are also other factors that go into ticket prices, such as the ten dollar “convenience fees” on websites like Ticketmaster and Livenation and the rise venue charges from companies like Clear Channel, but pirated music and its effect on the economic status of artists and record labels is a main cause in this rise in prices.
There will always be freeloaders in the world, but saying that stealing music “isn’t a big deal” is only setting a bad example for young people who are now stealing and thinking nothing of it. Those who are against file sharing and pirated music should not try to just fight against those who are stealing music, but educate others on the real problems with file sharing. People must be aware of the effects of their actions when they steal other’s intellectual property and kn0w the consequences.