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RANT 24

MP3 Rip-Offs

Conor

It has widely been agreed and acknowledged before that the use of MP3s is a good way to spread new music and generate support for new musicians. Iron Maiden has a wide fan base and anybody who is interested in their music can download their albums from the Internet, and then if they like the music, they should buy the album in a record store. Alternatively, if they do not like the music they should delete it from their computer and not bother listening to it. The people who download the music, like it, and do not buy the records are killing the music industry. I agree with the philosophy that MP3 downloads are a great advertisement if they are used in this way. They help the bands by giving a free promotion. Musicians do realise the benefits of this advertisement as Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails acknowledges:

"Just because technology exists where you can duplicate something, that doesn't give you the right to do it. There's nothing wrong with giving some tracks away or bits of stuff that's fine. But it's not everybody's right. Once I record something, it's not public domain to give it away freely. And that's not trying to be the outdated musician who is trying to 'stop technology'. I love technology."

This is why Napster, iTunes and similar programmes annoy me. They charge little money (around £10 for a monthly subscription or 75 pence per song) for downloads which they advertise as an alternative to buying the music in a shop. They offer us the choice to

"Buy music to keep forever, burn and transfer"

This is immoral to suggest that we should download music and burn CDs as an alternative to buying the real deal. Who wins from a deal like this? It is not the customer who is being ripped off for at that price only getting the music but not the artwork, booklet and authentically sound physically collectable product. Their music collections will look bare sitting on the shelf with a grey CD and poor quality box. The music industry, the artists and record companies, do not benefit as their music is being offloaded at a lower price and they have no fan loyalty as music is more accessible and the fans more fickle with a vast range of choice. The only people who benefit from a deal like this are the fat cats at Napster who cream the profits and kill the business. They do no work but man a computer or two and have a vast empire of digital music.

Soon enough the record companies will realise that their profits are down as a result of this cheap alternative to people buying records. They will bargain and haggle for higher prices from the download handling companies until the price of downloading music will eclipse that of actually buying the record. People will feel ripped off and revert to going to their local record store to buy the real deal.

To combat this, I think that the record companies need to take a stranglehold o the Internet music market and ban people profiting from sales this way. They should promote MP3 "sampling" and lower prices of CDs in stores to promote people to buy the product. I'm sure a reasonable price of around £7 or £8 for an album would appeal to people who are used to shelling out twice that at present.

If this was to happen, people could transfer tracks online as a sample of the music. These files could be created so that in, say, three days time, the file becomes automatically wiped from their hard drive. The person then has a choice of buying the record, or taking no further interest. They should not be able to burn the downloaded tracks onto CDs or put them on MP3 players.

The only problem with this plan is that technology is evolving so fast that the crooks that exploit the MP3 sharing market will find ways of combating the system and the music companies will raise prices of records to make up for the loss in sales.

A rise in bland, catchy-but-short-lived musicians will once again crop up everywhere and the radio will be intolerable to listen to. We will be bombarded with one hit wonders like the "Crazy Frog" and cheesy Hip-Hop stars like 50 Cent because this sort of music appeals to people who use peer-to-peer downloading networks.

The legendary musician Stevie Wonder made this comment about illegal downloading crippling the quality of music:

"Record companies, publishers, radio stations, retailers, artists and others in our industry must take a very strong position against the stealing of our writing and music or else those writings and music will become as cheap as the garbage in the streets."

There is the argument for the illegal downloading of music that it can be of great benefit to children who are from poor backgrounds and have little pocket money. They may be embarrassed to ask their parents for more money and feel the need to download music for free instead of spending precious resources on overpriced records. It is argued that as these children get older, they will then start to buy records from a record shop, as they will be great fans. If they were not given the opportunity to download music for free in the first place, they might not have developed into music lovers and therefore ignored the music industry. I disagree with this viewpoint because in reality these children are stealing. Would it be right to allow these children to steal a CD player or a Playstation because they might buy them as they get older? Downloading music illegally is hurting the music industry at present because people abuse the system and these kids are helping the destruction.

Mark Knopfler has this to say about downloading music:

"You might as well walk into a record store, put the CDs in your pocket and walk out without paying for them."

People in circumstances like this will start downloading music at an early age and never grow out of the habit. In the past, poor children couldn't download music. What did Steve Harris do when he wanted a Led Zeppelin record? It must be said the founding members of Iron Maiden were not from wealthy backgrounds yet they still grew to love rock music. This is because they were dedicated and from an early age they would have saved every bit of money they had to buy music from their favourite artists. Why do kids today have to be any different?

To conclude my argument, I think it is wrong for Napster to charge people for inferior quality downloads and the cheapness of this service is going to bring the music industry down. Also people who have illegal free downloading services are destroying the industry and making the quality of music decline as new musicians find it harder to break onto the scene. Finally, those people who do the downloading and do not buy the record are damaging the industry and are becoming brainwashed by bland, mainstream mediocrity.

Conor
5th August 2005

 

References:

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RESPONSE:

Chris:

It is true that mp3 filesharing can be an excellent form of advertising, hell, it was downloading that got me into Maiden in the first place, along with many other bands, and being the nice guy I am, I bought all the albums, and I know of many people who the same story as I.

My point? Is that not all downloaders are the evil people the labels claim they are, very few download thousands of tracks, and many downloaders also buy CDs.

Yes, Napster and Itunes do sell legal downloads, and these are an alternative to real music. Yes, you don't get the artwork and booklet, but do you buy a CD for these, sure they are a nice bonus, but you can enjoy the music just as much without them? Many people don't care about the booklet and case, as all they are planning to do is put the music into their mp3 player, and downloading from Itunes is not only more convinient, but a few quid cheaper. Also, those more interested in more mainstream forms of music (pop for example) may not want all of an album, they may only want the tracks which were avaliable as singles, instead of physically buying the whole album, they can just download what they like, which once again saves them money. By doing this they are supporting the artists, yes, the royalties from these downloads may not be massive, but they are better than nothing, which is what they would recieve if legal downloading did not exist for the above customers, as they would be either forced to pay for over-priced CDs, or fileshare them.

I highly doubt that the record labels will try and stop legal downloading, they love it (In a side-note, legal downloads now count as sales and are included in the UK Top 40). Due the singles market collapsing (single sales are at an all time low), legal downloading is now probably their best means of promotion. But the collapse in the singles market is the label's fault, they raise the prices to make a high profit from the single (back in the day they were £4 each, CD singles anyway) and the high price (in comparison to what you got, two f'kin tracks) and thus put people off them, when a singles only nature is to persuade people to buy the album, and therefore should be priced as low as possible (especially in the case of metal bands like Maiden, who would gain little to no airplay). So due to the decline (I guess people haven't got back into the habit of buying them again) the labels need a new means of promotion. Legal downloading is the answer.

You claim' 'Why do kids today have to be any different?'. We (Yes, I am legally a child) aren't. Back in the day you had tape trading, which I would argue evolved into filesharing. Taping someone elses version of a record is pretty much identical to filesharing, you have to pay for each (the cost of the cassette in the former and the cost of the internet access in the latter) and the end product is the same, delicious music. Yes, filesharing is much easier and there is much more choice, but in fundementals, it is identical to tape trading, so we aren't much different, you just percieve us to be. I bet even Steve Harris did a little tape trading when he couldn't afford a record.

To conclude, legal downloading is a good thing (as is filesharing, to an extent).

Bonne journée Ó vous toute

Chris Dalby
21st August 2005

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