Over the past few decades, the audiophile scene has experienced a vast change in musical mediums. While this seems to be more of an accumulation than a strict timeline, there still exists a conveyor belt of new technology. We begin with the turntable and vinyl records. After decades of dealing with scratches, cracks, faulty needles, warping, dust and sore muscles from their weight, it came as no surprise that vinyl records slowly became obsolete. Why wouldn’t they? The 8-track came and went, tiny and portable but too easily destroyed and cumbersome to repair. CDs were next, easily scratched but nonetheless an improvement. MP3 was a strange limbo stage, as it was dependent on actually acquiring the music, but one person could acquire it and then share it with everyone he or she knew. Then, a storm cloud descended over the beloved listening industry. This storm cloud brought with it arguably the worst thing to ever happen to the industry: streaming. Then, enter pirating.
Why don’t we, the internet-obsessed generation, thank our lucky stars for streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify? Why must we complain that it has ruined the industry and that it will never be as good as tangible music? Did it “ruin the magic”? I would argue that the “magic” is arbitrary, and that there is another issue at stake here. The streaming service was not the beginning of this issue, but merely more obvious about propelling the issue. The issue is artist payment.
I have a strong premonition that you as the reader had one of two reactions. One, you yelled, “YAS,” kicked over a table in agreement and proceeded to hug your turntable and count your vinyl with loving care. Two, you audibly scoffed, muttered something about “screwing the man” and opened your torrent page to check on how your download of every song ever was going. Both are, to a degree, understandable and valid. On one hand, these people who entertain you for hours and hours with their talent and dedication certainly ought to be paid for their efforts. On the other hand, most popular artists are more than adequately compensated for their efforts, and why should they take your hard-earned money?
Music, even in this cutthroat industry, is art. It is not to be seen as a gift to every person in America, as hard as that may be to believe. These talented people rely on the patronage of their fans to survive. So what if a musician “has enough money”? If we enjoy their music enough to want to listen to it, shouldn’t we support their career? There is another aspect of music beyond snobby preferences in sound quality. The livelihood of musicians is something often overlooked. While we like to view our musical preferences as something highly personal, we often neglect to realize that the listener is not the only human being involved in the equation. If a musician is worthy of earning obscene amounts of money, he or she should have obscene amounts of money. However, with contracts and sponsorships, along with the ridiculous price to see live music, one free download couldn’t hurt, right?
So raises the ultimate question: should we shell out the money or open the pirating site? The choice is personal. Do you care more about the person or the music? The person would want the money, but the music demands to be shared. But at the same time, the person wants their music shared, and the music cannot continue to be made if its creator is broke. Is there even any way to ensure that the artist is properly compensated? Probably not. The best way to reward the artist is to love his or her music. Do this how you will.
The views expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of The Florida Basement.