Downloading Illegal Music: A Vote Against

Downloading Illegal Music: A Vote Against | P2P DownloadsMany are up in arms about the woman from Minnesota who is being fined $80,000 per song that she posted to a file-sharing network. Many feel the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, that it is too extreme. I, your humble Gear-Vault scribe, am not one of those and would like to present some points for all to ponder, no matter what side of the fence you may be on.

I am not sure why so many seem to be in favor of stealing from people just like themselves. I don’t download illegal music because it seems to be ripping off some person just like me who is trying to make a living off their music. As far as I can tell, no one is entitled to steal any property from anyone, be it physical or virtual. Just because the technology exists to do it does not make it ok. It would seem that many folks expect all property to be free for the taking just because they want it. Not so. Should all books, movies, and software become free to them? What makes them so special? Can I come to your house and take your best guitar just because I want it? I am shocked by the amount of my brother and sister musicians who take the side of the thief in this case. It’s like union workers defending the people who cross their picket lines.

I think the person in question got what she deserved. Don’t do the crime if can’t do the time. I would like to see the old music biz return, to be honest, when record companies actually meant something and some people actually made money from their music. The indie thing is a nice hobby, but does anyone actually make a living from selling self-produced CDs? I mean to the point where there is no other job in your life, the way you would be if you were in a real signed band of years past? No teaching, no cover band on the side, nothing. If you do, please post links and maybe some advice on how to do it in this wonderful new world of media pirates. I have done the indie route since the late 90’s and don’t see it as a winnable game. Now, that we are expected to give the entitled masses the results of our work for free online, it’s a suckers’ bet. If a song or album is to be given away for free, it is the artist who gets to decide that, not the audience. I get free music all the time because I review CDs for a number of publications but the artists get media coverage out of the deal so they see that as a fair trade. Want free music? Get into the music business.

The old ways were far from perfect, but at least there was business to try to get into. Now, that most people seem ok with being bootleggers, the dream is dead. Maybe I’m old school, but give me a record deal, a tour bus, and an audience who wants to buy my music and come to shows. I’ve done the indie CD, tour in a van, give it all away modern method and don’t care for it. Bring back the days when copyright meant something. If we, the people who create, don’t value it, why should anyone else?


  1. You can do the indie thing with an indie label and still have it be your only job. Look at SubPop

  2. The whole system needs a drastic overhaul. All music should be free to the consumer, the internet is a library of the world’s music. Perhaps a tax on blank cd’s, dvd’s, and hard drives that goes directly to bmi or ascap. Or maybe one or two huge music sites like pandora or jango that would allow downloads, but give advertising money to the musicians. People are going to download music, we should make it easy, and find ways to make money from that. The more we share all music, the more music will evolve.

  3. I was thinking about this this morning and something occurred to me. Under the old system that you liked so much, Mike, people still pirated music. Everybody made copies of tapes and passed them around. No one was ever prosecuted in the way that this woman was. If it’s going to be enforced at all I think it should be treated like a parking ticket. But studies have shown that those that pirate music actually spend more on music than those who do not pirate.

  4. Mike, you can come to my house and take my best guitar and copy it. i won’t feel stolen.

  5. I counter some of your argument, I can rent a movie before I buy, go to a library and check a book out most software has a trial period before you buy but I cannot rent music to try before I shell out $1000 a year, I don’t want to buy crap. What is the alternative that’s fair to all?

    I don’t condone stealing but I feel I’ve been ripped off that I buy a whole CD in good faith and find out one song is good and the rest is crap! But I have no recourse once the purchase is done. I don’t condone stealing as well but I’ve long ago got tired of having a shelf of over 800 CD with many in the past full of one hit wonders but no more. I support artist and fairly pay for music I keep and use.

    There is a huge disconnect between the fans , consumers and the industry.

  6. Mark,
    I understand your points but, in this day and age, it should be pretty easy for you to preview a bands’ music on their website and Myspace pages before you buy a CD. Consider the fact that you can’t pre-screen a first run movie before you see it in a theater, also. But I bet you still see a movie now and then. There are always gonna be clunkers we all get stuck with and there will always be an element of chance in any purchase. The fact that you may not like every song on a given album, however, still does not give you or anyone else the right to steal it. I cannot stand Windows Vista that the computer I am typing this on is running, but I still had to pay for it in the price of the computer and I can’t make copies and give them away. Do you give your work away for free, or mind if someone uses your services and doesn’t pay? Anyway, thanks for reading the article and leaving me a comment. Keep reading Gear Vault. Peace.
    Mike O’Cull

  7. Simple fact is, you give, you get…. 9 inch nails posted their album on bitorrent and still sold over 800,000 copies in the first week, isn’t that ironic?… if your band is struggling over illegal music downloads chances are you just suck… bands like metallica cry over it because they dont want people to hear all the shit thats shoveled over 2-3 good tracks and put on the shelf at full price. 80,000 dollar fine per song is a bit harsh… considering they sell mp3’s for what 99 cents?… it’s like a kid in a candy store, you’re not going to tell him santa’s dead just because he picked up a pack of gum are ya? i mean its a little bit overkill and is mostly scare tactics which don’t work… you only end up looking like a douche bag supporting outrageous discipline over a dollar

  8. Well, I am for pirate downloads. Last month i donated 300$ US to Piratebay.
    I believe in freedom and free society –
    When I like what I get, I pay for it to support the producer, however, when i do not, i do not.
    Demo versions, singles and trailers do not give us a good idea on what is the real content – so try before buy. Pircay is the free breath of internet, it is a new phenomenon which might just force us to look differently at our lives and our society.

  9. I’m with Arvitus, I support pirate downloads, and when I get something worth my dollar I buy the software/music what have you. A music store even lets you play on 50 dollar guitars before you buy them, so the “small price” or the “sometimes you get a bad one” argument is moot.

  10. I have to agree with the main poster here. As a musician as well, its truly an even greater uphill battle going the indie ‘give it all away for free’ route. The beauty of the record deal is they give advances; to tour, make the album, and whatever else. In this day and age, rock fans are some of the least enthusiastic about looking into new music. Not all for bad reason though, I mean how many times do I care to see another Nickelback type group, or another Guns n Roses knockoff? BUT, the thing is don’t blame that on the bands, they are playing the style they enjoy..its the fans that are the problem. Let me explain this for a second; MTV and radio and other media cater to what people are listening to and to what SELLS…there’s no evil to that like everyone acts like. If you knew how much promotion of a band and getting them on tour etc costs, you’d see what where I’m from. Unfortunately, what sells is generally pretty lame stuff. The majority of your music BUYING public is younger than 18 and mostly female. Think about what young girls listen to. There you have it.

    My solution to this problem, the rock fans need to come back from this state of apathy and get like those 14 year old girls who buy everything single thing with jonas brothers on it, then we’ll see the format change. I mean today we have more variety sure, its amazing. But, we have NO longevity for any of the new bands out there, they get one album that’s popular and then people just forget about them. Rock fans just aren’t loyal to anything and take for granted the fact that we have so much variety now. The fans have this utopian vision but the reality is, the musician is an entertainer, and nobody wants to do their job for free. We have payed our dues (most of us) through years and years of practice of our craft, playing total dives for nothing, being ripped off, and the plethora of other heartbreaks that come with being in a band the most fans never see, and its a slap in the face for all the things we go through to share what we love doing to people who are ungrateful.

    I lived off of 30 second clips from amazon for years, and still have yet to buy an album I didn’t enjoy. I have done the whole downloading the album before I bought it thing, and to be honest I hated it, it was like ruining Christmas for me. I want to be surprised, I want that mystery, or most of it at least. This is what made rock so amazing back in the day, it had a little mystique.

    Ok enough of my ranting, thats my 8 bucks 🙂

  11. The fact of the matter is, the old system is dead and it’s not coming back. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to be a recording artist, as opposed to a comparative lucky few twenty years ago. We now live in the age of the Internet, where you can get music for free even if the artist is in denial and wants the security of the old system. So the challenge for artists is to give value to their fans in a different way. Just our sales of songs will not support us anymore, we have to look to other ways. Giving away some of your music for free will help you sell t-shirts, tickets, fan club memberships. Release is with 64 kbps sound quality on your website and advertise the CD with better quality plus album art and bonus songs. The music industry is in the throes of change, and we can never go back. Once people figure this change out, the system will be better for it. We’ll have more equality when it comes to self-expression, instead of labels ripping off artists and still leaving them starving.

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