Monday, May 12, 2008

Music to my Ears

So, aside from routine infant male circumcision, I've been staunchly against one thing. Ever since Kazaa went the way of Napster and Morpheus, I stopped illegally downloading music. The thrill of watching a file work its way to you - 10% . . . 60% . . . 99% - closer and closer to getting your hands on an album yet-to-be released, or those Spice Girls songs you'd developed a long-forgotten hankering for one sunny summer afternoon. Oh! What excitement! During the boom at the turn of this century, the music industry slumped, executives worried about the future. Things got back on track, slightly, with the advent of iTunes and well-priced, high-quality legal downloading. A generation of kids stopped stealing and starting buying, 99¢ a pop. Those of us who remember the glory days, though, couldn't forget the financial freedom and hard drive overload, thousands of songs bubbling over in our C drives. Virtual memory critically low.

I've been extremely self-righteous about it. I've always said that music is the most economical and valuable art there is: 10 songs or more for $15? And with iTunes quickly slaying the big box music store, you can get it even cheaper! Music lasts forever and $9.99 is not too much to ask for a lifetime of enjoyment. Crafted by several artists (from songwriter, to musicians, to producers, engineers, etc.) and fawned over for months and sometimes years, all for less than the price of an American Apparel deep-V or Dr. Phil's integrity; the same cannot be said for all artforms. These are the things I say. And I believe them. Even if a friend asked me to burn him a copy of a new album, I'd scoff and tell him to go "buy it himself! Support the musician! I don't do that." (My retro-apologies, but my heart was in the right place.) I think it's important to support artists of all kinds. And I know: so little of the money from CD sales actually goes to these artists, but rather to the man sitting in the corner office at Sony or some other media conglomerate. I know. But, still. It felt wrong to me, and I pretended music piracy was a thing of the past avoiding discussions about torrents or bits of any kind. I knew it could take me down fast, if I let it. And I've done well.

Until yesterday.

In order to procure some live Robyn tracks (which can't be purchased in an upstanding way) I downloaded a BitTorrent client, or whatever it's called. I'm a novice, but the thrill that I once got from Kazaa and its illegal predecessors is back: I'm drunk on piracy. My head spinning, pyjama-clad, hair a mess, I'm searching, searching the internet for albums I never knew I cared about. Watching percentages rise, I feel my wallet thicken. The conflict I once felt is being stomped out, pro-file-sharing voices in my head (people like Sandi) listing the very convincing reasons why she's okay with it and why I could be too! Where once I could see what she was saying, now I feel overturned. It's just far too easy and amazing to ignore. Anything, at my fingertips! I hear a voice telling me "You've spent thousands on music! You're one of the good guys! Go wild just for a day or two, then stop cold turkey!"

I can justify almost anything. I'm good at that. But, come on, it's straight-up stealing, right? Pollyanna-Pirates have adopted such friendly concepts as Peer to Peer File Sharing and other hippy-dippy lies to make it right. If we could get clothes over the internet for free, we would. Food? Shoes? An original Picasso? Music is less tangible and can be zipped into a handy folder, fired across the world, and delivered to your eardrums in seconds. Remember the news story about the Brinks truck overturning on the highway, sending thousands of fluttering dollars into the air, bystanders gathering bills like autumn leaves? It's like that. Isn't it?

Oh well. We'll see how I feel when this high wears off.


  1. Kazaa? You're aging yourself, friend. It's all about Ares.

    I know, though, right?

    I've since abandoned my free downloading habits, and happily succumbed to paying 99 cents a song (my credit card statement is less happy). I mean, two of my brothers are musicians.. it's immoral for me to engage in piracy on a few levels. Also - it's been nice to have correctly labeled songs. Nothing made me crazier than downloading a song with an incorrectly identified artist. (I won't even get into how happy album art makes me).

    But that's music. I download torrents for tv shows like it's my job.

    I wish the Canadian iTunes store was more comprehensive than it is.. I would delete Ares forever if I thought I could always get what I'm looking for on iTunes.

  2. You remember a while back when that woman got sued because she was illegally sharing 8 tracks? Do you remember what the woman from the record label testified? She said (I'm paraphrasing) "Illegal downloads don't hurt the artist, because they never made any money from album sales anyway. They only hurt us, the labels!"

    In other words, she made a convincing case for her own obsoleteness. Studies have shown that people prefer to buy music rather than steal it if it's available and reasonably priced. If it's not ... well, it's shameful that record labels deliberately made things more difficult than they needed to be, and they don't get any sympathy from me.

    I don't pirate, but only because my internet connexion is too crappy. I have no moral qualms about pirating something I would never have spent money on anyways. Nobody loses; everyone wins.

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