by Rusty Conner
According to the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word “torrent” can be defined as “a tumultuous outpouring.” A proper definition for the lightning fast “outpouring” of theft from torrent sites. If you are unfamiliar with what a torrent website may be…just think Napster, pre-Metallica, and there you have it. Illegally free music if you know where to find it.
I’m a huge fan of free, however I become a tad hypocritical when it comes to downloading music without paying. You’re encroaching on intellectual property with music. Someone has worked hard to reveal themselves through their music, and deserves the credit and potential monetary gain that comes out of their creativity.
One argument I’ve heard on this subject is the saying, “Well, at least they’re getting exposure.” This may hold true to a certain degree, however most people are not going to download a random track or album they’ve never heard of. They’ve already been exposed to the musician, and are searching the internet for a free copy. Great! Now, the artist’s creation is exposed to the thousands of other songs stolen from the internet on your iPod. Way to help the starving artist.
The second most prominent argument I hear is, “We did the same thing with tape trading in the 80’s.” You are correct. We did. However, did you not try to catch that act every time they rolled through town? Did you not buy at least one shirt or official release because your taped copy sounded like shit? Did you not tell all your friends they’d be posers if they didn’t go to the next show? If the answer to any of these questions was a resounding, “Hell Yeah!” then stop reading because you and I see eye to eye. If you simply replied, “Yes,” then that marketing scheme worked. Tape trading was not downloading free music. Tape trading was listening to streaming tracks online so that you know what the band sounds like, getting off your ass to see them perform live because you can’t believe that solo was real, and reading webzines and magazines to learn everything you can about them. Tape trading was the exposure the internet now provides without the illegal downloads.
I may be preaching to the choir, mostly, but there are those who believe downloading music illegally does not hurt the bands. Afterall, the record companies get all that revenue, and occasionally throw a bone to the bands. For acts that play arenas and fill stadiums, no, it doesn’t hurt them financially, and may give them more exposure. Do they really need it, though? I allude to Metallica, of course. I agreed with the principle of the their Napster lawsuit. Your creativity should not be a free-for-all unless you want it to be. Metallica would’ve been champions in my book had they sued with no financial gain in mind. At this point, they didn’t need it, and came out looking greedy.
I digress…torrents do hurt the independent band, which are the majority in the music business. These acts pay every penny out-of-pocket to bring fans the best they’ve got. They are in debt for the love of music. This holds true for any genre. When you steal their songs from a torrent site, they suffer indeed. You take more pennies from their pockets. Pennies add up to dollars, and dollars add up to frustration, hopelessness, and shitty shift jobs to pay the rent on the practice space they also live in.
Musicians have a hard enough time playing gig to gig without some entitlement-minded hipster stealing their music and never giving any support. The bottom line is; if you like a band or musician then show them you do. Buy their merch and go to their shows. You don’t care about having the CD? I get it. Buy the disc, download it to your iTunes, don’t share it, and sell the disc to your local record store. You just downloaded the album at a discount price. You don’t know where a record store is? Stop reading my magazine!