Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Downloading Music

Over the past decade, we have seen CD's and CD players slowly drop out of popularity to be replaced by digital data. With better file compression and storage capabilities, mp3's have flooded cyberspace. On the web, digital data flows like water. This means that record companies stand to lose revenue when a person downloads music via a P2P network instead of purchasing it. File sharing websites have fought many a legal battle over things like copyright infringement and user privacy. According to a study conducted by Felix Oberholzer of Harvard Business School, and Koleman Strumpf of UNC Chapel Hill, in March 2004, "A dataset containing 0.01% of the world’s downloads is matched to U.S. sales data for a large number of albums", "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically indistinguishable from zero", and "Moreover, these estimates are of moderate economic significance and are inconsistent with claims that file sharing is the primary reason for the recent decline in music sales."

One popular torrent website has been operational for the past eight years despite several lawsuits from various organizations, including an ongoing lawsuit in the US. This happens quite often. The US government targets a file sharing website and charges them with a breach in copyright and/or privacy, but torrent sites like this will always find a way around it. Couldn't the government be spending this budget on something more productive than trying to protect 0.01% of music sales? Just a thought.

A new trend is emerging in popular social networks. With the ability to upload music and have people listen directly from the web, musicians are now able to market their music without the help of record companies. All the musician needs is a valid Paypal ID and a functioning bank account. With sites like Bandcamp and Beatport, musicians can sell their music and get paid directly by the customer. The Creative Commons License has enabled countless musicians to upload free original music without having to worry about theft. Bandcamp allows users to specify a price when uploading original music and the 'no minimum' option allows the buyer to decide whether or not the musician deserves a donation. It leaves both sides happy at the end of the day.

Many musicians who have established themselves online often upload songs that are available to download for free. These are like gifts, in a sense, from the relatively unknown artist to the paying customer, for supporting his or her artistic vision. In New Zealand, there is a DJ/producer of electronic dance music who goes by the name of Tom Cosm. Tom gives all of his music for free, to do with what the downloader sees fit. He earns his living by playing gigs and teaching electronic music creation. He has effectively removed from his life, the worry that someone will steal his music or his name, having already made his mark on the web.

Music is something that should be spread as far and wide as possible. The internet is the new music capital of the world.

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