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Music Piracy

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From a young age, mostly everyone is taught the simple lesson of sharing, an idea that has always been linked with a positive connotation. So how can sharing be the cause of the currently declining music industry? While most people can name their favorite song or band with ease, very few are aware of where they are getting their music from or the consequences of their source. It used to be as simple as purchasing a new CD until iTunes was introduced and allowed almost everyone access to a multitude of songs. As iTunes led people to the internet for the purchasing of their music, it soon opened up doors to several other sources as well. However, not all sources proved to be credible which ultimately led to the music industry experiencing a decline in profits due to the free downloading and sharing of music on the internet.
In opposition with most recent claims about the state of the music industry, it has been said to be making more money than ever. It can be argued that piracy isn’t to blame and that the music industry is only declining in profits because of the current poor state of the economy. America is currently in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The music industry may not have yet to discover how to adjust to the setbacks that the economy has placed on them. As said by George Ziemann, "The economy sucks, you guys (RIAA) raised prices anyway while promising to copy-protect everything and make it harder to listen to. The consumer took a step back.” As more people search to save money, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) should be taking notice. In addition to the downfall of the American economy, the long process of releasing new songs and albums is what has affected the falling profits. With countless genres of music that can appeal to almost anyone’s taste, it seems as though there should be endless options, however, there were almost 12,000 fewer new releases for the consumer to choose from in 2001 than 1999. Yet the record companies are making more money per release than ever. With so many fewer releases it seems startling that the industry is still making a significant amount of money, which proves that music is still in demand. With so many people desiring so much of their favorite types of music, it requires the industry to work at a fast pace. With so much involved in the production of a song this seems difficult when "artists spend a large portion of their creative energy on writing song lyrics and composing music or working with producers and A&R executives to find great songs from great writers. This task can take weeks, months, or even years. The creative ability of these artists to produce the music we love, combined with the time and energy they spend throughout that process is in itself priceless” (RIAA's Statistics Don't Add Up to Piracy). After so much thought and effort put into the production of a single song or album, it seems only right that each release should be making a large sum of money. But while the process itself may be priceless, time is money when it comes to releasing new music and shortcuts are soon found.
As some grow impatient of waiting in anticipation of their favorite artist to release a new song, others have figured out that they simply don’t have to wait. So while some believe that the music industry is making a greater profit than ever, there are more who claim that the industries profits are quickly declining. With music constantly in demand of so many, online file sharing has become increasingly popular as the purchasing of CD's downloading of legal online music websites has began to drop in numbers. There are currently over 70 million people who participate in online sharing and downloading of music. (Electronic Frontier Foundation). This issue is one that many people are aware of, which in this case may only be helping the problem to become larger. In a recent poll by CBS news, a near 70% of 18-29 year olds believe that file sharing is acceptable. Such a huge percentage within a young population indicates that the issue will take a greater affect on the industries profits over time, "when 23% of surveyed music consumers say they are not buying more music because they are downloading or copying their music for free, we cannot ignore the impact on the marketplace," says Hilary Rosen, President and CEO of the RIAA. With such a downfall of earnings, the artists themselves are the ones with the most at risk as their careers are put on the line. Artists simply can’t make as much money as they once were because "once an artist or group has songs composed, they must then go into the studio and begin recording. The costs of recording this work, including recording studio fees, studio musicians, sound engineers, producers and others, all must be recovered by the cost of the CD.” But with CD sales decreasing, these costs become harder to cover. Although each artist benefits from their own personal sales, the industry benefits from the artists as a whole. As long as some artists manage to keep their sales up, the industry stands a chance since “each year, of the approximately 27,000 new releases that hit the market, the major labels release about 7,000 new CD titles and after production, recording, promotion and distribution costs, most never sell enough to recover these costs, let alone make a profit. In the end, less than 10% are profitable, and in effect, it's these recordings that finance all the rest" (RIAA's Statistics Don't Add Up to Piracy). This system then requires enough talent to sustain for the entire industry. Recently, this hasn’t been the case.

With a new budget, the music industry seems to have fewer new artists to help them produce top selling albums. The record companies are behind the choices of which artists to sign, but they seem to have chosen to sign none rather than decide on any at all. With less money to spend, risks have become simply unaffordable. In addition to album sales dropping 60% since 2000 and radio stations playing less new music than ever in history, record companies are signing fewer and fewer new artists which has continued to lead to artist development budgets to shrinking. (New Music Seminar) With little money to promote current artists that have already proved themselves as profitable, that leaves even less money to invest in new talent. Jason Jordan, Vice President of A&R for Hollywood Records believes that "it depends on what label you’re working at, but I think we’re signing less as an industry. Obviously some of the bigger music groups have to sign more but it’s still a lot less signings than there were even three to five years ago.” With so many issues revolving around money, the music industries objective may have been led off track. It seems unusual that at a time of crisis the industry would turn their focus away from the artists, but that is just what has happened. The industry is headstrong in their beliefs of how to handle the situation with one method consisting of the RIAA insisting that the real musicians be paid less so that the record companies can continue to make a profit. In order for them to do as stated, the artists happen to be the key factor. By paying the artists less, they are simply pushing them further away. So while some have tried to put the artists protection as a primary goal, "at best the RIAA is kicking artists when they're down, and at worst has fully revealed that despite repeated claims that artists need to be protected from piracy, the organization is very much the tool of the major labels and publishers who have famously never really cared about the artists in the first place" (Gerry Block). If the artists continue to be over looked, they will soon become simply out of reach. With so many who live day-to-day with music, this is an idea that seems unthinkable.
Music surrounds us. It is virtually everywhere. It’s on the radio and television, in stores and elevators, and even on most cell phones, mp3 players, and computers. It wouldn’t be this way if music weren’t something that was able to appeal to such a wide variety of people. However, this wide variety consists of people who are willing to go to out of the system to simply get a hold of a new song. Due to the online sharing and downloading of files, the music industry has recently found itself heading downhill on a slope of slim profits. Next time you go to share something, consider if you may be causing more damage than good.





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