The downloading music dilemma has been a serious issue in the music industry for over a decade. Artists and record companies alike have been battling the internet, and its pirating networks in order to regain control over music distribution and consumer sales.
It’s true that the introduction of online streaming platforms have assisted in lowering the rate of illegal downloading, effectively returning money back into the pockets of the musicians. However, this kind of streaming does come with a cost to the consumer. In order to stream songs through applications such as Spotify, consumers have to endure 30 second ads and limited skips, or else subscribe to a premium version that costs $12 a month. This means that downloading music is still popular among our generation, and is still causing trouble for the music industry.
The debate on if downloading music is acceptable is a heated one, and one that has caused lots of controversy in the music world. Should we be able to download music if we have the technology readily available? Or should we return to buying music and put the money back into the musician’s hands? We conducted a survey to find out people’s opinions on this ever-growing issue.
Our survey found that 54.55% of respondents said they download music compared to 18.18% who said they buy music (27.27% said they either do both, or stream music). When asked what downloading website/software they use to download music, the most common answers were YouTube converter, MP3 converter, Pirate bay and UTorrent.
Contrary to belief, respondents said that they didn’t download music just because it was possible to do so, but because it’s too expensive/they could not afford to buy the real thing. One respondent actually brought up a really good point, “who wants to spend $5 on one song or $15-$25 on an album when you only want two songs from it”. Following this statement, 72.73% said that music should be cheaper to buy.
When asked if downloading music should be legal, 45.45% said yes and 27.27% said no (18.1% said they were unbothered). Although the majority agreed that downloading music should be legal, there were a few who were left conflicted. Respondents understood that buying music can be expensive, but as one respondent explained, “if it was legal to download the music industry would start failing because they wouldn’t have as much money, then there wouldn’t be as many songs out”. This internal confliction has forever remained the centre of this debate, and has yet to be solved.
However, the question that drew the most confliction was ‘Do you think downloading music has a negative impact on society?’. We were swarmed with a variety of mixed opinions, with some respondents claiming that it had a negative impact because it denies musicians money, and others claiming that if we couldn’t download music, then there would be a majority that couldn’t financially access music. Though one respondent made a brilliant observation, “a lot of people that can’t afford to buy music will save up for merchandise or to attend a show, which supports the artist more”. So, although money is being taken from artists when audiences download music, those expenses are actually returned ten-fold when audiences buy concert tickets, and merchandise. If this is true, then why are we still shaming those who prefer to download? And why are we still so infatuated with the temporary income loss?
According to the government and record companies, this fight is all about production rights. In an interview with SBS, Vanessa Hutley from Music Rights Australia said, “We have a huge problem with these sites. They make only money for the people who operate it, and so this will be an important arm for rights holders to protect their rights”. However, if this is all just to protect the rights of the producers, and to prohibit website owners from making a profit, then why do they continue to condemn the consumers rather than these website owners?
In Australia, the ‘Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill was introduced in 2015 to prevent Australians from accessing oversea websites, such as Pirate Bay. If willing to prosecute, under this bill Hollywood studios could threaten australians with lawsuits worth up to $190,000, and could be encouraged to pay $10,000 to settle the issue outside the court system. Though the government has encouraged content producers to begin suing those who steal their content, tech experts claim that australians have nothing to worry about. According to them, the government’s crackdown overlooks the key causes of online piracy in Australia — the cost and accessibility of content.
So, after hearing both sides of the argument, what side of the debate are you on? Do you think we should be able to download music or do you agree with it being illegal?
Share your thoughts in the comment section below!