Just a few days ago, rapper J. Cole’s debut album leaked
for the listening pleasure of the entire internet. Twitter
was in an uproar, with hip-hop fans providing a trackby-
track analysis of the album. Some called it garbage,
while others hailed it as an instant classic. Regardless
of the verdict, one thing is certain — his album was
released to the pirates of the internet.
Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear — I condone
people buying albums. If you have the money and a love of the artist’s
music, then definitely go spend 13 dollars at your nearest Best Buy or
on iTunes. However, I do not think that music piracy is an evil plaguing
the recording industry or that it should be eradicated. I see it as a tool
for listeners to experience music from different eras and expand their
horizons without going broke in the process.
The first point to be made about music piracy is that it is nothing new.
While digital piracy can be considered new, music piracy itself has been
around for years. Before Napster, people were burning CDs and giving
them to their friends and before that, people were dubbing on cassettes
to have the latest and greatest songs with them. Even with such methods
of piracy occurring, record labels were still seeing a great profit among
CD sales. Now in 2011, it may be difficult to achieve platinum, but labels
are still seeing a substantial profit.
What the record industry fails to realize is not everyone can afford
albums or is willing to put faith in an artist they have never heard before.
Times are rough, and people’s priorities have changed. Many people now
see those 13 dollars as a part of rent or tuition, rather than the debut
album of rapper A or rock band C. Downloading tunes allows fans of
music to expand their horizons and test out albums without the risk of
wasting the money on an artist the listener may not like, or an album
that didn’t resonate well.
Beliefs also play a big part in music piracy. If you asked 10 people why
they illegally download music, they’d give you 11 different answers.
Some can quote rapper Q-Tip and say, “Rule #4080: Record company
people are shady.” Others could simply say the music was good, but
didn’t warrant their money. Can you fault someone’s personal decision
to download music just because you choose to buy yours?
Music pirates are merely people who just want to listen to their music.
The people with 13,000 songs on their iPods download that music
because they want to listen to and love it, without the record industry
forcing them to spend all their money. Piracy is the reason why bands
like Radiohead can release an album for free, and why mixtapes run
rampant in hip-hop — people just want to listen. Labels may not be as
vibrant as they once were, but music is as big as ever, and at the end of
the day, isn’t that what truly counts?