By Ashley Badillo
The music industry has welcomed the change in media, from selling cassettes to selling CDs in record stores. Now, without leaving the comfort of their homes, people can download entire albums or just their favorite singles off the internet. It is best to buy albums than to download music off the internet. To illegally download songs off the internet hurts not only the artists’ but also everyone who took part in creating that song. Producers, ghost writers, music managers, and record labels all lose money every time a song is illegally downloaded off the internet. New legal downloading sites such as iTunes may sound better, but overall it actually hurts the music industry and the artist.
In one year the overall music industry revenue has dropped 25% because of legal downloading. Music stores, such as F.Y.E and Tower Records, have been shut down due to lack of customers. Soon there will be no need for record stores at all. Artists’ singles are bought and listened to through iTunes and Lime Wire rather than buying albums. The majority of the artists’ songs are no longer being heard because of downloading. Illegal downloading is so much easier and cheaper than legal downloading; in a few years from now what is to stop people from doing so, if record stores are all shut down.
Because of downloading sites such as ITunes and Lime Wire, album sales have decreased. “The combined effect of all these competing forms of distribution, plus the continued growth of illegal file sharing, has been decreases in CD sales. From a peak of almost 800 million albums (CDs, plus records and tapes) sold in 2000, the sales declined to 619 million albums at the end of 2005. Digital track sales increased 150 percent in 2005, but overall sales still declined 4 percent because many people buy single tracks, not full albums, from online stores,” reported The New York Times. Money that is spent on making an album is going to waste due to the fact that not many people are buying albums anymore. Record stores such as Tower Records are going bankrupt and shutting down due to the lack of customers. Within five short years album sales have declined by 181 million, causing many artists to lose money and making it harder for newer artist to become establish in the music industry.
“Much of the music being swapped between computers is copyrighted, and swapping these songs can be considered piracy- violation of the copyright of the artist or recording companies who own it. So as a listener, you have a legal dilemma when you turn to the Internet and MP3s to look for diversity of music. By looking for new talent on the Internet, you can help new bands get around the gatekeeping of the music and radio industries, but if you only listen to their MP3s and don’t buy their CDs, they won’t survive,” noted Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. By getting attention off the internet, artists do not have to worry about advertising or censorship, because it allows the artists to promote their music however they want. The only thing is that if people are not buying a new artist’s album, then the artist loses out on a lot of money and may not even be able to create another album or they may never become successful.
Even with all the great success, legal downloading has become unpopular with record labels and established artists. “ITunes has become the runaway hit of the music business; selling more than five billion song downloads since it started five years ago. But a growing number of record companies are trying to steer clear of Apple Inc.’s behemoth music store, because they say selling single songs on iTunes in some cases is crimping over all music sales,” according to a Wall Street Journal entry later reported by The Charleston (SC) The Post and Courier.
Artists such as Kid Rock have kept their albums and singles off of iTunes and in doing so have seeing a significant growth in album sales on the Billboards’ Hot 100 chart during a period where the music industry is going on a slight downfall. Atlantic Records has even pulled one of their artists (Estelle) off out of iTunes and has seen her sales go up. Record labels are not the only ones that have a dislike toward legal downloading; artists feel the same. “A number of labels and artist would prefer to see their music sold as an album. Some want the higher profit from a CD, while others feel selling a track at a time is like selling a book by each chapter, effectively reducing its value as a complete work of art” stated in an article on Macintosh News Network. Artists lose out on distribution sales when songs are bought off of iTunes. And since many people tend to only buy the songs they have already heard (most likely from the radio) they do not even bother to listen to the other songs by the artist. Much of the creativity that is put into making an album is becoming a waste.
Artists and record labels are fighting back against illegal downloading. “Individual groups like Metallica, recording companies like EMI, and representatives of the entire industry, like the Radio Industry Association of America (RIAA), sued Napster and other services to stop them from allowing people to trade copyrighted music. The rulings eventually killed Napster. The industry also began to sue individual downloader’s-more than 17,000 by the end of 2005-settled suits with 3,900 of them, according to RIAA,” noted Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Not only are record labels and artists suing sites such as Napster, but now they are also suing individuals who download many songs illegally. In doing so, the amount of illegal downloading that goes on may drop but there is still the problem with legal downloading. As for now, artists are coming up with more creative ways to sell albums, such as adding DVD’s about the artist in the album that cannot be found on iTunes, or putting posters in the album covers. But with sites such as Lime Wire and iTunes, there will still be a continuous down fall in album sales.
It is better to buy albums than to download singles. By downloading singles a person will miss out on the other songs that appear on the albums, and with the continuous lack of album sales record labels themselves will begin to go bankrupt. And if there are no more record labels, then there will not be any more artists. “New Media” can lead to bad business, and downloading music off the internet versus buying albums is becoming “bad media.”
For Further Information:
NY Times, January 6, 2006.
Joseph Straubhaar and Robert LaRose. Media Now: Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. Thomson Learning Inc. 2008.
“Why some record companies avoid iTunes.” http://www.charleston.net/news/2008/aug/31/why_some_recording_companies_avoid_itunes/ (31 August 2008).
“Artists avoid iTunes; singles discourage album sales” http://www.macnn.com/articles/08/08/29/artists.avoid.itunes/ (29 August 2008).
Ashley Badillo is a student at St. Thomas Aquinas College. She is a Communication Arts major who will graduate in the spring of ’11, and hopes to one day work in the Independent Film industry. Ashley still lives at home with her mother and older sister in Lower Manhattan in New York City.