Lights Out, Guerilla Radio

ENGL 1010

Music downloading has been increasing exponentially lately with little sign of slowdown for a reason. Hundreds of thousands of people download millions of songs every day from nearly every country on the planet. Starting with Napster, which was created by 19-year-old Shawn Fanning in 1999, music downloading has gained international attention from record companies, the authorities, and patrons to the program as well as many similar ones. Record companies believe that those who share are in violation of intellectual copyright laws, whereas those who share and download believe their actions are legal for many reasons. So should music sharing be legal? There is no doubt that it should be.

There are a few very good reasons for the free sharing of music. One of the most important reasons, and also should be the most persuasive to the record companies, would be that people often use these downloaded songs as a pseudo evaluation of what they plan on buying. Many people that I know have many songs downloaded, but also own almost every one of the respective albums that the songs came from. Steve Knopper, a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, said it best when he said “file sharing and CD shopping are largely seen as complementary activities” (14). To back that up, many people often point out that the downloaded songs are of inferior quality to CDs, which is why they often purchase a CD after sampling it through a peer to peer downloading service.

Unfortunately the record company does not feel the same way. They believe that sampling can take place at the store where customers have the option to listen to clips of a song on a machine. There are also places online where you can get song samples. They believe that since there are so many other ways to sample a song that there is no excuse for illegal downloading. Their argument sounds good in theory, but what they don’t realize is that people want to hear exactly what they are buying, not some ten second clip. When your sampling music, a short bit of a song just doesn’t convey anything to the listener, people want to hear it all to see if its worth buy and lives up to the hype.

Others would argue that the decline in quality of music is why downloaders choose to sample music through downloading. Users of these various programs say that if they weren’t constantly worried that they were buying a sub-par CD they would download significantly less or not at all. Those that said this find it amusing that the record labels are so upset, when the record labels themselves are to blame for allowing such a drop in the overall quality of available music.

Though the record industries have no response to this, I do. It has been more and more obvious that artists rely on a hit single to sell an entire album. Steve Knopper states, “Albums with only one or two worthwhile songs are less likely to be purchased” (14). This statement couldn’t be more accurate. Most downloads are for singles, not albums. I blame the diminishing quality of CDs on dates set by the suits at record companies, not the artists. I find it disgusting the way record labels methodically milk an artist, album, or song title for much more than it’s worth. If the greedy recording companies wouldn’t lust for more wealth, then they wouldn’t be pressuring artists into a poor release.

Another portion of the argument for music sharing is the position of the artists. Very often, music artists go unknown until some of their music is distributed on the internet. Only then do they become popular enough to be a “big time” artist. Also, very often, an artist will support file sharing because they are not in it for the money, but instead believe that music is a form of art which is protected under the first amendment and should be distributed freely. One of the first groups to make it known that they supported such sharing was Limp Bizkit. They thought that Napster was one of the greatest things since sliced bread. Fred Durst, lead singer and manager of the band, once said "It\'s a way for people to check out music. You