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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Music industry needs to give middlemen the ax

Have you ever wondered why anyone would pay a dollar a song when they can just get the music for free? You can find thousands of CD's through the library, download the music from a file sharing program or use a torrent site with almost no risk. Anyone can, and most students do, obtain multiple gigabytes of music in just a few days for free and without punishment. To get the same amount of music would legitimately cost thousands of dollars and be incredibly more time consuming than simply downloading any song you wanted.

So can groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reasonably expect the public to switch from a method that is both effective and cheap to a slower, more expensive technique? The sad answer for the recording industry is that the middleman has to go.

There is little credibility behind the RIAA's claims that downloading hurts artists, because it hurts the RIAA more. If they truly cared about those who write and perform the music, they would create a system where those artists sold directly to the public. Instead of the artists receiving five cents for every one-dollar song sold on iTunes, the artist should receive 15 cents for every song sold for 35 cents on their own website. Imagine giving fans a realistic incentive to buy music instead of pirating it. The music comes right from the band, the money goes to the band, and the songs are less than half the cost.

Telling people file sharing is stealing is enough incentive for some. I recently decided to make all of my music completely legitimate. That means if I didn't pay for it, I don't get to keep it on my computer. I know it sounds crazy, I had to delete about 10,000 songs, leaving me with almost nothing. This shift to using only legal music was motivated by a call I got from my mother. She makes her living by writing, and the money she makes supports her family, including me. So when she told me she looses a significant portion of her income to illegal downloading, reselling and copying of her material, I realized this was a problem I could not ignore.

But once my music was gone, I found no alternative to spending thousands of dollars to obtain just a fraction of the music I once enjoyed. Buying hundreds of CDs at 15 dollars each was simply out of the question, especially when I only like a few songs per album. Paying for the songs individually made sense, but I couldn't figure out why the music was so expensive until I remembered my mother only receives a small percentage every time something she wrote sells. There are dozens of middlemen taking a cut at every step of the process. And that is where the RIAA comes into play.

Many of those they represent are not musicians, they are the middlemen of the music industry. But what makes file sharing so easy also makes it possible for artists to sell their music directly to the public. No CD's, no huge studios or promotion fees. Simply record the music and sell it from a website in MP3 format.

This system would make it possible for appeals to the public asking them to stop stealing to work. Instead of stealing from the music industry, they would be stealing from a band. In addition, there would be a reasonable marketplace to take the place of the illegal trade in pirated music. Bands selling their music on their own websites would make the music affordable, accessible and it would promote creativity. Any musicians could participate so long as they had access to the internet and a way to record their songs. This would require smaller, local studios with smaller budgets and less overhead in order to meet growing demand. It would transform music from a huge industry to a personal experience.

Standing in the way of this transformation are titans such as Apple and the RIAA. They continue to blame the people who love the music but are not willing to pay thousands of dollars for a decent library. Instead these groups should be blaming themselves for standing in between the fans and the bands. Once they choose to step out of the way, or we force them to, musicians will fill the void with affordable, accessible songs.

Andrew Carpenter is a senior majoring in communication arts and psychology. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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