20 June 2009

The Havoc Reaped by Music Theft.

This week in my home city of Minneapolis a big thing happened. Jammie Thomas was found guilty by a jury of her peers for illegal file sharing. In other words, a major record label (Capitol) sued her for sharing music online and they won. She now owes them 1.9 million dollars.

A lot people are speaking out on Jammie Thomas' behalf.

A lot of people aren't saying anything.

This is what I say.

I think Capitol records should have won. I don't think they'll ever see their money (who has 1.9 million to just hand over? Certainly not Jammie Thomas) but it sets an important precedent.

I feel bad for Jammie Thomas. I do. 1.9 million dollars is a lot of money, probably more than she will ever make in her lifetime. The artists whose songs she shared are revered artists with high sales and probably doing fine. Capitol is a major record label and had the money to sue and pay for legal fees, so they are probably alright too (sort of, more on that in a minute). But let's not forget, she essentially enabled others to steal music.

So many of us have burned a CD for a friend, made mix tapes for our crushes and friends growing up, and even taped songs from the radio. This is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about people who post songs on the internet for the masses to download for free. This may not seem like a big deal because it is thought that musicians make millions or maybe that it's just a song.

File sharing, whether you are downloading or posting, is stealing. It is not for anyone to give away for free unless you are the person who made it. It depletes the incomes of people who have worked hard on writing songs, recording them and making a name for themselves.

You work on a record for a year, writing music, saving money to get into the recording studio or maybe your label got you in. You record, have it all mastered, put it on an album and distribute it. Sales are alright, you might make a little money or you might make a lot. Then one day you stumble upon some person who has posted your album online for people to download for free. You are now working for free with no say in the matter.

We are a funny culture when it comes to money. We're consumed by it. We need excess amounts of it for lovely houses, shiny cars and beautiful clothes. We loath those who have it but fault those who don't. There is this illusion that since musicians make a lot of money it's okay to give away their work for free. They probably won't even notice. Imagine getting your paycheck & your employer notifies you that they decided they weren't going to pay you for your work on Tuesdays. You're out 2 days of pay with voice in the decision. That's a big deal. 20% of your work. That would never fly and neither should file sharing.

The music industry is pretty bleak right now. The major labels, despite their corporate statures are laying people off. Independent record stores all over the country are going out of business, big box stores like Target and Best Buy are decreasing their music sections or doing away with them completely. People just don't buy physical music anymore, they download it. Whether it be on itunes, a like site, or through file sharing.

The major labels are having a hard time. A few years ago I had a stint working for a major record label. The change is music buying trends had was beginning to set in at that time and lay offs were looming. People were freaking out then, I can only imagine what it's like now. And this is a major label. They have some cushion. Think about how all of this effects the smaller, independent labels.

I'm not saying to stop buying from itunes or stop making mix tapes (CDs) for your pals. I'm simply saying to buy your music. It's respectful of the artists whose music you enjoy.

It's the right thing to do.


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