Industry Question: Are Music Downloads Hurting or Supporting Artist?

It is incredibly effective for labels to work with blogs and provide the public with an exclusive first listen to new tracks off of upcoming albums. As a consumer, what exactly are you looking for when searching for and receiving this content? Where do you draw the line on what supports the artist and what could be hurting the artist when music downloads are made available to the public?

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8 Comments »

  1. Duncan Marlowe Said:

    Some people contest that when they go see a movie that they look forward to the previews almost as much as the actual movie. When a new album is coming out that I am interested in I want a preview of it before I go out and buy it, it gets me psyched up – I prefer a free download so I can listen to it on my iPod and more conveniently show it to my friends as our album purchases are often informed by one another, the most powerful marketing tool there is – a trusted friend’s reccomendation. I don’t draw a line on what is supporting an artist or what isn’t because I think each artists has his/her own preference, this decision cannot be left up to consumers. The responsibility of “line drawing” lies in the hands of bloggers who post a downloadable mp3 of a single without any sort of authorization from the distributor. If the artist feels that a free download of their “preview” tracks will help them, that is their decision to make, not the blogger’s.

    • Rochelle Said:

      You’re right in some sense, but isn’t a consumer a person with feelings, understanding, and compassion? Isn’t a consumer first a human who could and should understand that downloading an Artist’s music for free against their wishes is essentially stealing? Isn’t it a consumer’s choice to download the product or not? Don’t you also agree that if you like the sample, you should purchase the product? Certainly there are many Artists who find ways to give their product away and more power to an Artist who has an arsenal of music to be able to do that.

      I agree that the ‘line crossing’ begins with the Blogger, but we as people need to be held accountable for our actions and if you downloaded the file, you’re not much better… and if you share the file with others or reposted the download link, then you are equally no better…

      You are in a band. You have recorded material that you will be looking to sell. How will your opinion change when it is your music being stolen or shared? Or maybe it won’t? You tell me… 🙂 (Let’s hope your music is not stolen or shared though!)

  2. Ashley Macaulay Said:

    I feel that because artists rely on the revenue brought in from the distribution of their music it should not be given away for free unless under the express permission of the label. Independent blogs and other sites should not take it upon themselves to make a track available for a free download, especially as they do not own the copyright to the song nor have the permission of the copyright owner to do so. If a person wants a preview of a song they can listen to it via a stream, which they can also share with their friends. Then, when the single is available for download on a platform such as Itunes, the song can be purchased- with the money going to those who worked to make the song available in the first place.

    • Rochelle Said:

      I couldn’t agree more. If only more Bloggers thought like you… it would be a much happier, more legit world! Thanks for sharing your opinion!

  3. David Santos Said:

    If it is something that is offered through a website as a first listen, I am most likely going to take it however they post it. I’m usually not concerned with the download portion of it. Although there are gonna be people out there who will download it and be happy that they got a free download. More often then not, I am going to get the album if it is an artist I support. The major thing for me is that I would like artists to realize that people can make CDs for cents to the dollar. You need to find a way (like the movie industry is doing now) to provide the buyer with something tangible that they can only get through purchasing the CD. Something like exclusive music videos or maybe some video of the creative “process” in the studio. Anything that will add more value to the users purchase might make them a little more inclined to pay. Itunes and products like that, just need to bring down their price per track or there will always be more pirates than legitimate purchasers.

    • Rochelle Said:

      You bring up some great points. Surely I appreciate your sentiments on purchasing and supporting an artist if you like the music. I also agree that finding new creative, exclusive, tangible extras to include in an album purchase either physically or digitally will help entice the user/consumer. These things are certainly being explored from Auto-Run Widget/Applications on CDs, iTunes LPs (http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-blueprint-3-deluxe-version/id329657977), and of course certain Artwork elements, but are these things really enough to prevent illegal downloads? I wish they were, and would be willing to give it a shot if the cost was right, but I do not think so.

      iTunes may have slightly raised their per track price, but sites like Amazon, Rhapsody, EMusic, and Napster offer cheaper alternatives. Additionally streaming music sites with mobile apps like Pandora, Radiolicious, Grooveshark (i-Phone App coming soon), and last.fm offer you the option of music-on-the-go at no cost.

      I am not sure at all that iTunes pricing has any effect on what gets stolen vs what gets paid for. Most people are cheap and lazy and will take the easy and free route when they have the choice. But for all the searching these people do for the official downloadable track, they could just do it the right way and pay. I guess with all of the other cheaper or free options previously mentioned, only time will tell…. The problem is that with this time comes new developments that may continue to hurt the industry.

      I do think we need to diversify in the offerings for Music purchases, merchandise, touring, and additional sources of revenue from recordings, while at the same time, continue to combat the negative influencers, embrace and shape positive changes in technology, and get back to instilling good morals and values in that stealing is not ok.

  4. Rochelle Said:

    I agree that it is effective, or rather CAN BE effective for Labels, as well as Artists and DJs to work directly with blogs and bloggers to share new content and create a world-wide awareness digitally with a grassroots method. I have been learning through experience just how effective certain blog posts can be. I always check certain blogs for news, information, gossip, and other visual or audio content. With the growth of microblogging this information spreads like wildfire and can certainly be a beautiful thing. The news and information I read can be re-posted or used for my own knowledge. The visual content (music videos, webisodes, vlogs, commercials, etc) are never more than viewed and maybe shared, but music, well this is another story.

    As a music fan and regular consumer, I personally prefer an audio stream. With all of the virus issues I have been through in my life, the last thing I want to do is download something that puts me at risk for losing everything on my hard drive. Also, with all of the music I own and run through my computer and both ipods, I choose not to download any music that I don’t truly want in my collection. As a music fan, regular consumer, and good-hearted person, I listen to the audio stream and if I like it, I buy it. I enjoy supporting the Writers, Producers, Performers, Engineers, Labels, and Designers who make physical and digital products available. I choose to support the Artists and I choose to encourage others to do the same. Alternatively, if the Artist or Label offers some type of promotional EP, Pre-Album, Mixtape, or other safe (legal) download, I will gladly take that. I understand that not all music fans are consumers and not all bloggers are true music fans so in my GM position for a Record Label, I have to view this situation from another angle.

    I understand that this wonderful, constantly advancing digital age is making all types of content extremely accessible and where some are benefiting, others are in a scary downward spiral where they, I mean we, are backed into a corner scatterbrained thinking, ‘Is it possible, and if so, how do we possibly stop people from stealing our emotionally charged, life changing product’? I understand fully that once songs are made available to the public, someone somewhere is going to share it with their friends, family, and strangers through email, blogs, and other digital vehicles. I also know there is only so much you can do and so much time in a day to be spent on removing usershare, mediafire, megaupload, and kissmyassfreedownload sites that will remove your content due to copyright infringement, but refuse to hold themselves accountable because the content was posted by them… they only host it. The potential, possible, but unlikely solution to this problem will be discussed on another day, because right now, my issue isn’t with the advance in technology or the industry. My problem is the greedy bloggers who abuse their position and lack the understanding that a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. If certain bloggers were true music fans who cared about their credibility, they would open their eyes to the big picture and actually support Artists and stop hurting them.

    Let me paint a picture for you. A well known blog posts an image of an Artist’s forthcoming single (obtained by the Record Label), an audio stream of the Artist’s first official single (that is tracked for plays and commented on), and paragraph of information about the song, as well as links to where the Artist can be contacted. Sounds like a great effort that any Artist or Label would appreciate, right? Well now let me refer to the actual blog and give you reality. I see an edited image of the Artist’s forthcoming album cover, probably taken from the internet and modified; a poorly written paragraph with incorrect information; an audio stream (this is actually good); and yes, a download link to the forthcoming single that by the way, when posted was not yet available to the public for sale or otherwise. My first thought was how did they get the song (I knew it wasn’t sent from the Artist, Label, or Publicist) and what are they doing giving it away for free?

    So I did what any diligent person in my position with a strong opinion would do. I wrote to them and requested that that they remove the download link. They could drive traffic to iTunes when the song was available and I would gladly drive traffic to their site. Instead of editing their content and being grateful that I requested without a Cease and Desist, they shamed me and said I was ruining the Artist’s career AND then on the blogsite claimed the Artist’s “people don’t want him to succeed either as they are asking for this to be taken down. When will labels, etc realize that once a song is “out” there is no turning back. And all that they accomplish when they threaten for things to be removed is that they lose (free) promotion.”

    Damn right I asked for the download link to be removed. I also went to usershare.net and had the DL link removed. If the blogger was going to put the streaming audio link anyway, why did they need to have the download link posted as well? Isn’t it the best thing you could do for the Artist to provide an audio sample, a visual, and some written content to generate additional interest and maybe get the Artist new fans or feedback on the record? Isn’t it more effective to create a positive, long-standing relationship with an Artist or Label to receive exclusives in the future so your posts are legit and early? Whether the music is or isn’t available for sale, if you are giving away someone else’s product for free, you are WRONG. You are hurting and ruining an Artists career. You are limiting the Artist’s success.

    When will (certain) music blogger’s realize without other people’s news, content, and artistry- they would have NOTHING to write about, no fanbase, and no legs to stand on. When will (certain) music bloggers realize that by giving away music for free without permission or instruction from the Artist/Label, they are a huge part of the problem facing the music industry?

    Please do not think that ALL bloggers are wrong, greedy, self-righteous douchebags. There are plenty of genuine fans, advocates, and writers who want nothing more than to share their passion with others and promote good music. There are lots of wonderful bloggers who offer and provide assistance to me, to the Label, and to the Artists daily and for these fans and proliferators, I am extremely grateful. However, the few recent negative experiences just refresh my memory that you should not trust everything you see, hear, and read online. For this, I am also grateful. Just because a well-known site is offering a free download, does not mean you should download it. Please support music and all of the people that make music possible.

    Just to clarify… the music on the blog site was not yet ‘available’ and the link is still live with an image and the streaming audio link, so no ‘free promotion’ was actually lost. Duh.

  5. Courtney Said:

    Being a musician and college student, I can understand both sides of this argument. However, this does not excuse the disrespect for the artist shown by the aforementioned blog sites. I agree, Rochelle, that the audio stream was sufficient, especially since the single had not yet been released to DJs!
    As a musician, I hope that the music that I work so hard to produce for the consumer, is worth the money that I hope they spend on it. Just like any 9-5 job, this is my job. This is how I plan on making a living. I would hope that just as I pay an electrician for his work, the consumer compensates me, for mine.
    Please don’t get me wrong, free promotion and word of mouth is the ultimate way to gain more fans. Especially in this digital age, it is even more essential. I feel that part of free promotion is having a certain amount of a product for the consumer to download. As in the case of certain artists recently, free downloadable pre-albums and extended EPs are all the rage and garner a huge response from the potential consumer. This Pre-Album builds the hype within the fan base to gear up for the main attraction. The idea is that they will love the Pre-album so much, that they will deem the product worthy of their $10-15 to purchase the full album. Obviously, until one sees the result, this is simply the ideal promotion plan. In my opinion, It is definitely a smart way to work.
    The line is drawn when blogs or other promotional mediums show disrespect toward the artist and their management/label personnel. People need to understand that this is a business and if they want to have music to continue to listen to, they will have to support the business financially to a certain extent. How do they think the dope eye-catching album artwork is made? Or the music videos? Money.
    So, c’mon guys, let’s support this industry that we all love (and some of us have dedicated our entire lives to).


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