Opinion: Music Piracy in the Digital World

With the ease of modern media sharing sites, nearly everyone in our generation pirates. The music industry has changed exponentially in the last few decades, with the rise and fall of cd’s and digital media. Since 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 53 percent, from $14.6 billion at the end of the century to $7.0 billion in 2013.

The main reason for this is the influx of digital piracy, following the boom of sites such as Napster and LimeWire in the early 2000s. This decade saw the mass usage of peer-to-peer file sharing, people uploading copies of their music onto sites for others to download for free.

The sharing of illegally downloaded music off the Internet, otherwise known as piracy, has brought forth one of the most pertinent questions in our digital society: what are the ethics surrounding media piracy in the evolving music industry?

Pro Piracy Demonstration

Pro Piracy Demonstration

In some ways, piracy is absolutely unjustifiable; the bottom line is that it is stealing, and morally no different than taking a cd from a store. Where it gets fuzzy is when the specifics of the music industry are analyzed, and one sees where their money is really going when buying music.


There has been a battle in the last decade about the toll piracy has taken on artists, with a reoccurring image of the musician put out on the street due to digital thieves. However, according to The Root, the average musician make a mere $23.40 off of every one thousand dollars of music sold, with the rest going to the record label and various distributors.

For this reason, many artists in recent years have decided to release albums independently and for free, rather than deal with constrictive record labels. Another potential solution is the “pay-what-you-want” model, as used by Radiohead in the 2007 release In Rainbows. This provides the consumer with the option to buy the album or pay nothing, therefore expanding the potential customer base to a much larger group, rather than just those who can afford to spend $14.99 on an album (which they might or might not end up liking).

The majority of money made by a musical artist is through concerts and merch, and therefore piracy is potentially a way to spread music to people who may not have otherwise heard it. Regarding the effect of piracy on music, in 2012 the legendary Neil Young said, “It doesn’t affect me because I look at the internet as the new radio. I look at the radio as gone. […] Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around.”

As any student could tell you, piracy is extremely widespread and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Perhaps this is just another way people are taking advantage, stealing without the moral implications, behind a veil of anonymity the computer grants us, but perhaps it is just another step in the constantly evolving music business.

Bailey Vehslage, Arts Editor


Posted by on October 1, 2014. Filed under Arts,Op-Ed,World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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