The Burden of the Music Industry

By: Juan Ignacio Pazmiño

While technology has facilitated musicians in producing records and developing new innovative forms of music, it has also become a problem for the business of music. With the developments of new technologies, new instruments and new variations of musical accessories the distribution of sounds has turned into an almost non-profit business. So, how has technology impacted the music world?

We often understand technology as a rewarding development in any field of study. However, the advancements have negative and positive consequences. Of course, it is great to have access to any kind of music, any album, any song at anytime, but how does this affect the profit of music and the sustainability of its artists? While technology allows music to be distributed all over the world at the touch of a button and enables artists to advertise on an unprecedented scale, it also allows music to be pirated illegally anywhere, anytime. Music Piracy is the illegal reproduction of goods that are protected by the intellectual property law.

How did music piracy begin? During the 1920’s, when radio stations begun airing music, the frequency of the reproduction of a song was never tracked. So, artists received no profit for the reproduction of their work. However, several years later, performance right societies developed a law where radio stations where obligated to track the airtime of artists and pay a fee depending on its popularity. Eventually Vinyl and tapes where created. The distribution of albums improved and artist’s profit increased drastically since the distribution of music was more personal than to a wider audience. Vinyl’s and tapes had no problem with piracy, since the reproduction of these were a long process and quality was compromised. Therefore, copying was minimal. 1982 brought with it the birth of the CD. CD’s could be copied to computers and later burned into a blank CD. The invention of this copy able CD and the purchase of home computers were the catalysts of the downfall in the music industry.

The invention of the MP3 by Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft came to life in 1996-1999, marking the utmost challenge to the industry. The MP3 file allowed users to search the Internet for any song they desired, it allowed them to save any music file to their own computer, and it provided them with a method to share their own music with anyone in the world. It also led to the invention of music sharing facilities online both legal and illegal such as iTunes and LimeWire. But what does this mean? People were now able to listen to any type of song in the comfort of their home. It made music more accessible, more instant, and all that was required was a computer and Internet connection.

Sadly, the effects were precarious for the music industry. From 1999-2008 the sound recording industry´s revenue was cut in half, causing around $12.5 billions of economic loss per year. This is equal to job losses, tax losses and income losses. These figures clearly demonstrate that music piracy has immense influence over the livelihoods of artists, writers, record label employees, and all the thousands of people that work in the music industry. The worst part is that although people know of the negative repercussions of this problem, people keep doing it. In the economic climate we live in, it makes more sense to use free resources that are available to us. When everyone else does it, it seems to be a justifiable explanation, and there is little sign of any consequences.  People have become accustomed to this, since the immorality towards the artists seems to not affect them. People can do it from home, whenever they want. It is also a process, which allows a person to be selective in their purchase or piracy; you can download one song instead of buying the whole album if you just like one song.

The problem is that technology moves so fast that it becomes impossible to police the music industry. Some measures have been taken restricting certain illegal webpages or programs, and people are encouraged to pay for the music they hear, but this hasn’t had a great impact. There will always be the faithful fans who appreciate that the artists and writers have worked to provide us with entertainment and enjoyment and will have the respect to pay for the privilege of listening to the music, but there will also always be those who look past this for to benefit themselves. It seems that the music industry has a long way to go before the problem of music piracy will be resolved. So help the artists, help the industry, buy the music.

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