Is paying for music a thing of the past?

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With the availability of streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rdio all available for free and unlimited access, there are fewer people than ever actually paying for their music. According to a recent article on TechCrunch, Tom Conrad, the CTO of Pandora, said that about 50 percent of Americans don’t pay anything for music while another 40 percent only pay $15 a year for it.

If you were to walk into a big retail shop ten years ago, one of the biggest sections in the electronic media department would have been a massive collection of compact discs. Today with the likes of iPhone, and Android, CD’s have made technologies like compact discs seem old and obsolete technologies of the past.

The biggest culprit to the recording industry has been the proliferation of bit torrents and peer-to-peer piracy software. According to Torrent Freak, the Canadian Broadband Management Company says that forty percent of all internet traffic in North America comes from either Netflix or Bit Torrent. While the original intention of this sharing software was to make it easier for business to transfer important files, most of the traffic from it today comes from the illegal trade of music, television shows, and movies.

While services like Pandora, Spotify, and Rhapsody have a paid-premium option available, their free services are so convenient that there is no real reason to purchase them. Unless you want a completely advertising-free experience or simply want an unlimited data cap on what you can access per a week, the free versions of these programs work just as well and include almost all of the features. Ironically, the only companies that actually have to purchase these plans are the small retail stores that are selling you the music.

Spotify's LogoThe RIAA is having an abysmal time selling digital copies of singles and albums to consumers. Not only are the versions that are available online cheaper and make less money, they are also much easier to steal, copy, and distribute illegally over the internet. Google is partially to blame for this widespread availability of illegally traded music.

According to an article in the Daily Mail, if you type in your favourite artist into a Google search, several unauthorized and pirated versions of the song will show up available for stream or download. While Google is not implicitly to blame for this, they are turning a blind eye to the practice by ranking them higher in search results.

The person who is most responsible for the digitisation of music is the late Steve Jobs. When the iPod first appeared on the market, Steve spearheaded the movement to make iTunes the ultimate way to purchase music online. In an article in the Inquirer, David Hughes (head of technology at the RIAA) claimed that Steve was a hypocrite for claiming to be a spiritual leader but not putting enough piracy protection on digital downloads.

There is no turning back from the digital way of selling and listening to music. We have come too far in our technological advances and reverting to older methods such as CD’s and cassettes would seriously hamper our tech advances.

The music industry will need to find new ways to make income such as advertising, product placement, and incorporation in order to continue to make a profit… or it could just go away and make music an art form.

27 thoughts on “Is paying for music a thing of the past?

  1. Well, if you want to buy your favorite band’s album with their signature on it, then you will pay for it. Or if you’re someone sentimental or a collector then you still going to pay. It crossed my mind, how are artists paid when their music is free anyways.

    • Christopher (admin team)

      There are still reasons why you would buy music in a physical form, I would agree with you there Paul ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for the comment, welcome to the community ๐Ÿ™‚
      Christopher – Admin Team

    • artists make most of their money from merchandizing nowadays. Also you have to bear in mind that people pay to advertise on sites that give away free music, so the sites also pay the record companies. Think of it as alternative billing, I don’t pay, but BMW pay to allow me to see an advert for a car that I will probably never buy.

      • Christopher (admin team)

        Fascinating stuff Jonny, I did wonder how artists can afford to keep on making music, but I guess gigs and merchandise is how they get by nowadays…

  2. If illegal music and movie downloading still exists, it is beneicial for some companies may be. If they wanted to ban or give fines, they would have already done it.

  3. I worked in a secondary school until recently and can say with absolute certainty that those kids did not pay for their music. The fact that they did not pay had an effect however on their views, in that a song was merely a disposable object. They did not get the satisfaction mentioned above by David, they did not go back and listen to something they had ‘procured’ a year ago and they only knew groups in terms of their singles. Well Sgt Peppers is not the same thing if you only know the singles, and neither is Dark Side Of The Moon. They buy Nirvana and Ramones T shirts though!

    • Christopher (admin team)

      I think it is still important to buy albums, as often bands have some great songs, which are never released on the radio/tv, but do feature on their albums. I have found this with a few of the albums I have bought…

    • Christopher (admin team)

      This is true Lusine, is this going to be detrimental to the music industry though?

      Thanks for your comment, welcome to the community ๐Ÿ™‚
      Christopher – Admin Team

  4. I’m listening to streaming radio as I type. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ironically, young adults are returning to records. Vinyl is very hip these days, and vinyl releases often come with a digital download code. Interesting, isn’t it?

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Seriously, vinyls are coming back in?


      Thanks for your interesting comment Annie, welcome to Technology Bloggers commenting community ๐Ÿ™‚
      Christopher – Admin Team

  5. Well, soonner or later people will have to pay for downloading music as companies can not lose their profits because of these. They will find out how to stop any free downloading in general. In some countries you can get serious punishment for being caught downloading music illegally.

  6. In the past Napster was my favorite app along with everyone else. Thanks to that it made music a thing to download whenever you felt like it. For most it still feels that way. At least Steve Jobs had a vision of at least getting a dollar for a song. Without that who know where we would be.

  7. The fact that there are countless of places online where one can download or stream music for free, one may think that paid music will inevitably come to its end. However, as the late Steve Jobs had believed – people would always want to go legitimate and pay for music, as long as the price is reasonable. That proves true.

  8. Despite the proliferation of file sharing, I believe most people still pay for their music out of respect for the artists that they are a fan of. I am a fan of very small niche genres of music so I feel I owe it to the artists to pay for the entertainment they provide me. Being able to download individual songs has done a lot of good for the music industry, I believe, because often people would hesitate from buying an entire album if they liked just a couple of songs from it. But of course, record labels will never stop complaining because no amount of profit margin is ever enough for them.


  9. In the long term there will need to be some way that people pay for music. The artists and the record companies (and the people who invest in those companies) all get involved so that they can earn some decent money. What’s the use of being a rock star if you don’t get the millions when you make it big.

  10. If/after SOPA is passed, downloading illegal music might as well become a thing of past. I read somewhere if the bill is passed you risk yourself 5 years of imprisonment if you download even one pirated song. (Obviously this implies to US only but yeah if access to all music sites etc. is blocked in US, there are going to be significant changes).

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