Photo by Carolyn Coles
That’s what record store owner John Kioussis told Steve Guttenberg of The Audiophiliac.
Do you agree with Kioussis? Is legal digital music so bad that it’s not worth obeying the law?
Certainly there have been arguments made that draconian DRM has limited the appeal of legal sources for downloaded music. If media owners and creators do not or cannot provide their media in a format which meets consumer needs, the consumers will find an alternative source for that media.
Consumers in the digital age expect to have flexibility in when, how, and where they consume their media. The popularity of DVRs is driven by the desire to watch programs when it is convenient for the consumer instead of when the broadcaster decides to air it. Podcasting allows consumers to choose when and where to watch or listen. DRM that locks media to a particular device or method of viewing limits the consumer’s choice and, ultimately, pushes some percentage of those users to seek out less regulated formats of the same content, or other content entirely.
There are also the issues of fidelity. A 128kbps MP3 is not the same quality as a 44,100 Hz audio CD. Most legal sources of downloadable music don’t offer lossless file formats (excepting a notable few). There are, however, lossless file formats, such as FLAC, that are extremely popular among concert bootleggers. Thus, fidelity is another justification used by downloaders who choose alternatives to the legal avenues of music distribution.
As for John Kioussis? The rest of that quote is “You can get it for free, why pay for it? Download it illegally, who’s going to catch you? Legal or illegal, they sound the same.”
Regardless of getting caught or not, the best reason to find a legal option is to support the hard work of the artist(s) who created the media that you are enjoying. After all, without continued support, artists wouldn’t be able to continue to produce their art (excluding the independently wealthy and famously successful minority).
Traditional record deals don’t benefit the artists nearly as much as they do the studios, but changes in technology are bringing about a new wave of digital distribution options that allow artists to cut out the middlemen and connect directly (or in a manner closely approximating directly) with their fans.
So, if you want your favorite artists to keep producing art, maybe downloading music legally doesn’t make you an idiot. In fact, by searching out sites that offer the best deals to artists and supporting them, you can help shape the landscape of direct media and further the trend of direct connections from Artist to Fan.