Despite Reports, Some People Will Always Pay For Music

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ARS Technica has published an article entitled Labels: Whatever The Future Of Music Is, It Isn’t “Free” that has the Internet up in arms yet again over the labels standing up for their right to charge. Despite major labels propensity to being on the wrong side of history, this time they have a point. Popular opinion across the Internet today is that labels need to give up on charging for music and step down to subscription- or donation-based models. While it would be noble of them and inspire a major image change in our economic system, their neck has not been pinned by the boot quite yet. In any economic climate, it makes no sense to give something away for free when people will buy it. In every consumer environment there are many different personality types who still buy music as long as someone is charging.

There are many people who like to think of themselves as law-abiding citizens. These people will not do anything that is deemed illegal by their government under any circumstances out of a respect to the rule of law. They fear the consequences of breaking the law and what it could do to their life if caught. There is no chance of them participating in an illegal act like file sharing without a gun to their head. Their conscience – whether it is driven by strong morals or fear of imprisonment – helps to fuel the economy by not stealing and paying for content they desire.

Illegal file sharing will always be a subversive activity in everyones eyes, even those who engage in it. President Bush at his lowest had a 20% approval rating. There is a constant debate as to who actually would still support a President that awful. I will tell you who – there is a segment of the population that does not like the idea of being non-conformist. A large portion of this sect hated Barack Obama during the election since he was seen as a rebel/outsider but have come to support him because he is our President, as seen in his post-election popularity bump (near 20% over his actual election percentage margin). When they envision themselves, they do not see the type of people who hate their President. These people want nothing to do with anything that falls under the umbrella of subversive and will have their convictions shift to the least subversive opinion possible.

There will always be consumers who just want to spend money for something to do on a day out at the mall. The materialism bug bites many a person and it fuels them to make purchasing decisions that a less impulsive, frugal buyer would avoid. There will even be adults who just need a place to put their paycheck and buy CD’s and DVD’s for their collection. We live in America, home of the consumer and anyone who has watched The Hills knows that the economic slowdown hasn’t stopped the glorification of materialism on the airwaves. If our economic situation keeps going the way it is, this may become a more endangered species. Despite that gloomy forecast in all likelihood there will always be teenagers who are funded enough to buy everything they feel like indulging in with no consequence on their budget.

There is an ethical sect of people who feel you should be paid for your hard work – philanthropists even if they do not fit into the museum-owning stereotype you think of with that word. Many of us in the industry (and out of it) still buy records to support others who put their whole life into making music. We know that the more support you get the more you can concentrate on making better art. There are also many people who just believe in the golden rule of “doing unto others what you would want done to you.” These people will support donation subscription and the present retail model of music buying; as long as someone is charging they are willing to pay.

Despite all the free ways to get music off the Internet, there is growing population of youth whose first introduction to music will be via FTP and Torrent sites, instead of a retail outlet. Just as there are always going to be people who want to pay for music out of allegiances to a good moral code and their values of where to put their dollars.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • Josh

    Wow this is a great article. You make a lot of great points. I’m entering the business of selling things that people don’t always want to pay for, and have a hard time convincing myself there really are people out there who do the right thing and support the production of high quality content.
    This list gives me great inspiration, so thanks.