Why I Stopped Pirating Music

Why I Stopped Pirating Music

After nearly a decade, my iTunes library weighs in at almost ninety-four gigabytes. A lot of serious music nerds would sneeze derisively at that, but it still represents over 13,000 songs that would take me, from start to finish, a full 48 days to listen to back to back.

I’d be lying if I said most of these had been acquired legally. Most of these albums were acquired on Bittorrent in my twenties. Many more were ripped from CDs lent to me by friends and family, or slurped up from Usenet to satisfy my obscure yet surface-thin musical fixations. Some were purchased through iTunes or other sources online, but truthfully, if you stripped everything out of my iTunes library that I’d acquired legally, I’d probably have a digital music library that could fit on a first generation iPod.

Over the course of the last two years, though, something interesting has happened. I’ve grown a conscience. These days, all of the music I listen to is listened to legally. But iTunes not only has no part in it. In fact, for the past two years, my iTunes library has just been collecting dust: a graveyard to the music piracy of my youth.

I’m ashamed of it. I want to try to explain things. Both why I started pirating music, why I stopped, and how, in fits and starts, being a music pirate helped transform me into someone who cared enough about music to buy it.

How I got hooked on music and piracy…

I come from a family that is very passionate about music. When I was growing up, my house was always filled with sound: my father’s CD collection numbered in the thousands, and his LP and cassette tape collections are almost as impressive. His taste was simultaneously eclectic and exhaustive, popular and obscure. Running through the blood of my father and his brothers is a passion for sound, a yen not just for catchy singles but to experience and understand the emotional thought stiching together the sounds that human beings make.

It was not a passion I shared. Growing up in a household constantly filled with music, I tended to value silence when I could get it. Despite my family’s best efforts, my interest in music was, at best, extraordinarily casual. I had some favorite CDs as a teen, but they were the usual angry pop anthems to anarchy that most kids bobbed their heads to in the mid-90s. I’d play a few songs off of each of these CDs over and over again until the very rhythm of them made me sick, then never listen to them again. Despite my family’s best interests, any deeper interest in music eluded me.

Why I Stopped Pirating Music

My first “iPod.” Really.

It wasn’t until I got my first iPod in 2004 that I really started listening to music again. I say iPod, but it wasn’t really: it was a Dell DJ, Dell’s bizarre, hideous analog to the iPod. It looked like a relic that had crowned through wormhole from an alternate dimension where Apple (яблоко) was founded behind the Iron Curtain, but it was $100 cheaper than an iPod, and at the time, money was tight.

It’s strange to say, but in many ways, my interest in music was birthed from piracy. It is the nature of a void that it must be filled, and with 20 gigabytes of hard drive space on my Dell DJ, I quickly set about filling it as best as I could, helter skelter, grabbing albums almost at random as fast as I could download them from all the usual pirating sources: WASTE networks, Bittorrent, IRC, newsgroups. I quickly filled up that Dell DJ and upgraded to a 60GB iPod Classic the next year. I never have been without an iPod since.

I began to listen to a lot more music during this period, but like many pirates, I downloaded far more albums out of convenience than I actually listened to. The albums I did listen to, I half-listened to, allowing the music to fill the background of my consciousness while I focussed on other things: reading a book, writing, playing a video game. I came to the majority of the music I downloaded as the worst kind of listener, a non-participant. I was amassing a collection, but collecting is not the same as appreciating.

Still, some of it began to permeate, to sink in. My tastes expanded from the grungy to be more diverse. A lot of this was achievement based at first: “Wouldn’t it set me apart if I were deeply into jazz?” I would pretentiously think. But pretentious posturing often evolves into legitimate passion through sheer repetition, and the more music I listened to something new simply to win the achievement, the more I found myself really thinking about what I’d heard.

This continued for many years, and I bought only what I couldn’t find any other way: the truly obscure. During this time, my trivial knowledge of music expanded as rapidly as my iTunes library — names of bands, when albums were released, that kind of stuff — but my actual appreciation for what I was hearing grew far more slowly. For everydozen albums in my iTunes library, I might have actual, articulable thoughts about only one of them. Looking back, this seems incredibly depressing to me, but it’s the hallmark of someone who is approaching art as a commodity that comes from a faucet. I wasn’t investing in music with either my time, my money or my attention: I was just turning it on.

How I stopped pirating, and started streaming…

So what changed? There was obviously a tipping point where I had finally collected enough ideas about certain albums or artists that I, in turn, started to have ideas about music as a whole. But what really started changing the way I thought about music was when I changed the way I acquired music. And this had nothing to do with iTunes, but rather, it came when I subscribed to Spotify.

I was living in Europe at the time, so I had access to Spotify a couple of years before it came to the United States. When I signed up for it, I did so on a whim, but that whim scratched the niggling itch of conscience that was starting to develop in regards to pirating. If you’re not really thinking about music, the act of piracy doesn’t make much of an impact on your conscience, but the sheer volume of music I was pirating and playing had started a very slow chain reaction for me. Particles of music colliding with particles of thoughts as if by random, undergoing a fusion into a denser, more fully formed element: an idea of what that song or album represented to me. There weren’t many of these ideas, but once you have an idea in your head, it becomes much harder to ignore the person or artist who gave it to you.

So when I signed up for Spotify, I viewed it in many ways as almost a more ethical form of piracy. For a reasonable monthly subscription fee, I could enjoy as much music as I wanted from a vast library, with even more convenience than hunting down albums and pirating them first. Sure, I knew that artists being paid for the tracks I was listening to on Spotify were only getting a small fraction of what they would have earned if I purchased their album in a store or through iTunes, but still, this was a legal alternative: a way of listening to vast quantities of new music that didn’t break the bank, but also didn’t need to be hidden or equivocated around. It required no justification.

My appreciation of albums shifted from one that was primarily about whether I had that album to what that album had made me feel.

What’s odd, though, is the way in which Spotify — then Rdio, when I moved back  to the States, and which I think is a better service — changed the way I listened to music. Instead of collecting digital music files, Spotify made me sit down and listen. Before, merely downloading an album had, in some small sense, fulfilled me, whether I listened to it or not. But now I approached each album singly, not as a commodity to be pilfered in bulk and hoarded, but as something I was setting out to experience, right then and there.

The distinction is what I brought to the table, which wasn’t so much money — these subscriptions are cheap and easy to justify, even if you don’t listen to much music — as it was a deep variation in the way I approached music. Albums were listened to with a greater immediacy, because having access to an almost infinite library of music in the cloud, my appreciation of albums shifted from one that was primarily about whether I had that album to what that album had made me feel.

When I look back at my 90 gigabytes of pirated music, the thing that strikes me is how little of it I’ve listened to, even to this day. How many of the albums stored in my iTunes library that I did listen to conjure up absolutely no feeling in me when I look at them.

It’s clear to me, in retrospect, that my piracy was mostly mere collecting, and like the most fetishistic of collectors, it was conducted with mindless voracity. A good collection is supposed to be made up of relics, items that conjure up memories, feelings and ideas for the owner so strongly that he gets pleasure in simply being in close contact with them. A tended garden. My collection was nothing like this: it was just a red weed, swallowing up and corroding anything I did care about within its indiscriminating mass.

Why I’ll never pirate again…

Things are very different for me now. Music streaming services like Spotify and Rdio are part of that transformation, in that I started approaching music more urgently. They broke me of my collecting habit, and over time, I developed a more fully-formed connection with music, in which my collection was no longer a trove of bytes on my hard drive, but a compendium of memories and feelings about the way certain albums had impacted me. As this internal garden of musical experience grew, I found myself wanting to collect albums again, but not as a red weed of formless bits… as something physical, a collection of relics that I could approach with the same mixture of fondness and urgency as I approach my favorite books.

Why I Stopped Pirating Music

My stereo, installed in a mid-century booze cart.

Recently, I bit the bullet and put myself together a proper stereo, very similar to the one my father had when I was younger. It’s a hodge podge of vintage components, including a beautiful Yamaha receiver from the late 70s with full, rich sound, some massively powerful Technics speakers some poor fool was giving away on Craigslist, a Dual 1256 turntable and a slightly out-of-place Apple TV lurking in the shadows of the entertainment center, allowing me to stream music from Rdio over AirPlay to all of this vintage analog gear.

I’m not an audiophile, but for someone who spent the vast majority of his musical awakening over the past decade listening to digital audio in a hodge-podge of bitrates over crappy PC speakers and cheap earbuds, the luxuriousness of this set-up is hard to overstate: it’s the difference between listening to music in the background and feeling it as a presence in the room with you, sometimes soft and pale, and sometimes as an electrifying pressure in the air around you, like an exploding storm.

What’s interesting to me about my stereo is how it’s facilitated the final step in my evolution in the way I experience music. Apple has always known that good tech changes the way you interact with a medium, and that’s just what my stereo has done, far more profoundly changing the way I listen to music than any iPod ever did. Part of it’s because my stereo sounds so great that listening to music on my Mac or my iPhone is a far shallower experience, but another big part of it is that my stereo isn’t something I can simply carry around with me: it’s 150 pounds of gear located in my living room, and to experience it, I must go to it and sit in front of it as an active participant. It’s an altar, of sorts, in front of which I feel and experience music.

Apple has always known that good tech changes the way you interact with a medium, and that’s just what my stereo has done, far more profoundly changing the way I listen to music than any iPod ever did.

These days, I don’t pirate any music. My iTunes library collects dust. Instead, I expand my horizons musically by exploring in Rdio. If an album I listen to particularly affects me, I set out to collect it… not merely to have it, but to be in close physical contact with a work that has, in some small way, changed the way I feel and which I always want to be able to feel again. When I do collect these albums, I go out of my way to buy them on vinyl, usually paying two to three times the price of what that same album would cost me on iTunes or on CD.

Again, this is about the ritual of the thing. A lot of people will tell you that albums sound differently on vinyl, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. What is true for me, again, is that a vinyl record is something that can not be engaged with passively. You have to touch it. It’s big. You have to flip it halfway through. It can’t be listened to while you jog or while you ride the subway. You can’t just slap it into a player and forget about it: you need to lift the needle down to trace the grooves of a concentric spiral in which other human beings inscribed an emotional tissue of music that reproduces something deep and subliminal within their hearts. For me, the strength of vinyl is that it can not be easily taken for granted: to play a record, you must set out to listen to it, not just hear it.

What’s the takeaway here? That’s a very good question. As a thirty-three year old man, I’m ashamed of the piracy of my twenties, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it gradually helped transform me from a person who didn’t care about music into a music lover, an individual with a true passion for sound, and a fervent believer in buying music.

I hope, in the grand scheme of things, that is a comfort to the musicians and music executives who despair about the rampant piracy endemic to digital music: I can not be alone in this. I stole music just long enough for me to grow to love buying it.

As for my iTunes library? Maybe it’s time I raze that red weed once and for all. There’s nothing in it I wouldn’t rather buy all over again.

Why I Stopped Pirating Music

Good riddance.

  • Kye Alan Russell

    This is truly beautiful. You’ve encapsulated how I feel about music, to the letter. Your journey through music is definitely not a rare one…I hope, anyway. Well, at least I know that I’m not alone. I’m linking this absolutely everywhere. Good on you.

  • scoobypmac

    There’s something about the “gotta have it all” mentality in a lot of ppl who pirate. I traded PSX (Playstation One) games in my younger years and I can honestly say of the thousands I had I maybe only liked 50. I had stuff I would never ever buy just for the sake of having a bigger list than other traders (I had hundreds of games that were Japanese only!). It’s that same human instinct that is used to keep us playing Zynga games or getting achievements in Steam games and MMOs etc. Of the many games I had, nobody was losing money to piracy because I would never have paid for most of them!

    With music and AAA game titles the companies ARE losing money from piracy, I understand that, but I now buy my games (Steam has really helped the industry in this field) and listen to music on streaming services or even just YouTube. Then again I am a bit older now and have an income that teenagers who pirate do not – $60 dollars per game is a lot of money for 17yr old, so they just go d/l it like their friends do. I don’t see it stopping soon and it’s heralding the increase of the F2P business model which can end up costing you more in the long run. A lot more.

  • Russ Hughes

    Sorry to be a pedant, but you neither pirated or were a pirate – those are the people who were distributing it. You were still as culpable in this criminal act – but your appalling misuse of the English language would have me throw you in prison.

    Your headline should have read “Why I Stopped Using Pirated Music”. Your subhead also makes the same error.

    It’s a shame you weren’t downloading pirated books on the use of grammar!

  • Whodakat

    Well I’ll weigh in as the voice of the opposition. I’m in my 30s and I don’t hesitate to download music. I do not have a deep love and understanding of music. I like it, but I could do without it. What I do have is a deep understanding of economics and reality. Artists have been hijacked by money. Like most things. My family and I work hard but find ourselves in the lower middle class area. Could we afford a CD? Sure. But when I see these “artists” cruising around in this years Bentley (last years model is so over) ill be honest it makes me sick. They live lives of pure excess and then whine because some kid downloaded their song. The RIAA attacks with an army of lawyers that no ordinary citizen could ever afford and spends a million to sue for half a million. To the uber rich it means nothing but to the downloader it means bankruptcy and perhaps financial ruin for maybe the rest of their life…for music? I’ll have no part in it. In fact I rebel against it! Hence why I pirate. When you buy an album, how much goes to the artist and how much lines the pocket of music executives? Remember when they signed artists for pennies and then made huge money off their backs? Artists have wised up, got agents, and sold out to the money. Consumers don’t get that option. Now they all make their money off our backs. Now days they crank out “hits” every 5 minutes that are nothing but noise so they can make even more money. Its reality tv except with music. The music I listen to belongs to artists who in most cases are dead! Why would I pay some studio to copy a song for me? I can do it myself for free. And quality isn’t a concern since my library is lossless and in a lot of cases cuts right from the studio, before they compress it so they can fit more crap on to the CD. Vinyl rips at massively high bit rates sound incredible (no not through my apple headphones). Personally I dream of the day that everyone pirates and to be a music executive means to be broke. As for the musicians, I long for the days of “starving” artists so they can stop worrying about money and get back to making art.

  • Tallest_Skil

    I like it, but I could do without it.

    You’re a member of the human race. You inherently need it.

    Artists have been hijacked by money.

    Then unless you’re sending each of the artists whose music you pirate a check for the full amount, your opinion is pretty much bottom of the barrel. You can’t flaunt millennia of societal structure and expect to be taken seriously.

  • technochick

    . But when I see these “artists” cruising around in this years Bentley (last years model is so over) ill be honest it makes me sick.

    Just like not every actor is a celeb, not every musician is. And yet you lump them together.

    I bet you use the ‘I wasn’t going to buy it anyway so they still wouldn’t get my money’ excuse too.

    I have friends that use that about tv shows and movies. I asked to see his collection. And then I asked him if he thought I was an asshole. He said no. And when I pointed out to him that I worked in that movie, and that one, that one, yep that one, that tv show, that one. That one etc. all of which my company had profit share from the tickets, the DVDs etc. and by not paying he cost me several bonuses.

    And I don’t live in the penthouse, drive a Bentley etc.

    As for those lawsuits, if you don’t want to get sued for millions, just pay for the stuff in the first place. Or do without it. There’s Pandora etc that is legal and way cheaper.

  • crateish

    About 1 out of 3 tracks I look for on Spotify are there. Guess it’s meant for devotees of Katy Perry.

  • Wane

    For me this is pretty much the same story for me just swap music for movies and Spotify for LoveFilm.

  • Dhruva Poojari

    alas wish i could agree or disagree with this article in its entire form as is… since am in india and i have over 160gigs of music .. i never could have the courage to delete it.. i am rather proud of it .. would i have paid .. yes for some .. but not for most of it .. some were downloaded .. from torrents but most were from mobile centres who take around 50 rupees.. ( around a dollar) to fill a 2gb card ..as to how they get it i dont care.. yes i have paid my share of a dollar for 2 gigs of music.. (i know its a lame excuse) i dont know how its in rest of the world.. piracy is high here .. if u pay around 2 dollars u get a dvd filled with 25 latest music albums.. and its available just around the corner rright in front of the police station .. !! on the sidewalks..

    for me i have 25 albums paying 2 dollars ..yes i know its piracy and yes i know am encouraging it.. but do i have a choice .. no , because each album in the store will cost me 2 dollars whereas i am getting 25 of them for 2 dollars..

    i have paid huge amounts for my rare collections , but am not in a high paying job, am self employed .. i hardly listen to music except maybe when am driving or riding ..

    for me i have paid for the music i own atleast most of it . either i ripped them from pirated dvds or no i don care .. my inner self says i have paid for it and i have done my part( entirely i know am terribly wrong here supporting piracy)

    heck its a free world… netflix , spotify irdio or whatever u suggest is simply not available here ..

    Spotify is currently not available in your country

    Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country yet.

    no options .. and itunes is way waaay to expensive sometimes it asks me a dollar for a song.. thats too much for me because i only earn 2-5 dollars a day ..

    my first ever long post anywhere. just wanted to vent out or show that am truly moved by this article and the comments below..

    psssst.. dont ask me to delete my music collection…..

  • mr_bee

    Excellent article! I actually don’t agree with your conclusions, but I have to say this is really, really well done, thoughtful, and all the things an article should be (instead of what articles on CultofMac typically are).

  • Brianna Wu

    Lengthy BS justification

    Let me tell you something. If you’re going to steal music, just f%^&ing own up to it. No one is interested in hearing your BS justification about greedy music industry, or whatever else. Just admit, “I steal music because I don’t care.” That’s a message that’s at least honest.

  • Len Williams

    John, I find your article very interesting and written from the viewpoint of someone for whom digital music has always been available (CDs onward). I on the other hand, grew up in an earlier generation. I’m 60 years old right now which means I was born in 1952 and was in my teens during the 60’s. In those days music was only available as vinyl LPs and 45 RPM records. I was a baby boomer. Rock and roll was born in my generation. Music was HUGELY important to the vast majority of us right from the start. Music defined our ideas, goals, our protests, our thoughts of freedom and the concept that “love” was the most important idea to promote in a world that had been at war for many years. Korea and then Vietnam followed World War II, and music was the thing that kept us grounded or high in the sky, depending on our mood and intents. There was no question about the value of music. We WERE the rock and roll generation. Music defined us, and I have wonderful memories of exactly where I was and what I was doing when certain songs and albums were released. My life, in effect, has a sound track.

    Each time a new Beatles album was released, it was an event. I listened to Sgt. Pepper several times in a row in a friend’s basement room with 8 other people, and it kept playing over and over in the background as we discussed the music and lyrics. When Abbey Road came out another friend had a wine and cheese party and 30 of our closest friends over to listen to the album. Music was everything!

    When I was 19 and finally moved away from home I bought a “small” Sony reel to real tape recorder (15″ x 15″ x 4″) and transferred a lot of my vinyl collection to 7-inch reels of tape. This allowed me to take my music collection with me in a couple of small boxes instead of about 10 boxes of LPs and a boat load of stereo equipment. This was FREEDOM! I even took it on a long trip to Mexico from Canada so that we had music all the way there and back.

    I completely ignored 8-track tapes when they came on the scene, and the technology only lasted a few years before the advent of cassette tapes. I re-purchased much of my music collection in cassette format, and it was wonderful to be able to listen to the music I loved on a portable device I could shove in my pocket and listen to on headphones. Music had become very personal and portable. Then CDs showed up and I sold all of my LPs and bought their CD counterparts and a portable CD player. I also had a cassette and CD player that connected to my home stereo for big sound and parties when I wanted it. I still have the majority of my CD collection that numbers in the hundreds.

    In the meantime I’d bought several Macs and set up my graphic design company. iTunes was revolutionary and I quickly copied ALL my CDs into it and started buying music from the iTunes store. I bought an iPod and then an iPhone and downloaded a large portion of my music collection to both of them. I have about 35GB of purchased non-pirated music and I buy more every month. My daughter and wife give me iTunes gift certificates for Father’s Day, birthdays and Christmas. I listen to my collection as I work every day on my computer through excellent M-Audio BX5a speakers, and when I’m out riding my bike or traveling on my iPod and iPhone.

    I find owning music and building a collection based on my changing tastes extremely satisfying and a far superior experience to listening to streaming services. Every time I listen to my broad collection on shuffle, I hear stuff I haven’t listened to for months or years, and I’m flooded with memories of my life. I can listen to all the music that has moved me through my lifetime, and anything new that I come across, I can buy on iTunes, Amazon or on CD and rip it into iTunes. The point is, I OWN my music collection. I can listen to it anytime I want wherever I am, as many times as I want without having to pay a monthly bill. My songs are my life. I never agreed with pirating music because I grew up having to purchase LPs. I’d never think of walking into a record store and stealing an LP, and that idea was the same regarding digital files. The unfortunate thing about digital music is that it’s not something physical you can hold in your hands like an LP, cassette or CD. It’s electronic and therefore it’s easy to get into the mindset that it has no “actual value” because it’s not a physical item.

    John, you’ve taken a somewhat similar journey, but in reverse to mine. I would never go back to playing vinyl LPs on a turntable. My entire collection of music is available in my office and around the house or anywhere I am, and it is entirely skip, static and noise-free, and not subject to heat, scratches, dust, water damage or storage problems. I have any song or album available in seconds through high-quality speakers or great-sounding earbuds. I’d never go back to the “old days”.

  • Wane

    for me i have 25 albums paying 2 dollars ..yes i know its piracy and yes i know am encouraging it.. but do i have a choice .. no , because each album in the store will cost me 2 dollars whereas i am getting 25 of them for 2 dollars..

    You do have a choice, and earning a low wage isn’t an excuse.

  • Thomas Fiscoe
    . But when I see these “artists” cruising around in this years Bentley (last years model is so over) ill be honest it makes me sick.

    Just like not every actor is a celeb, not every musician is. And yet you lump them together.

    I bet you use the ‘I wasn’t going to buy it anyway so they still wouldn’t get my money’ excuse too.

    I have friends that use that about tv shows and movies. I asked to see his collection. And then I asked him if he thought I was an asshole. He said no. And when I pointed out to him that I worked in that movie, and that one, that one, yep that one, that tv show, that one. That one etc. all of which my company had profit share from the tickets, the DVDs etc. and by not paying he cost me several bonuses.

    And I don’t live in the penthouse, drive a Bentley etc.

    As for those lawsuits, if you don’t want to get sued for millions, just pay for the stuff in the first place. Or do without it. There’s Pandora etc that is legal and way cheaper.

    So you’re an above the line member of the production crews of these shows, and you get royalties based on sales? Or are you just someone relatively low and they pay you for the day/week/whatever time you spend on the show and then you’re done?

  • Koban4max

    I pirate music..if it’s good ..i mean worthy good, i buy it..and I did recently. Artists can have my support if they make good lasting music. If it”s good to the point where it’s not worthy to buy, I jack it.

  • Steve Lawrence

    I recently discovered Spotify and thought for a brief time about ditching the iTunes eco-system in favour of a Spotify Premium account. But then I discovered that it doesn’t work for families. Here’s why.

    A Spotify Premium account gives you license to listen to your music on one device at a time. If you are playing music via your Spotify account on your iPhone, you can’t listen to music on another iPhone or on your computer at home. That means that if your wife or your kids want to listen to music, too, then they each need a Spotify Premium account. That quickly gets expensive. One account is equivalent to buying one CD per month. I can justify that. My add a single extra account and that’s two CD’s per month which I would never buy, so it then becomes cheaper for me to just buy CD’s and rip those, the old-fashioned way. Add in kids that want to listen, and it quickly becomes very uneconomical.

    So Spotify might suit your lifestyle at one particular point in time, but it may not in the future. And then what. What about all the money you’ve spent on music you don’t even get to keep local copies of?

    If you’re not in the ‘I need it all’ camp, then just buy the music you want, as and when you want it. You then have the licenses for life, and if you combine it with something like iTunes Match you have it wherever you would possibly want it.

  • enzos

    So a freetard has come around to the 1980s (again).. music was better and more important back then; people valued it as part of their growth and identity. And they paid for it so that the bands they loved had some revenue, outside doing gigs. (The record companies are another matter entirely)

    These days I’ve turned to classical music on the radio (choice of two stations, intelligent informative presenters and guests, no ads, news on the hour), and listen to the iTunes collection on shuffle-all for a change of pace (some legally ripped some pirate-bayed, all chosen not just collected).

    Bit of a laugh: it Miles Davis ‘Freddy the Freeloader’ playing right now!

    Cheers for the article: too much first-person to my tastes but nicely put.

  • GraftonReed

    You sound just like me, or vise-verse. Getting a job and the “no fuss, no muss” of buying music, makes it that much more enjoyable for me!

  • John Lehmkuhl

    What you all have to remember is that even those that look “über-rich” are living in lives built of cards and for most of them, they will crumble far faster than they are expecting. The RECORD COMPANY forwards artist money based on future sales. It’s that future sales that usually causes many of them to call a bankruptcy lawyer.

    Also, realize that these flaunting their money artists are like the 1% that are super wealthy in our economies. 99% are not rich, won’t ever be rich and have to tour for 200+ days a year to earn a decent salary. It’s a very difficult life that you only do if you’re serious about being committed to it.

    I’ve worked on over 30 albums in my career – most of those albums were never released and the artist still had to pay for the up-front money.

    If you’re stealing, then you don’t get it. This hurts music in so many ways it’s not even funny. As sales get smaller and smaller each year, the cost of CD’s goes up. If you can’tra afford the actual CD, then go to Amazon when the album comes out – they are usually selling it for the price of a large Mocha at a coffee shop! I think there are 5,000 albums right now for under 5.00.

    No excuse to pirate and the damage you do is worse than you could imagine… or just wait until you’re in your 30’s… that is about the time a conscious starts to develop in this society it appears….

  • Whodakat
    Lengthy BS justification

    Let me tell you something. If you’re going to steal music, just f%^&ing own up to it. No one is interested in hearing your BS justification about greedy music industry, or whatever else. Just admit, “I steal music because I don’t care.” That’s a message that’s at least honest.

    I think your mistaking me for someone that needs justification. I don’t. The author was giving his opinion on why he does or does not do something and I was just following suit. Feel free to purchase whatever music you like. I’ve given it a lot of thought and these are the conclusions I’ve drawn. I have friends that are constantly giving me crap, and I have friends that ask me to get them crap. I like the poster below and his masturbation analogy. It works nicely.

    . But when I see these “artists” cruising around in this years Bentley (last years model is so over) ill be honest it makes me sick.

    Just like not every actor is a celeb, not every musician is. And yet you lump them together.

    I bet you use the ‘I wasn’t going to buy it anyway so they still wouldn’t get my money’ excuse too.

    I have friends that use that about tv shows and movies. I asked to see his collection. And then I asked him if he thought I was an asshole. He said no. And when I pointed out to him that I worked in that movie, and that one, that one, yep that one, that tv show, that one. That one etc. all of which my company had profit share from the tickets, the DVDs etc. and by not paying he cost me several bonuses.

    And I don’t live in the penthouse, drive a Bentley etc.

    As for those lawsuits, if you don’t want to get sued for millions, just pay for the stuff in the first place. Or do without it. There’s Pandora etc that is legal and way cheaper.

    I dig what your saying, but I “lump” people together so I can condense an already wordy post. If the artist is someone I can respect then I think twice about pirating their stuff. Admittedly, that is a small list of people, most of which would be happy for someone to download their music just so they can get the word out. Again, I’d ask you to look at how much the artist gets paid per album sale versus the “fat cat”. Music isn’t the only industry that has been hijacked, its pretty much any thing now. Its all quantity over quality now.

    I have to wonder what you do for a living, to not be well off and to be working on so many movies… perhaps you are a professional extra! Ok, I’m being facetious, I know not everyone working on movies is living in the big time, but I think you are being slightly ingenious when you say you missed several bonuses because your friend downloaded your movie. Perhaps you are speculating on your perceived loss of bonuses due to your guess as to how many times a movie has been downloaded?

    As for your response about those lawsuits. I give you the Eighth Amendment to our Constitution. Paraphrasing of course, but bankrupting someone or putting them in financial hardship, which in turn will put their children in financial hardship, which in turn (statistically speaking) has a large chance of putting their children into financial hardship, seems like a cruel and unusual punishment to me, but that is just my opinion. Kids do dumb stuff, what did you do when you were a kid? Would you like to be punished for it for the rest of your life? Would you like your children’s children to be punished for it? I’m not saying lets throw our hands up and let crime run rampant, but we should let the punishment fit the crime.

  • Whodakat
    for me i have 25 albums paying 2 dollars ..yes i know its piracy and yes i know am encouraging it.. but do i have a choice .. no , because each album in the store will cost me 2 dollars whereas i am getting 25 of them for 2 dollars..

    You do have a choice, and earning a low wage isn’t an excuse.

    Instead of music, what if you pirated nature sound CDs. Should poor people plug their ears as they walk around in case they hear the soothing sounds of rainfall? Being rich isn’t an excuse to be an asshole.

  • Whodakat

    What you all have to remember is that even those that look “über-rich” are living in lives built of cards and for most of them, they will crumble far faster than they are expecting. The RECORD COMPANY forwards artist money based on future sales. It’s that future sales that usually causes many of them to call a bankruptcy lawyer.

    Also, realize that these flaunting their money artists are like the 1% that are super wealthy in our economies. 99% are not rich, won’t ever be rich and have to tour for 200+ days a year to earn a decent salary. It’s a very difficult life that you only do if you’re serious about being committed to it.

    I’ve worked on over 30 albums in my career – most of those albums were never released and the artist still had to pay for the up-front money.

    If you’re stealing, then you don’t get it. This hurts music in so many ways it’s not even funny. As sales get smaller and smaller each year, the cost of CD’s goes up. If you can’tra afford the actual CD, then go to Amazon when the album comes out – they are usually selling it for the price of a large Mocha at a coffee shop! I think there are 5,000 albums right now for under 5.00.

    No excuse to pirate and the damage you do is worse than you could imagine… or just wait until you’re in your 30’s… that is about the time a conscious starts to develop in this society it appears….

    How did music ever survive prior to the record company? I’m fairly sure music won’t die just because you can’t get rich off of it.

    And if Amazon discounting the (*&^ out of it or paying for a spotify account makes it ok not to buy retail then great, I’m no longer a pirate. I pay $25 a year for iTunes Match… everyone happy now?

  • Whodakat
    I like it, but I could do without it.

    You’re a member of the human race. You inherently need it.

    Artists have been hijacked by money.

    Then unless you’re sending each of the artists whose music you pirate a check for the full amount, your opinion is pretty much bottom of the barrel. You can’t flaunt millennia of societal structure and expect to be taken seriously.

    I like it when people try to sound smarter than they are. You don’t “inherently” need music.

    And “the flaunting of millennia of society structure” made me chuckle. Thousands of years ago, I wouldn’t have paid for music either…I’d have my slave play it for me whenever I wanted.

    Despite what your generation thinks, life existed prior to this century.

  • Dan Law

    Well, I can see how proud you are as a FBI officer.

  • destroysall

    Great article, John. You seem to have put a lot of heart into this article and its definitely a written piece worth passing on for generations to come. I totally agree with you on the “e.v.i.l.” part of music that is pirated. I never pirated a thing, and I never will. I know a few who have and still do so today. It’s a terrible form of the internet that, thankfully, seems to be becoming a thing of the past thanks to apps like Spotify. Overall, great article! However, as an audiophile, I emplore you to further invest into quality audio. >:]

  • glashus

    Your credibility is gone the second you say that Spotify can replace buying/downloading CDs. If you had bought a half decent system it would sound so bad you couldn’t stand it.
    So, the recommendation is: 1) Buy old, half carappy, stereo equipment. 2) Use Spotify ?

    I prefer: 1) Let us buy lossless files

  • wchoreo

    Yawn…

  • Tallest_Skil

    I like it when people try to sound smarter than they are. You don’t “inherently” need music.

    Prove me wrong, then.

    Thousands of years ago, I wouldn’t have paid for music either…I’d have my slave play it for me whenever I wanted.

    … Except no. That’s not how this works.

  • Robert Pruitt

    O.k.. I have 47 days worth of music….a few more….a few more. Ahhh, 48 days. I’ll stop pirating now and go preach about my new found ethics. Give me a break.

    PS: At least “baptize” your pirated music with iTunes Match. I hear most of that money goes to the artists.

  • dadaGuerilla

    I’m roughly 10 years older than you (you, young whippersnapper—hand my my cane and false teeth), and I went through a similar pirating phase using Napster to steal music from other people’s hard drives in the middle of the night, which i did at least 4 nights a week. Interestingly, the 20 GBs or so of music I stole using Napster disappeared not long after I built a 30 GB collection of lossless-formatted music ripped from CDs that I actually purchased. I mean disappeared, as in I copied the music to my second hard disk and six months later, when I checked on it, it was gone, as in removed from the hard disk. I don’t know if that was the universe setting things right or if the disk had failed or if my wife had deleted it out of spite. Skip ahead a few years. Now I have over 200 GBs of albums in (mostly) Apple Lossless format specifically for feeding to a monster hi-fi system I built over a few months’ period (Google “Vandersteen 2Wq” to see what my neighbors have to put up with), and this system does NOT like to play iTunes Plus format—if I want depth, presence, dynamics, transparency, and all the other audiophile buzzwords, I need lossless audio. So I buy lossless—that means head over to Vallejo to Rasputin Music or the Haight to Amoeba, pick up a couple hundred bucks worth of CDs, rip them on my 17″ MBP and dump the lossless tracks into my Mac Mini media server. And all of this means I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about pirating music. I make money, I spend an appropriate amount on music (and digital movies, etc.), and i have zero desire to pirate anyone else’s music. Why should I? Other people’s music does not scratch my itch. So I think the desire to have one’s own collection of music that Makes You Happy is a kind of invisible hand that eliminates most piracy and causes economic actors to buy their own damn music, which is just too personal a product to steal and derive much pleasure from. So the moral of the story is, don’t steal music, because you’re not going to like it and you’re eventually going to shelve it and lose it. Just suck it in and buy music at appropriate times. Oh, yeah.

  • Ronald Stepp

    So.. you didn’t grow a conscience, you just got tired of maintaining a traditional music library.

  • Lars Pallesen

    Stay tuned for next week’s feature: “Why I Stopped Stealing Cars” in which another criminal tries to justify his grand theft while painting a heroic picture of himself for not doing it anymore.
    We’re sure you’ll enjoy his wonderful sense of entitlement and his off handed bragging about his new car.

  • Andrew Bentley

    *Deletes iTunes Library* …3…2…1… S**T! WAIT! MUSIC, COME BACK! I DIDN’T REALLY MEAN IT. It’s just like breaking up with that super hott chick that bugs you because she’s not so bright, later you regret it because you realize the pros of having her outweighed the cons of not having her. Humans, and their rash decisions… Anyway, good luck forever-paying for monthly access to music that cannot be accessed after you stop paying. Bruce Willis was going to fight for your rights to keep that music, but now, you just cannot be helped. *flies away*

  • Andrew Bentley

    If the music industry was operated like this comic depicts, then I would buy more music.

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/music_industry

    But until then, its obvious that human evolution has been build upon “get it the fastest, easiest, cheapest way you can” and for that reason piracy has existed since the dawn of time. Is it ethical? Not very much. However, those successful artists who deserve to get paid, DO get paid. Artists that aren’t good, wither away. Its natural selection, and piracy is one of those cold, cruel systems nature includes for selecting the fittest in the music/movie/etc industry. An album shouldn’t be bought because the cover looks awesome, single songs should be bought because they give you awesome chills.

    If I really like an artist, I buy the songs I ended up liking. But I shouldn’t be expected to listen to just a 30sec clip and then pay $1+ for the song, when it might be a flop after all. I’ll just download it free first, and if it blows my socks off or makes my hair stand up, then I’ll buy it. I have this same beef with the Apple App Store, you cant try the app first, you have to buy it, and no refunds. Most apps are crap, and you waste a lot of money.

    This Spotify music-business model is still not very good. You have to keep paying for it to have access, you cannot play music without the internet, you cannot locally rate your music, organize it, keep track of your last played date (all like you can do in iTunes). When you stop paying, you stop playing. That just seems unfair and unattractive to me, as an audiophile.

    Its no wonder that piracy still exists. Its very chivalrous of you to want to get rid of all your pirated music, but the tone in your article suggests you expect everyone to. That would be like expecting mother nature to end all cancer. Sorry, its cruel, but that’s part of nature. Its there to weed out the weak from the strong. And so is piracy.

    I can speak from experience by the way. My first cousin is a multi-platinum record music artist who is very well off for himself. I’ve asked all my friends about him, they’ve all pirated his music. I’ve asked him if piracy hurts him, he said it puts a dent in his potential income, but it hasn’t stopped him from owning 2 homes, 4 cars, and a fully paid off college tuition for his 3 kids. Seriously, the really good artists will survive, no matter piracy or not.

    Think about that next time you start feeling guilty for downloading music. Do what you want to do, I say. Piracy is a risk, but so is driving your car every day.

  • jwag82

    It’s gotten to what we Digital Natives said from the beginning: Give us a decent way to buy music legally and we’ll do!
    At the turn of the millenium, an MP3 file was thought to be evil in itself and if you bought a CD they made extra sure you could not in any way use it on a computer.

    Nowadays, I don’t pirate music, simply because it’s too hard now and not worth saving a few bucks. If I like a song, I can download it instantly to my smartphone in perfect quality. No sharing, no computer booting, no sorting through various remixes and quality levels. No hassle.

    In my / our youth, the hassle-free way was pirating. Now it’s buying legally. But also it gives a good conscience. I don’t know however, if I’m ready to delete all illegal stuff just yet. At least you’ve given me something to think about…

  • Lawrence English

    You made a great point. Quality over quantity. Don’t collect anything just because you can. We’ve become hoarders, believing that quantity has value.

  • Len Williams

    There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs when you get “something for nothing” without paying for it or doing anything to deserve it. You never really feel like it’s yours. A good example of this is a kid with a bicycle: Make him/her work for it doing chores and the kid will treasure that bike for years. However, if you simply give the kid a bike, especially when they’ve been bad and don’t contribute anything to the family, the bike will quickly become damaged, lost or wrecked, because the kid just can’t “own” it. Ill-gotten gains are never appreciated, even in the most hardened of criminals. Strangely enough, personal self-worth seems to be inextricably tied to how much you give back to your friends, family and community. It seems like we humans are basically good, which is a refreshing thought.

  • technochick

    So you’re an above the line member of the production crews of these shows, and you get royalties based on sales? Or are you just someone relatively low and they pay you for the day/week/whatever time you spend on the show and then you’re done?

    not that it is really your business. But I am both. I am paid a decent, but not outlandish wage (basically union min) for my actual work for a company that does Above the Line for movies and shows. The company itself gets points off the profits for most movies and bonuses if shows get a ratings bump and the owners share since they didn’t do all the work themselves.

  • planetawesum

    “We shouldn’t have to pay to live on our planet we were born on.”

    Yes we’ve been adjusted (more like bludgeoned), to slaving away to barely survive on our planet. And yes we hoard because of contrived lack in a “fake” economy. As we grow up out of this current backwards culture, quality will become the norm (over quantity). Yes there will be much more diversity in terms of people and the music they make. People will actually have time to make it, and more time to enjoy it. As we won’t be wasting our lives working boring jobs we hate, producing quick cheap products for others to buy that nobody really needs.

    “Consumerism” won’t be the end all. For this will be seen as wasteful, immature, and especially.. destructive. People will be respected for creating quality for all and sharing it freely. Not in squeezing out forced quantity, like a machine. Feeding only superficial addictions. Encouraging denial. Treating the symptoms and not the cause.

    So yes, using our ever devalued currency to buy things we don’t have to is fairly irresponsible, in every twisted branch it may run to. Only traumatized individuals would agree to a plot such as paying for things your “friends” create.

    “Hi would you like to come over for dinner? Ok, well that will be $14.99, plus tax, and tip”. This mindset was created by thieves, for thieves. Not a place for that nonsense in a sustainable, truly livable culture.

    All the valuable things in our lives, that we actually use, were done by people that whole heartedly enjoyed doing them (better worded “being” them). ..Not just to pay the rent, which just wastes everyones precious time energy. ..Intentions…

    We haven’t quite learned real value and efficiency just yet. Still stuck in the dark ages, blinded by the threats of thugs. Most living lives of quiet desperation.

    Most “music” regurgitated today is psychological warfare. Instigated to keep us at our boring jobs, mindlessly obeying bullies. Blaming ourselves. In Apathy. Stagnant. Trusting experts. It keeps us forever chasing an endless, unattainable road to nowhere, fast. It’s piling up on our ever growing hard drives. Disposable like our lives. The medium this media is manifested on is irrelevant. What we are all really looking for in it is truth that sets us free.

    When the music of the people change, the people change.

  • planetawesum

    all money is debt. nobody gets “paid” their worth in anything. since it’s impossible when anyone “loses”. poor in spirit, we all are. which is why we need to drop all of this. it’s so boring, and obvious. the people stealing are the people who created this culture of death. we are just claiming it back. by not participating as much as possible. instead investing in what works. quality of life for all doesn’t “cost” anything. it’s a way of being. people need just change their perspective. stop playing their games. it’s rigged and always has been. bread trail to nowhere. we have enough knowhow to make our own music. and the technology to do it. all convenient, easy, and free now that you have a computer. so get started. google “logic studio” for mac, “cubase” for windows, or “ableton live” for both. you don’t need anything else but an open mind, patience, and youtube. for free music go to http://archive.org , the free world internet library. no excuses. after you finish making things, post them back free on the archive.org for everyone else to enjoy, or hate. either way, you are now part of the creative collective. instead of a beggar, vicarious, fumbling for scraps from a culture that forgot how to dream.

  • Mindy Summers

    Some pretentious fucker. Oh yeah, he’s got conscience right? I mean, gimme a break already! If he really had any conscience then he would know that ‘sharing is caring’ – in fact, the most conscientious thing he could have done was to upload his 99 GB of music on TPB for the poor people out there who may not have the means to buy them all, rather than deleting them. I am pretty sure he suffers from histrionics disorder, he is doing all these to gain your attention, which he needs quite badly.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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