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.