P2P Is Not Evil

My husband and I have recently downloaded several forthcoming albums by our favorite artists. We don’t feel bad about it.

Sure, we’ve had the new Beck album for months. We had the Nine Inch Nails weeks before its release. We just downloaded the new Coldplay and Clutch albums. (OK, mainly this is all my husband’s intarweb sleuthing, but I enjoy the fruits of his labor.) The thing is—and here’s the monkey-wrench in the RIAA’s sales-slump complaints, IMO—we still plan to buy the albums.

Music critic Sasha Frere-Jones makes a point about this in her blog, but from another perspective—from the people who actually get (or don’t get) the advance copies from the record labels:

50 Cent was all over the P2P networks for weeks before The Massacre dropped and he’s already done five million. Coldplay will move their four million with or without P2P. Why? Because people want the record. The marginal loss of sales to downloading?already disproven by one study?would not even kick in for in-demand artists, because the fans and curious tourists will want the CD no matter what’s on the web (sometimes because the web is simply not their thing [see: age curve]). With another kind of album—those that nobody wants or knows they want yet—the “harm” of downloading is equally irrelevant, though for a different reason: any barriers to a less-desired album’s dissemination only further dissolves an already shallow bond between the artist and their potential audience.

Take, for example, Keane. I was bored with my musical selections, so I checked out my Audioscrobbler neighbors. There I found Keane. WTF, I figured, and fired up Soulseek to download their album.

I loved it. I ate it up. I bought the album from BMG, and I bought two singles (with non-album tracks!) off of Amazon.

What if I hadn’t downloaded the album? I don’t listen to mainstream radio anymore. Hell, I don’t even listen to internet radio. I would have had absolutely no exposure to Keane. P2P networking just made Keane and Interscope Records another three sales.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Oh, and these bands who are including DVDs along with their audio CDs for a similar price? You guys have the right idea. We consumers like extra goodies. Take a tip from the Japanese, who get jacked on their domestic CDs so bad that it would be cheaper for them to buy imports. How do you get people to buy your overpriced product? Throw in goodies. CD-Extra content. DVDs. Plushies. Pencil boards (OK, that wouldn’t work so much in the States). Ultra-cool packaging. Display value.

With popular music being the atrocious pile of shit that it is these days, of course we’re going to want to sit down with the music and decide whether or not we want to support the artist by actually purchasing their album. If we like it, and especially if you throw in stuff we can’t download off of teh intarweb (yet), we will be more than happy to give you our money.