Used CDs and MP3s

So a random question that just came to my head - is it more ethical to buy used CDs or to download songs for free off the Internet? I used to be Limewire's biggest fan, until I switched to Ares, which is so much better for international music, and then stopped downloading from P2P altogether. I did it for a number of reasons (finding free songs on blogs and Mediafire, not wanting to go to jail) but mostly because a number of people guilt-tripped me into buying songs legally. One of them had a dad who was an intellectual copyright lawyer, and so he basically made a living off of what Limewire threatened to destroy. Another talked about how the artists work so hard and don't get paid all that much, why steal their music, which is effectually what I was doing (in their opinion).

Now, the basic argument was that artists don't get paid when people download music for free, thus it is stealing and it is morally wrong. But, as I began to spend money on iTunes, I realized that for my musical appetite, it was just way too expensive. I have an iTunes store wishlist worth $80, and I add songs to it every week, but I can only chip away at it slowly by buying a $15 gift card every few months. I feel BAD for spending so much money on music - computer files that are essentially a bunch of 1s and 0s. I know that value is not intrinsic in the file itself, but rather the information it holds, but still - when you think about it like that, you could feed a child with that kind of money.

So to avoid the pain of spending more money than I had, I moved to used CDs instead. Which most people seem to be okay with, but I'm not quite. It carries the same problems that downloading for free has: you get the music, but the artists don't get paid for your purchase, only the initial one. You deprive them of income they should have earned. Is there a way for you NOT to feel guilty about any of these things? The way people carry on about it, you CAN'T not feel guilty for wanting cheaper music, and finding ways to get it - either way it's illegal and immoral.

This annoys me. First of all, I hate people making me feel guilty - I have a conscience and it works well enough without you messing with it. Secondly, why is downloading an MP3 somehow worse than recording a tape or burning someone else's CD? I agree that the Internet provides so many more people access to the music and causes much more monetary loss, but it seems wrong to me that one is less moral than another, even though the exact same sin is being committed. Thirdly, I like the idea of used CDs, but who benefits? The artist? The resellers? The buyers? The store owners? Is the money going to whom it should? Is it ever possible that people will be paid in full for their hard work? And if it's not, should I, a consumer, feel guilty about that? Should I change my behavior to benefit the artist, despite the fact that it won't make a difference, and could have a negative impact on myself (i.e. I'll be broke and I'll feel guilty for indulging)?

*sigh. I understand that artists work hard. But music is expensive. I'd love to support all my favorite artists, and buy their albums, but frankly I can't afford it, and all of my favorite bands are international anyway, making it harder and more expensive to buy their music. When I start earning a decent income, I will buy music. But until then, and until the digital music stores start selling more international music, I will have to refrain from paying 99c a song. Digital music is never going to get cheaper, so I'll simply buy used. It doesn't help the artists, but it'll help the small record store in danger of closing, and that person saving for a car. Whatever.

Feel free to weigh in - I'm a little frustrated by this issue and needed to get that off my chest. I consider myself a moral person, so, again, I hate it when people guilt-trip me. It's manipulative. I was also thinking of maybe starting a used CD business, so I'll need to get over this issue if I decide to go through with it.

P.S. Reading over this it gets very philosophical at points. Sorry about that. Fun posts soon.


  1. wondering if passing on CD to friends counts too :)

  2. Really Random NameMarch 26, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    I'm pretty sure labels leak songs to blogs these days.

  3. Actually, used CDs are morally acceptable because the previous owner has paid for its full value. Have you tried music swap? Find another itunes user and swap music. They buy some, you buy some, export to CD and send to each other.

  4. Very interesting post... If free downloads are acts of theft, then I must be a certified armed robber by now. I can't count the number of songs I have- going over a thousand and a bit after much deleting- yet I probably only paid for ten (had to get Da Grin's album, lol). You are right, though. Yes, I feel bad because it is stealing someone's intellectual property... but music is expensive!

    It's the same with movies as well... Cinemas are daylight robbers! There's only so much you can do before yielding to the temptation of the internet...

    I'm trying to cut down on the stealing sha. Stopped downloading songs altogether. I only listen to stuff off music websites and all that... Trying to start actively purchasing music now... LOL... I sound like an addict gradually coming out of withdrawal... SMH.

  5. Good question ! As for me I do download music without paying but then if I really like this album I will just buy the CD (and yeah I still like buying physical CDs). I don't think it's a bad thing doing it this way... Moreover, music is indeed pricy and I don't think that one artist can expect being rich just selling his CDs, live performances are better to earn money and imo it legitimates the artist's talent. (personally I wouldn't like to buy the album of an artist who can't perform and music MUST BE performed to be "alive")
    It reminds me an article I read, the main idea was that it's the mediocrity which is killing the music industry. I think it's partly true...


Post a Comment

Popular Posts