Apps like Spotify, Pandora, and Google Music are making pirating music seem pointless.
My generation grew up listening to music on the radio and on cassette tape. To capture a song from the radio to cassette, we would hit record on our tape decks hoping we caught the song right at the beginning. Some kids had a dual cassette tape recorder. We used these to make our own mixtapes. The time and effort that went into making a mixtape made them so much more tangible. You had to put in work to get a good result. Then the internet happened. Anything that could be translated into a digital file was available to be shared across the world.
Napster was the first culprit of our pirating life. Although there were already networks that facilitated the distribution of files across the Internet, such as IRC, Hotline, and USENET, Napster specialized exclusively in music in the form of MP3 files and presented a user-friendly interface. At its peak there were 25 million users and 80 million songs, and the system never once crashed.
Napster made it relatively easy for music enthusiasts to download copies of songs that were otherwise difficult to obtain, like older songs, unreleased recordings, and songs from concert bootleg recordings. Some users felt justified in downloading digital copies of recordings they had already purchased in other formats, like LP and cassette tape, before the compact disc emerged as the dominant format for music recordings.
These reasons aside, many other users simply enjoyed trading and downloading music for free. They created a username and password and were able to make their own compilation albums on recordable CDs, without paying any royalties to the artist/composer or the estate of the artist/composer. High-speed networks in college dormitories became overloaded. Many colleges blocked its use for this reason, even before concerns about liability for facilitating copyright violations on campus.
After Napster was shut down, Kazaa and a few others picked up the traffic. With Kazaa and the increasing amount of internet speeds at the time, video files were shared more frequently. Songs were downloaded faster than you could listen to them.
Skip ahead a few years, bandwidth increases, the quality of media files increase and our thirst to have a vast music library increases. We are introduced to BitTorrent and use clients like Vuze and µTorrent. We can now download whole albums or complete recorded history of our favorite musicians. The whole while musicians are not seeing any profit from their work. The music recording industry has been compromised. The RIAA and the MPAA continue to fight against copyright infringement and pirating.
So what do you do? You’re an upright citizen of the world. You don’t want to steal anything. But it is so easy to just find anything online and take it for yourself. Well now we have options that make it foolish to pirate anymore. Pandora, Spotify, Rdio, Google Music and others have made it possible to listen and discover music without having to pay for it. We still use the internet to get the files, but now they are being streamed. You can either pay for monthly access or you can subject yourself to a few commercials. They need to pay the bills somehow. Who wants all these files anyway? Today it’s not about carrying around your music collection on your 80GB iPod, it’s about having any song at your fingertips at any moment. Wireless internet connected devices can now stream high quality music files over the air. We are living in the future. And we don’t have to be pirates anymore.