Gone are the days of kids and young adults lining up outside of their favorite electronic store or record shop to grab the newest copy of that awesome album by that one band. That pastime belongs to video games and expensive sneakers now. Gone are the days of fast-selling records and platinum plaques and the chance for a musician to make a monstrously glorious living off making art. Well, except for Taylor Swift — her latest album “1989” is the first and only platinum selling album of 2014.
Fans of T. Swizzle may be jumping for joy, but I must beg you to not be so hasty in your celebration. If it weren’t for Taylor Swift, there would be no platinum-selling album in 2014 (we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks). That’s surprising to say the least, when just a few years ago Adele went multiplatinum with her magnum opus “21.” Remember NSYNC? Yeah, their album “No Strings Attached” sold almost 10 million copies in 2000 when the record debuted. Take that, Taylor.
So what does this mean? It’s simple: people are not buying music. But why are they not buying music? This is a rhetorical question because anybody living with a computer in the 21st century knows that music is available for purchase and streaming online. Even more so, there are ways to get that music for free, and people do get their music for free, even if it’s illegally done through torrents or file-sharing websites. Nobody wants to buy music anymore, plain and simple.
This trend has been ongoing for years. Napster and iTunes arguably killed physical album sales, and the dawn of MP3s and the Internet saw a duo not matched since chocolate met peanut butter in the form of Reese’s cups. Beneath all of these chocolaty metaphors is something deeper and more profound, however.
As consumers, we must ask ourselves, what is the demand for music? The basics of business lie in supply and demand — labels and artists supply us with music for a cheap $9.99 most of the time, yet according to the lack of Recording Industry Association of America certifications (the industry that certifies albums gold, silver, platinum, etc.), people are not demanding this music, or maybe they’re just not buying it.
They’re definitely not buying it, and this trend is only perpetuated by streaming services such as Spotify and now iTunes Radio. The new logic is, “Why buy an album when I can stream the two songs I want to hear and skip the rest and pay a fraction of the cost, or maybe even nothing at all?” I’m hard-pressed to retort with a solid response. Thanks to these streaming services, there’s no need to even go out of the way and torrent the music. The ones torrenting music are those who still appreciate the art of a full album, which is something to applaud, although they may obtain the album in a problematic way.
Taylor Swift knows this and that’s why she subsequently pulled her newest album from the streaming service Spotify. Taylor Swift even wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal in which she said, “piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically.” That’s what I’m saying! She also altruistically hopes that artists “don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”
Instead of offering a solution, because after staring at my screen for minutes on end I could not think of one, I will implore you to take a second and think about one thing. You go to the mall and you make a beeline toward your favorite store; you’re so glad your store is there because they sell the coolest hats. You really want that hat, but you really don’t want to have to buy it either. So you tuck it in your jacket pocket and walk out of the store and out of the mall to show off your new hat, flaunting it like you made such an effort to own it. If this is ok, then you got me; but if you feel that that is something that should be illegal (because it is) and it is wrong, what makes downloading music any different?
I’ll tell you what makes it any different — accessibility. Yeah, if we could download hats off the Internet, everyone would be torrenting hats left and right — fedoras, fitteds, snapbacks, beanies, you name it! But we can’t, we have to physically steal them, and that’s bad (not to mention nearly impossible with cameras and whatnot). But with music, it’s so easy to download. Making music harder to download equals less people downloading it. While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act make an effort, the chances of music really becoming that hard to download are next to impossible.
That just leaves us with you. You have to be willing to buy music. You have to be willing to support your favorite artists and give them the money to make the music you want them to make. You have to spend the few extra bucks you have crumbled next to your sock drawer on that album you can’t stop listening to, or else there will be no album you can’t stop listening to. Only albums you used to not be able to stop listening to, because they came out 10 years ago when people actually bought records. You want that hat, you’re going to have to pay for it. The same goes for music.