Illegal Downloading: The Side You Don’t See

by Jason Schwartz

In today’s world, prices on everything are getting higher, and for small time, and even big time
bands, money is becoming a huge issue, even in some cases resulting in bands breaking up.

That seemed to be exactly the case for Indiana based band Haste The Day, who recently after a farewell tour this past winter, called it quits due to financial reasons. The band, in an interview with Alternative Press Magazine began to describe their financial struggles through their early years as band “We used to take band money and buy peanut butter and jelly. We survived for a long time on Ramen noodles. You buy a big thing of Ramen, go into a gas station, use hot water from their coffee maker and put it in a Styrofoam cup. Sometimes they charge you 89 cents for the cup. That was a big deal back then, so you tried not to get charged 89 cents or you bring your own cup. It’s hard to get paid when no one comes to your shows when you’re a band starting out. But we got lucky and got support later.”

While musicians are making their living and putting in hours of hard work and dedication to produce a record for fans to enjoy, fans stab them in the back by illegally downloading their music.
While personally speaking to bassist James Scuderi of New Hampshire based band Armor For The Broken after purchasing their record at a show, he showed me his gratitude by saying “Thank you so much for buying our record, I’m glad to see there are still some real people out there buying records. You don’t know how much it means to us, every penny we make goes straight into our gas tank. We just wanna make it to our next show, that’s all we want”.

Illegal music downloading is growing more and more, with more access to the internet and different websites hosting illegal downloads. This, for a majority of people in the music scene is becoming a bigger problem day after day. To quote Oh, Sleeper guitarist Shane Blay from a Facebook blog this past February “STOP STEALING OUR CDs PLEASE.WE DON’T MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU BUY IT FROM STORES, COME TO SHOWS.WE DON’T MAKE MONEY FROM LABELS.BUY MERCH FROM US AT SHOWS IF YOU LIKE WHAT WERE DOING.”

After doing some research, I came to find an ugly truth. When you purchase a record from Best Buy, or any big retail store, the artist, no matter who it is will very rarely see even a penny of the money. In most cases, let’s say you buy an album for $10, the store will keep half & the other half will go to the label. Depending on the deal the label has worked out with the artist, they will either see not a penny, or less than half of what you paid for it. Keep this in mind next time you attend a concert and walk right past a bands merchandise table.
Now, for me personally, I am guilty of illegal downloading, but I always make it a point to buy an album (even if it’s already on my iPod) or a shirt from a band, because I know exactly where that money is going, and I know they need the money more than I do.

One experience that almost brought me to tears was when I attended a show for the band A Bullet For Pretty Boy, who recently while on their last tour, had $7000 of equipment stolen out of their van. What brought me to tears was that on my out of the venue, their drummer was standing with a bland look on his face holding a tip jar begging fans for money. I felt olbigated to give them whatever I could spare.

Now, the reason I feel this is such a large issue is because I know, for me just being in a small time local band trying to make it big time, even for us money is an issue. To see successful bands struggling is something that shouldn’t be happening. Illegal downloading, and buying from big retail stores is hurting the hard working artists. Support bands by going to shows, and buying directly from them. These guys need money more than the average working person. Not only do they work harder than most people, but they’re doing what they love, and it’s a shame to see such talent go to waste sometimes just due to financial reasons.

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