Why Paying For Music Doesn’t Make You A Better Fan


The funniest thing I’ve seen in recent years with the growing availability of free music is fans claiming that they are somehow better fans of an artist because they refuse to dabble in leaked music or “pirating”.  What’s funnier than that even is people who will get the illegal download and then still go buy the album they already have.  I understand people think they’re being helpful and supporting the artist and all, but it just makes no real sense to pay for something you already have when it comes down to brass tacks.

The artists themselves generally aren’t concerned.  Take it from Kid Cudi regarding his recent album leak:



Any artist worth his salt knows that (a) there’s no way to stop an album from leaking and that (b) there are still many people, at a certain level of fame, who will still buy the album…a hard copy even.  Hell, it’s the theory of many that artists often play a hand in leaking their own material simply to create a buzz.

Those tech-savvy enough to track down leaks are probably the best word of mouth an artist can have.  Someone who illegally downloads an album and talks it up online to thousands of followers and/or readers, specifically before the album’s official release date, are doing a hundred times more for an artist than the guy who buys the album at Best Buy and sits in his car listening to it alone and maybe tells his co-worker about it.  Even with press copies and advances I’ve received and written about, I’ve had many readers say they’ve decided to buy it based on my evaluation.  Even if you don’t have a blog anyone reads, your evaluation via social networks could really sway people’s opinion on a high level, making the tech-savvy an ace in the hole for artists where many would falsely consider them an Achilles’ heel.

People aren’t as tech-savvy as you may think.  I used to work in technical support and still do in a capacity.  I’m not a whiz kid when it comes to computers, but I’m still forever amazed that people in 2013 are still using AOL or Internet Explorer or…dial-up…oh yes, dial-up.  These people have no idea what a torrent is and barely know that artists release free music online from time to time that you can’t find in stores.  These people are still buying hard copies of CDs in the case because they feel like the sound quality is better…as if they were copping vinyl.  And I don’t mean to come off as a technology snob; I’m just trying to prove the point that there are those who still need to purchase physical copies of music and these people will forever pay for records in the store.

No money like show money.  True artists recognize the value (artistic and monetary) in performing for their audience.  You can’t download an experience and I’d be more enthused about paying for an artist’s live show than paying for something I can get for free and well before the label is expecting that I am supposed to have it.  The best effect piracy had on the music industry is forcing artists to improve their live shows.  For example, I saw Action Bronson live here in DC for the price of $15 and the show was so good I felt compelled to go home and purchase all of his old albums because I felt the show was worth more than that by the time it was over.

Doesn’t matter how you hear the music ultimately.  I’ve actually had someone try to tell me that my opinion on music isn’t valid if I haven’t paid for every single album I own, which is absurd.  I might not be as concerned about the artist’s coffers as you apparently are, but that has nothing to do with my ability to properly evaluate the material.  I might not have the disposable “money to burn” income to spend money on things I can usually get for free, but that doesn’t have anything to do with my ability to listen to the music regardless of proof of purchase and be able to distinguish trash from treasure.  

People are going to find a way to be snobs at the end of the day, but I respect the snob who’s about music quality as opposed to those concerning themselves with who paid for the music and who didn’t.  Grow up.  Support doesn’t come from CD sales alone and if you understand the value of art over business, you would understand how piracy, even though it may be unfair, is driving hip-hop culture at the moment and forcing there to be a distinction between those just out for money and those who really want to garner a following and respect off of hard work.

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  1. Love the article, but respectfully disagree. Though many will ultimately buy a record, those who get it for free are no longer buying them. This is a direct hit artists and record companies (as shady as they are) that put out music in the first place. Many of the true hip hop artists that you often glorify are (relatively) broke for the amount of effort they put in. This is directly because they appeal to young men between the ages of 15-35 which also is the same group that pirates the most music.

    I am no saint, nor am I rich, but I try to stick to authorized mixtapes and Spotify. Okay, let me get off of my high-horse, I only pay for music because i have to maintain a squeaky clean record for work. Still, when I -occaisionally- used to download, I did understand that I am stealing the music and hurting the artist for my own selfish reasons which is slowly meeting to the demise of the artist. But hey, I would sneak into a show if I could too…meh

  2. OK, so people who can get it free are no longer buying them…if that’s the reality, do we accept that and evolve to meet the current climate or whine about it? The article wasn’t saying what was right or wrong, just saying that how you get the music has no bearing on your opinion of it or ability to evaluate it. And to your point, honestly, the record labels are keeping artists just as broke by charging them out the wazoo for marketing and whatever else. As you can see, trash rappers are raking in the highest sales because they cater to people without taste and it’s really that simple. There’s a shift going on and artists who want to appeal to a listener with a more refined taste just have to work harder for success…but it’s always been that way even before Napster. Evolve or you’re dead in the water as an artist.

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