The Impact of Illegal Music Downloading on the Music Industry and Culture


According to the NPD, a global market research and analysis company, only 37 percent of music acquired by U.S consumers in recent years was paid for.  This trend has increased consistently as digital revenues from music have gone up 1,000 percent since 2004. Illegally downloaded Torrents now claim 31 percent of media on the Internet while ITunes is only 3.1 percent. This has, in turn, led to a huge decrease in the overall worth of the music industry. To be precise the overall music sales have dropped from about 14.6 billion dollars to 7.7 billion since Napster, the first illegal music site, was created in 1999. This 47 percent decrease in profit has in turn led to huge lay offs in an already struggling economy.  The number of existing music groups has decreased by 10,000 in the past 15 years because they were not able to make enough financial gains off of their sales to make a living.  It isn’t the well-known popular artists who suffer or the millionaire record label owners, it’s the lower tier workers and small town start-up artists who this affects.


The awareness on illegal music is one huge misconception especially in recent generations. Many individuals aren’t aware that it is illegal, as it has become so easy and widely accepted in our society. Acts like SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) seek to monitor websites more closely and could in turn make individuals more aware of what is and isn’t illegal. The government cannot shut down websites like Pirate Bay which are run outside of the US and SOPA would allow the US to filter it off of the internet in the US. The outcry from the population who don’t want the government to have that power has been so strong that it was not passed this January. There are many downsides to almost any of the proposed acts, most relating to privacy laws. The more aware of the negative affects to the industry, the more likely the population will be to make a conscious effort to avoid it.


For some artists, peer to peer file sharing is their chance at the big time. Programs like Garage Band allow people who can’t yet afford heavy recording equipment to create music of their own. As digital revenues exponentially increase, the online world is a way for the start up artist to get their name out there for the first time. As time increases more unsigned artists make there way into the mainstream simple by online file-sharing. Just as some unsigned artists may be hurt by monthly revenue, others are discovered for the first time through the same means.

How should the music industry solve this huge problem which could potentially lead to its downfall as a whole? The actual risk of being detained is slim, however, the FBI states a maximum fee of 80,000 dollars per illegally downloaded song and up to five years in prison. That being said, in the sample years of 2004-2006 there were only 139 documented arrests for this offense. In earlier years, the Industry strived to instill fear into the population. Specific individuals who were strikingly average were charged with hundreds of thousands of dollars for downloading as few as 20 songs. These people were made examples of in order to slow a problem that has only continued to increase. Several high authorities in the music industry think the technique of punishing the target market consumer into buying the product is not an effective way of solving this issue. As time passes, big name CEO’s of large peer to peer file-sharing sites are being arrested. Acts to increase surveillance on illegal content and filter out foreign file-sharing markets have continued to appear in the political scene as well. This problem is still young and it will be interesting to see to what measures will be taken to tame this increasing phenomena.



This blunt but accurate public service announcement from Eminem gives a realistic look into his thoughts on the topic. The point of view from a popular artist is just another negative to piracy and definitely helps one understand how this can make even the wealthiest of artists struggle.


This final podcast was an actual live interview with no rehearsed answers. Although the student was able to get one answer partially correct, he speaks for many when he shows that he is highly uninformed on piracy. As a final note, it is now the listeners job to inform others on how this detrimental habit is destroying the music industry, before it is too late.


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