The moral dilemma of downloading music really depends on how strongly one feels about “progress.” Some believe we should discourage technological advancement, that blogs and websites, and the Internet in general, have no right simplifying people’s lives unless doing so spells profit for major corporations.
Others might disagree, arguing that we as a nation and as a planet should continue to make progress—technologically, medically, and spiritually—and thereby enhance our quality of life. One of the implications of such progress is that we are fast approaching a point in time when record labels aren’t needed at all.In all business arenas the market should dictate its own needs. Changing times render old business models obsolete. Did horse and buggy makers bicker when Ford and Chrystler started making cars? Did candlestick factories gripe when Edison invented the light bulb? The basic business principle of “supply and demand” does not contain a built-in component whereby suppliers get to punish consumers who no longer have a demand for their product. In our capitalist society these are not new ideas; so it surprises me to hear record companies talk about innovation as if it’s against the law.
Generally, it is customary for business is to adapt to consumer needs. But the case of teenagers downloading music is a different one. Teenagers are vulnerable and easily intimidated, and they lack the financial resources to fight back against immoral lawsuits brought against them by wealthy business tycoon. For example, Robert Santangelo was not even a teenager when he allegedly downloaded music from the Internet. Eleven!! And five record companies have joined together to publicly attack the eleven-year old. Five!! Does it really take five multi-billion dollar companies to take down an 11-year-old kid who really liked music but couldn’t afford CDs? Is that ethical?
I hope record companies realize sooner than later that the service they once provided is no longer necessary. Think about it: what does a record label actually do?? In the pre-Internet days, record labels were instrumental in marketing for the artists they represented and in producing their actual CDs. Artists, in order to fulfill agreements they’d made with their labels, were often forced to churn out a minimum number of albums in a particular amount of time. The result was that consumers often got stuck with CDs that had one or two radio hits and 10 tracks worth of “filler.” This not only alienated fans who expected a higher quality but also hindered performers’ reputations. So uncomfortable about being forced to release mediocre songs, bands like Pearl Jam and the Dave Matthews Band chose instead to produce an oversupply of live and acoustic records in order to fulfill their agreements and get out of their contracts with their record companies. So from both the artist’s perspective and from that of the listener, record companies were greedy and unethical.
While some artists, such as Metallica and Dr. Dre, are outraged at their fans for “not supporting them,” most performers either have remained neutral on the topic or have openly stated that they are not offended, as did U2 lead singer Paul David Hewson (or “Bono”) who said, “I am overpaid anyway.” Besides, the men and women who actually create the music make most of their money on concerts, not on CDs sold at retail stores. It is therefore illogical to demonize kids listening to music without also calling into account the ethics of greedy record companies—middlemen who create nothing and expect to be paid in definitely for it.