What do you think of dowloading?

By Christian Santiago, 17, University HS
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Christian used to download music illegally but now he likes supporting artists by buying their music.

In April I was at a music festival at USC. My friends and I were really hyped up about the L.A. indie band Abe Vigoda. As we were waiting for their set to begin, I asked my friends if they had bought any of Abe Vigoda’s albums. All three of them said no, that they download music off a file-sharing site. My friend Byanca said, “I don’t want to waste my money on music.” I was surprised that they hadn’t paid for Abe Vigoda’s music because they’re big fans. Carla was even wearing an Abe Vigoda shirt. If you’re a fan of an artist, you should support them by buying their music.

Teens download illegally because it’s easy and free. They don’t think it’s a big deal because all their friends do it. I used to download music illegally too, but I’ve realized that it’s wrong. People don’t think about it, but you’re actually stealing when you download illegally. It would be as if you ran into a store and stole a bunch of albums. I think everyone should purchase their music legally. When you download illegally, you’re being selfish and you’re hurting the artist.

I didn’t have money for everything I wanted

When I was in 10th grade I started downloading music illegally because I didn’t feel like paying for it anymore. There were other things I wanted to buy instead, like video games.

The first album I downloaded was by the pop singer Santigold. After that I went on a downloading spree. Over the next year I downloaded about 2,000 songs. I wasn’t worried about getting sued because I didn’t hear any recent stories on the news about record companies filing lawsuits. When a new album came out, I would go online and download it for free. If I liked it I kept it, if I didn’t I would just delete it. Eventually, all of the music I downloaded illegally filled up my music library.

In 11th grade, I started listening to indie artists that I saw on iTunes like Local Natives, Joanna Newsom and Bat for Lashes. They were a lot different from the music I had been listening to. Most indie artists write their own lyrics so their songs are more personal.

I wanted to learn more about the artists and find out what they were singing about so I looked for artist interviews on YouTube. I watched an interview with Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes talking about her new album. At the end she turned to the camera and said, “Buy your music.” It was like she directed it at me, and I felt bad. I watched more interviews and a lot of other artists said the same thing.

I started buying albums by indie artists at Amoeba Music, an independent record store in Hollywood, or buying their music on iTunes. It was hard at first because I had to save more money. But I’d think to myself, “If there’s something that I really like, then I should pay for it.” I cut back on other things that I was spending money on, like movies and acrylic paints, so I could buy music. I save the money my parents give me for food and when I go out, and I use it to buy music. I was able to buy about one album a week.

Artists have to get paid somehow

My younger brother thinks that music is expensive and CDs aren’t worth buying. He says “That’s half a Diamond shirt right there.” He thinks clothing and skateboard gear are more valuable than music. I used to think that way too. I thought I didn’t have to buy music because artists were making money anyway. But I realize now that not all of the money from album sales goes to the artist. A lot goes to pay their record company for promoting the album and paying the studio for every recording session. Whatever is left over goes to the band.

Between 2004 and 2009 there were 30 billion songs downloaded illegally, according to the Record Industry Association of America. Let’s say one song costs one dollar, that’s $30 billion the industry never got. When you don’t buy your music, you’re causing people who work in the industry to lose their jobs, people who may have families. Piracy has caused more than 70,000 jobs to be lost, according to the Institute for Policy Innovation. I knew that not buying music was bad, but I didn’t think so many people would lose their jobs because of it.

There are other ways to listen to new music for free without downloading illegally. You can use legal sites like Hype Machine, SoundCloud and 8tracks that allow you to stream music on your computer. Sometimes upcoming artists on SoundCloud promote themselves by letting you download their album for free. Even some big-name artists put their music on the Internet for free. Kanye West was promoting his new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, by giving out a new song every Friday. There are a lot of ways to get new music for free without doing it illegally.

L.A. Youth’s previous coverage of downloading

Downloading dilemma. Chris, 16, thinks record companies can make money and give teens free music. WITH INTERVIEWS. (May – June 2006)

Downloading is stealing. Taking songs for free is a crime and it’s wrong, says Karen, 16. (November – December 2003)