Sean is 22 years old. He loves Linkin Park. Just the other day, listening to the radio on his way to work, he heard that Linkin Park had a new album he wasn't aware of. He was thinking about this piece of news all day and was distracted from the very work he was supposed to do.
When he got home, the first thing he did was go to Youtube and try to find the album. Maybe it's because he loves Linkin Park, he instantly fell in love with it. He watched videos after videos of his favorite artists and decide that "Burn it down" was the best song.
Youtube is a blessing. It's like a radio station where you can chose the songs you want to play, and you can play it over and over until you get tired of it.
Sean owns a smart phone. It is the device he uses as his music player. Any new song he discovers goes straight into his phone. But he cannot listen to the song from Youtube on his phone. Well he can, but being a video on Youtube, it would drain all his battery very quickly. And it's also a waste of bandwidth because he won't be watching the video, he just listens to the song.
So he decided to go to Youtube-to-mp3.org and save the song as an MP3 that he can play on his phone. It is a very simple process. Copy and paste the youtube URL and press download. That's it, he can now listen to the song anytime he wants. He can loop the song until he gets tired of it. But Sean is a huge Linkin Park fan, so he will never tire of it.
Sean is a huge Linkin Park fan. He tells of the story of the first time he saw the music video "One step closer" on MTV. On this day he fell in love with them. But in those days, the only way a kid could to get the song, was to wait for it to play on MTV or VH1, or nag his parents to buy the album on cassette tape or if the parents had the means, Compact disc.
Sean still has posters of Linkin Park in his bedroom. He owns all their albums, he has DVDs of their concerts. On his laptop, stickers of Linkin Park hide the brand name of the manufacturer. Talking to Sean about music ultimately leads back to Linkin Park.
But something we should not forget is that Sean did not purchase "Burn it down". He didn't download it from amazon, from itunes, he did not buy a CD, or a record album. Nothing. He went to Youtube, where he could listen to the song for free and simply made a copy because it was convenient.
If I wasn't here talking about it, no one would notice it. This is not something new. In those days where we would have to wait for our song would play in our favorite music channels, we also didn't have to patience to wait for it to play. We used to record it while it was playing on TV or on the radio so we can replay it at our convenience.
What Sean did was the same. It was convenient. Some call it stealing from the poor artist who put blood sweat and tears to come up with something worth stealing. Some say the artist is rich and downloading the song doesn't make a difference. Some say the song sucks anyway so it's not worth the money. Some say the record company is evil. Some will fine you $250,000 for downloading the song and possibly threaten you with jail time.
A lot of things will be said, but remember that if Sean simply played the song from YouTube, nothing will be said.
Now let's look at it from the artist perspective. I've had the chance to know many musicians. Some are successful, other are barely making ends meet. But both would kill to have an audience.
I go to Promenade in Santa Monica during the weekend. There, you find all kind of musicians fighting to have an audience. Some of them made CDs of their music and sell them for up to twenty dollars. Others give it away for free. But those I ever bought from had a sign that was very interesting:
If you like my music, grab a CD. If you really like it, grab a CD and leave $10.
Does this work? You might say that most people will take the a CD for free. I'm sure that people do take it for free. But that is the best marketing for the long term. By taking a CD for free or paying, you are giving the artist the permission to get in your car and sing for you, follow you home and sing at your dinner table, sing for you while you are jogging. You are giving this artist the permission to sing for your friends when they ride in your car or hangout in your dinning room.
Do you see the value in that?
Now let me tell you what Linkin Park did with Sean. They gave him permission to make anyone that rides in his car listen to them. They told him it's ok to tell his friends about them. Then they said, "listen we will be playing in Los Angeles 2 months from now. We expect you to be there because we will be playing your favorite song".
Guess what? Sean will go.
So this is what happened when Sean downloaded a song from the internet.
When a song is downloaded illegally from the internet, guess what happens? Someone listens to it. That's a one on one session the artist has with a fan. It's a chance for this artist to market herself. It's a chance for the listener to tell others about this artist.
Sure the listener didn't pay for it, but guess what, you didn't pay for the song playing on YouTube or the radio either. When you buy a song you don't like, you make a big fuss buy trying to get your money back, but you can't. When you download a song you don't like, you delete it.
When you buy a song you like, you don't go and tell people how you bought it, you tell them how much you like it. When you download a song you like, you don't tell people where you got it from, you tell them how much you love the song. Either way, you are promoting the song.
Great artists make something worth stealing.
And you are merely spreading a piece of art.