Students agree: music industry in need of change

Alex Schaaf

In last week’s article, I examined how bands such as Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are changing the face of the music industry by dropping their labels and offering their music for free, and why this change was well overdue.This week I’d like to take a look at the results of a survey I took of many Lawrence students. The answers were given on the promise of anonymity, so the results hopefully are as close to the truth as possible.

I asked several questions in the survey, but they mostly got to the issue of whether or not Lawrence students downloaded music illegally.

When asked how often they purchased physical CDs, 67 percent of the students said that they did so “sometimes,” as opposed to the extremes of “never” or “often.”

When asked how often they downloaded music from legal sources, such as iTunes, 61 percent said they did so “sometimes,” again.

Finally, when asked about the amount of illegal downloading, whether it be from Limewire or torrents or something else, 42 percent of the students said that they get their music for free “sometimes.”

Another 32 percent said they “never” downloaded illegally, while a quarter of the students said they “often” downloaded in this way.

According to the survey taken, only a third of the Lawrence students claim to have a music collection that is over 50 percent illegally obtained files. The rest said that most of their library was “legal.”

I then surveyed students from other schools in Wisconsin, most of them coming from UW-Madison, UW-La Crosse and other such state schools; 64 percent of them said that they purchased actual CDs “sometimes.”

When asked about how often they used legal downloading sources such as iTunes, they offered up a resounding “pfft,” as 72 percent of the students said that they had “never” downloaded in a legal way.

The big difference between us and them came when I asked them about their illegal downloading habits.

A full 52 percent of these students said that they “often” downloaded illegally, and most of these answers were in the “illegal downloading is the only way I get music” vein.
In fact, 64 percent of the students said that their music library was almost all illegal.

So why the difference? Why do Lawrence students appear to be more law-abiding than their peers in the UW system?

Besides the obvious fact that we are far superior to state school students, the answer is not clear.

Maybe we have better morals. Maybe we are simply less truthful. Or maybe we have just realized that it is not worth relying on our dreadfully slow Internet connections to fill our music libraries.

But the fact remains that large percentages of both parties said they did not have the money to purchase all of their music legally, no matter how much they wanted to.

Music downloading hit the news again these past few days, with a shutdown of a major torrent site called OiNK. Another popular site for viewing movies and television shows, TV Links, was also shut down in the past week.

All of this does not bode well for our immoral state school friends, but maybe this news will put even more pressure on the music industry to change the way they are doing things. We should not be paying $15 per album, or be forced to buy MP3s online that are only compatible with a certain kind of player.

Music needs to be made more available to the general public. Music is an art. That does not mean that it should be free to the public, since musicians would never get their music to our ears without some cash in their hands to produce the albums.

However, we should not be charged such a high price, and then sued for exorbitant amounts of money when we try and obtain music through other channels.

The simple fact remains that downloading music illegally is, well, illegal. Doing so is breaking the law. This article is not endorsing illegal activities, rather, it is endorsing a change in the laws themselves.

At the very least, the recording industry should not be suing people for $225,000 for bypassing their archaic business model.