The Real And ONLY Reasons Why Fans File-Share Music

Thus far, we've looked at eight reasons why fans file-share music. Let us now explore some of the more common reasons why fans file-share.

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Thus far, we've looked at eight reasons why fans file-share music.

Mainly, they're unaware of the number of legal and alternative options to consume music that are available; they want to hear music and grow to like the songs before they buy them; or they don't know the artist, either not well enough or at all, or don't trust them, due to recent line-up or sound changes. Rebuilding that trust takes time and isn't easy.

As well, fans file-share music when there's too many hoops to jump through on an artist's website or because the offer that the artist made, whether by price, package, or delivery, was terrible. Next, we looked at the role that the biases of digital technologies play into file-sharingthe different ranges of social behavior they promote in audiences.

We also tried to understand how choice overload can cause decision paralysis, leading fans to become overwhelmed. To cope, they take the path of least resistance, attempt to explore all of their options at once, and end up committing to no decision at all.

Lastly, we looked at how fans employ their own Internet law of economics when buying music and end up file-sharing it to mitigate the risk purchasing with an album they wouldn't have otherwise bought. A number of motivations were intentionally left out of this analysis. Let us now explore some of the more common reasons why fans file-share:

1. Because They Can

Why do dogs lick their butts? Because they can. Why do teens sext each other? Because they can. Why do men and women cheat on each other in a relationship? Because they can. So, why do fans file-sharing music online? Because they can. Taylor Northern went as far as writing an entire blog post to illustrate this idea.

The whole psychology of the behavior can be ignored, as this simple fact of life explains everything. It's an axiom of human conduct. This assertion, however, implies that there's no rational behind file-sharing. Since fans can just download music for free, they do. Why did they download Katy Perry's new album instead of legally downloading it off iTunes?

Because they can. They have no argument or excuse to justify why they downloaded the music. It was there. They wanted it. So they file-shared it. End of story. This is a dangerous argumentnot because there isn't truth to it. It, however, implies the reverse thought.

How do we make it so they can't file-share? After all, if they're only doing it because they can, then this is a simple fix. We can stop them.

The problem is that this notion flies in the face of everything else we know:

  • Mass behavior is hard to change.
  • Copying will only get easier.
  • Sharing is human.
  • Knowledge is a curse.
  • Unintended consequences occur.

    On a later date, I will follow up on these ideas. Suffice it to say, there's no way to make it so fans can't file-share. Trying to do so only ignores the many problems that are bigger than file-sharing music.

    2. They Don't Care

    I've been told that fans don't buy music because they don't care about paying artists. It's that simple. Technology writer Nick Bilton has argued that it's not so much that people don't care about cultural creators; it's that the web, by its very design, lacks humanization.

    People are oblivious to the fact that a human being is on the other side of the digital information that they are consuming, Bilton writes in I Live In The Future & This Is How It Works. Yes, the web has enabled performers to connect with their fans and humanize themselves. But to most, artists still live in the radio and don't exist in the real world.

    Instead of assuming that fans don't care about paying artists, why not ask why they don't?

    Our society places a low premium on cultural creators. Arts and music have been pushed out of the classroom in favor of subjects that prepare students to take their standardized tests better. Like many aspects of their lives, like food, clothing, and electronics, people don't have a clue where music comes from. They're disconnected from the processes of arts creation and from the real people and places involved. The business of music and the commercialization of the public listening sphere is something that they're ignorant of.

    If the contention is that the fans don't care about paying artists, it assumes that as a society we've given them a reason to care. Have we given them one? Or have we failed to nature a public that cares about any kind of artists? Painters and poets are artists too.

    Last I checked no one cares if they make money either.

    3. Music Is Worthless

    It has also been suggested that fans just don't value music in a meaningful way.

    As I've argued in the past, this argument is misguided; it fails to ask the more meaningful question. Is it that people don't value music? Or, is it that music has become in some way disconnected from its cultural value? Months later, I still don't have the answer to that one.

    From the perspective of Steve Lawson, there's another part of this argument that its proponents fail to consider. The simple fact, he argues, is that, Music is worthless.

    The kind of music that we recognize as music and of having valuethose noises that fit within the organized sound' definitionthat has no inherent value at all. Lawson continues, All the value is contextual. It can be invested, it can be enhanced, it can even be manufactured counter to any previously measured notions of quality' with a particular idiom, but it's not innate. Noise is not a saleable commodity.

    His whole argument, one he has made before: the financial value of music is entirely based on the listener's sense of gratitude for it. To him, that gratitude manifests itself in different ways, but is commonly expressed by sharing, saying thank you, or paying for it.

    So, what happens when that person is no longer grateful for music itself for existing, the artist who created it, or the person that introduced them to it? As well, what happens when that person has become unwilling to express that appreciation by sharing it friends, saying thank you to the artist, or buying it from a retailer? Well, that scary experiment is playing out right now. Music is being taken for grantedalmost as if it's a fact of life.

    It is. But, not on the scale that fans are betting it to be. The ramifications to this aren't obvious. Nor will they reveal themselves for quite awhile.

    Why are people willing to pay $6.21 for a Venti coffee and muffin from Starbucks, but recoil at the idea of spending that much on a few songs? It's a hard call. Somewhere along the way, they've become disconnected from the value and society has failed to instill in them an appreciation for all cultural creators. Somehow, I don't think turning off their web connection or suing them for everything they have will make them value art more.

    4. Keeping the Money

    Pop-culture essayist Chuck Klosterman nailed this one.

    People didn't stop buying albums because they were philosophically opposed to how the rock business operated, and they didn't stop buying albums because the Internet is changing the relationship between capitalism and art, he writes. People stopped buying albums because they wanted the fucking money. It's complicated, but it's not.

    Napster spread on college campuses full broke students looking to save money. They found a way to save money by downloading music and not buying it. Therefore, they did. No lawn protests occurred. Fans didn't care about the corporate influence on music in the public sphere; the mistreatment of artists by labels; or even the declining quality of commercial music. They wanted to keep the money. It's complicated, but it's not.

    His wider theory is file-sharing came at a time when many fans where looking to reallocate money to pay off their self-imposed debt, whether that be credit cards or student loans. There's an article that appeared on Forbes titled No Job And $50,000 In Student Debt. Now What? The answer to that question, as I see it, is that they're not purchasing albums anytime soon. They can't afford music or their burnt coffee anymore either.

    Assuming that the fans aren't that broke and are keeping the money. What are they spending it on? Klosterman isn't convinced that people's disposable income budgets are interchangeablethat because they aren't spending money on music, they're buying video games and movies instead. Charles Arthur at The Guardian has argued otherwise.

    He has contended, the music industry's deadliest enemy isn't file-sharing it's the likes of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and a zillion games publishers. He thinks gaming packs more value than music and the attention of fans, along with their money, has shifted.

    There are two additional reasons that fans file-share music.

    Everyone's doing it. The simple truth is that humans, being first and foremost social creatures, rather than independent agents, rely on copying to learn and to negotiate the rich and sophisticated social reality they inhabit, write Mark Earls and Alex Bentley in Forget Influentials. Copying is our species' number one learning and adaptive strategy. Fans copy the behavior of others fans and they spread; it's pulled through the population.

    No one gets caught. Fans file-share because everyone else they know does it and certainly, they aren't the ones that would ever get caught. They're smarter than that. Those who got sued must have done stupid things that put them at risk. No matter how scary the stories get about fans getting sued, people generally believe that bad things won't happen to them. It's basic psychology. We imagine the future and see only good things. Of course, around 30,000 fans have been caught file-sharing music. But, none of us knows enough people to know someone close to us that got sued and we wrongly assume that our chances have lessened. After all, I don't know anyone who has been caughtdo you?

    Where Does This Leave Us?

    Breaking the Internet won't fix the record industry. Instead, we must build a digital ecology of music culture that pays artists for their art and supports creativity. Along the way, we must protect, as legal scholar Larry Lessig says in Free Culture, the space for innovation and creativity that the Internet is. Just as we strive to defend artists and the innovation and creativity that their music is, we must defend what the Internet is: an architecture to enable unplanned and unforeseen innovation. Doing otherwise would be a grave mistake.

    It's time that we start thinking honestly about what music means to us and the future we're attempting to create for it. This is a time of turbulence. The evolution of this ecosystem, if fueled by our curiosity and imaginations, will resolve most facets of music piracy. File-sharing is both market and moral failure. The Internet is in transition, Lessig writes. We should not be regulating a technology in transition. We should instead be regulating to minimize the harm to interests affected by this technological change, while enabling and encouraging, the most efficient technology that we can create. The changes that we seek won't happen overnight, as beyond the technological, they're also cultural and societal.

    Meanwhile, the best thing we can do is focus on reconnecting real people, places, and values. If we desire to nurture a society that values that art' that music is, it begins at a local level. Show people the beauty beneath the scars and the lyrics became the bloodstained poetry on your heart. Why music matters has nothing to do with musicians and everything to do with the meaning it creates in people's lives. Connect your audience to that meaning and value is created. Preserving that value doesn't take breaking the Internet. All it takes is reminding real people in real places why music matters to you.

    Written by Kyle Bylin, Editor of Hypebot and Music Think Tank, two of the leading publications for news and commentary on the new music business.

  • 26 comments sorted by best / new / date

      ViS_v2
      How heartwarming. You've gone through the effort of attempting to make us think that you've written something extremely profound. I'd imagine that some people will even be fooled for a moment before they actually read it properly and realise that you've completely failed to actually explain any of the things that you've purported to explain. I normally would not be so abrasive but the articles that you're targetting are actually very well written and reasoned and to see someone trying to demean them with such little comprehenson saddens me.
      krypticguitar87
      Notkcots wrote: Yes, obviously the reason people are willing to pay "$6.21" for a coffee and muffin and not for "a handful of songs" is because music is worthless. Yup. Nothing to do with the fact that the coffee and muffin are physical objects with inherent value which, if taken for free, would deprive their sellers of the object and the opportunity to sell it. Downloading music hurts absolutely no one; downloading an album does not constitute a loss of revenue for an artist. By receiving a copy of an album, you do not deprive the album from someone else; it is infinitely copyable and does not degrade in quality. A download =/= a lost sale; most of the people who download an album would never have bought it if it wasn't free. If anything, free downloads help a band by spreading their music to people who wouldn't ordinarily hear it and building a fanbase. Seeing people defend an industry that actively harms artists and the free dispersion of culture and knowledge is sickening. The Music Industry survives on bilking artists out of their profits and on price-gouging CDs. Read some of Steve Albini's articles about "The Problem with Music" to see how they entrap bands in contracts that usually wind up with the band losing money. Even if downloading did somehow result in taking away profits from an artist, should that be an issue? Is an artist's goal in creating art to make money? Should that really be what motivates the creation of music? Name a great band who were only recording music for the money. I can wait.
      you don know that artists have to pay for studio time, and make nothing off of an album till that is paid off..... so if they don't recieve money from it then it does hurt them.... not to mention that the recorde label that pays employees to do work on the album looses money, and when they go out of buisiness those people loose their jobs.... this is just another excuse to try to make yourself feel like less of a theif.... stealing is stealing, no matter how you cut it.... if someone plays a show for you and you don't pay them, there is no physical thing, and noone else looses out on it, but you are still stealing the performers time, and he or she or they loose money because of it.... look I'm not saying I've never downloaded music, but seriously, I don't buy the whole "yeah it may be stealing, but it doesn't count" or "only the label looses money not the artist". you know that if the artists albums don't make money then the label can decide that they will not help promote the band or allow them to use their recording equipment, or employees for mastering and producing. stealing will always be stealing, there is no reason to dress it up.
      shreddymcshred
      Notkcots wrote: Downloading music hurts absolutely no one;
      If an artist's contract allows for cross-collateralization, you bet your ass it does. Also what about the hard working sound designers, engineers and other highly technical positions?
      Sean117
      I do it because I have no money and because if I was a famous artist I would not care if people downloaded my music as long as people got to listen to my art, and they always say you should treat people how you want to be treated. Thats just me.
      ginger ninja102
      i have a friend who justifies his illegal downloading by saying ''oh the bands make more money out of touring'' and is to pig headed that even when i show him the facts like how they sometimes get paid less then their roadies and how for that logic to work theyd have to be touing everyday he gets majorly pissed off and has a fit
      182below0
      BSM123456789 wrote: I do it because I'm dishonest.
      +1 I do it because I just don't like the music enough to pay for it, but I like it enough to look it up on youtube occasionally. If it comes on the radio I'll turn it up, but if I bought it, it would sit in iTunes with maybe 5 plays. I'll pay for a song if I'll listen to it, but if I'm not going to listen to it I'm not throwing away my money. Sometimes if I like what I downloaded enough I'll buy it later. Basically I download so I can have youtube on my iPod.
      3xfilterstella
      i download cos i bloody well want to. dont anyone on here get all high and mighty about theft etc. thats B/S. the whole world is a corrupt circle of one person trying to get more than the next, whether its salary, material goods, bonus whatever. the banks rip you off, the gov rip you off, the industry rip you off, tv rips you off, so hey, if im ripping someone off for a bloody cd, on the grand shceme of things, i dont think its that big a deal. and lets not start on the fact that the same companies that complain (sony etc) also supply the equipment to copy in the first place!!
      r0ckth3d34n
      This article is great. File-sharing also builds a bigger fanbase for bands, so therefore, more people show up at the shows and buy t-shirts because they have more money to buy tickets and t-shirts. That's what I do. Except lately, I've been downloading EP's/demos and buying the cd/t-shirt bundles.
      st.stephen
      ViS_v2 wrote: How heartwarming. You've gone through the effort of attempting to make us think that you've written something extremely profound. I'd imagine that some people will even be fooled for a moment before they actually read it properly and realise that you've completely failed to actually explain any of the things that you've purported to explain. I normally would not be so abrasive but the articles that you're targetting are actually very well written and reasoned and to see someone trying to demean them with such little comprehenson saddens me.
      you're wrong. I didn't have to read it to know it was naff
      Swannie
      i download cuz i listen to 60s garage rock and thats rather hard to find on CD
      OXL
      The record industry is rotten and deserves to die. Artists will just have to work for their money, meaning doing a lot of gigs. Don't get me wrong, I still buy cd's and since I also DJ, I buy quite a lot of vinyl (mainly breakcore) as well but it would be impossible for me to buy all the music I like and since music is quite a big thing for me and not listening to it at all is not an option so what do you do? DOWNLOAD, that's right! Did I already say that the music industry (not the bands) is evil and deserves to die?
      Notkcots
      Yes, obviously the reason people are willing to pay "$6.21" for a coffee and muffin and not for "a handful of songs" is because music is worthless. Yup. Nothing to do with the fact that the coffee and muffin are physical objects with inherent value which, if taken for free, would deprive their sellers of the object and the opportunity to sell it. Downloading music hurts absolutely no one; downloading an album does not constitute a loss of revenue for an artist. By receiving a copy of an album, you do not deprive the album from someone else; it is infinitely copyable and does not degrade in quality. A download =/= a lost sale; most of the people who download an album would never have bought it if it wasn't free. If anything, free downloads help a band by spreading their music to people who wouldn't ordinarily hear it and building a fanbase. Seeing people defend an industry that actively harms artists and the free dispersion of culture and knowledge is sickening. The Music Industry survives on bilking artists out of their profits and on price-gouging CDs. Read some of Steve Albini's articles about "The Problem with Music" to see how they entrap bands in contracts that usually wind up with the band losing money. Even if downloading did somehow result in taking away profits from an artist, should that be an issue? Is an artist's goal in creating art to make money? Should that really be what motivates the creation of music? Name a great band who were only recording music for the money. I can wait.
      link no1
      the part about music having now value...people with this view shouldnt even have any music then, because if it has no value then they must obviously be able to live in an enviroment with no music whatsoever and also i download music for one fact, most of the bands i like are not overly popular and are a compleate bitch to get the actual cd where i live
      Warehouse
      From article:
      Because they can. They have no argument or excuse to justify why they downloaded the music. It was there. They wanted it. So they file-shared it. End of story.
      Um... wtf? I think there's a actually a pretty explicit "argument" or "excuse" behind these people's seemingly inexplicable behavior... they want to have music for free? How the hell is this the same as a dog licking its butt? Since when does every human on this earth have an involuntary impulse to steal music? Last time I checked, it was never. Shit loads of people still pay for music, and shit loads more have no desire to own music, ever. There are some who haev figured out that in some cases, such as this, they can save some money by breaking the law. Of course I'm not condoning theft, but damn
      Slash7a
      i only do it because i am a flatass broke teenager in a pisspoor town that has no employment for someone my age, when i get older ill most likely make up for all the shit that ive p2pd online and buy all the bands i want when they come out
      satyrthegoatman
      @Raargh! The Foo Fighters wouldn't be making that much money off of ticket sales. you see there are things called venues where bands play their music. now the venue wants to make money to and it does by taking a large portions of ticket sales. Many venues also charge bands "rent" for putting up a merch table or stand.
      mskasson
      Raargh! - You are very wrong. Foos get a way smaller cut of the take (someone who knows might fill in the percentage). Plus you are justifying your taking the albums for free. If you are not, then just go to the show without stealing the albums.
      mskasson
      Wow, Cheesepuff. What if I told you there was a device through which you could find all the music you wanted? And you could even preview it! And have it delivered right to your door. Right to your computer even, if your wanted. Would that be something you might be interested in? Amazon (new or used CDs, digital), itunes, CDbaby, etc. You MUST be kidding. And shreddymcshred has it right (as does the author, regardless of whether you agree with or accept the extend of his/her any explanations).
      Raargh!
      I download on one simple basis. Say you have 50. You could buy (say) 5 Foo Fighters albums, and the Foos make barely 50p from me overall, with Warner and whatnot making a killing. Or, I download the 5 albums, love them, share them with my friends, etc. then pay my 50 on a gig ticket. My friends all do the same, and the Foos make around 48+ off of each of us - by file sharing, the bands do far better because more people then go to gigs!!!
      shreddymcshred
      X industry is evil. It is trying to charge me money for product y. I know industry X is full of professional employees who spend large amounts of time making product y, but I don't believe they need to be paid because as humans, we are entitled to y. Even if I do buy product y, the money doesn't go to the people I want it to. I want it only to go to 5 specific people, although others have invested hundreds of hours of time into making product y be successful. INDUSTRY X IS EVIL
      shreddymcshred
      OXL wrote: it would be impossible for me to buy all the music I like and since music is quite a big thing for me and not listening to it at all is not an option so what do you do? DOWNLOAD, that's right!
      "I can't afford these items, so I will take them for free, because I am able."
      shreddymcshred
      Notkcots wrote: Seeing people defend an industry that actively harms artists and the free dispersion of culture and knowledge is sickening.
      The artists weren't kidnapped and held at gunpoint when they signed their contracts. If the artist gets taken advantage of it's because they didn't have a good entertainment lawyer explain their contract, or because they knew the risks and decided to take them.