Downloading music…

over 7 years ago from , Senior Interactive Designer / Developer with Hoefler & Co.

How do you all feel about downloading music for free via file-sharing sites? Honestly.

I don't do it, but I used to. A lot. But Adult Guilt™ guilt set in, and I've since gone back and purchased records I originally downloaded for free because I felt really bad about it.

I'm thinking about this because I have some Google Alerts set up that alert me real-time when any mention of “Palaxy” and “Wilderness” appear online together. I get a new list of alerts at least once a day. So far, without fail, none of those alerts is a link to a review (good or bad), a write-up, a link, a total panning, a blog post, a byline, or anything along those lines. They're always file-sharing sites, and there are already dozens of them hosting the record as a high-quality download. All sharing the entire record with both the standard and iTunes-specific art (which is only available through my Bandcamp page).

Believe it or not this used to feel good to me. While it was still stealing, there was some level of validation there. I mean, someone liked it enough to share it, and seeing huge download counts felt like a backhanded compliment, but a compliment nonetheless.

Now it just stings.



  • Drew AlbinsonDrew Albinson, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    I used to as well. At the time I really got into music I was a lot younger and a lot more broke. I didn't have the cashflow to listen to all of the music I was excited about, and streaming online wasn't really happening. Part of the reason I downloaded albums was that I was discovering music on blogs that shared full records for illegal download. Hell, I downloaded the Vampire Weekend s/t a year before it came out because I thought the name was interesting. At the time I decided to buy only the albums I really loved (as directly from the source as possible), support artists by attending shows and splurging at their merch table, and putting those iTunes gift cards I never asked for to good use.

    It wasn't sustainable, and after switching computers a few times it became clear my 100+gb collection was unwieldy. Once streaming services became more practical and I got a smartphone I started using those. Today I use Rdio constantly, buy at least one LP a month, and attend lots of shows. Since some tracks aren't up on Rdio (or Spotify) I use Soundcloud to fill in the gaps. I don't know how much streaming services help/hurt artists, but god knows I wouldn't be able to keep up my (likely unhealthy) listening habit without them.

    5 points
  • Jeremy StewartJeremy Stewart, over 7 years ago

    I did it a lot when I was younger, but not anymore. I think a combination of guilt and fear set in. I'd rather pay a little bit for the songs I really want than risk a lawsuit (even if there are ways to minimize that risk; I don't have time or interest to keep up with loopholes/software/tools/VPNs).

    I also subscribe to Rdio and can find almost everything I want to listen to. I'm still not 100% sure about the legality of Grooveshark, but when I can't find something on Rdio I just switch over and find it there.

    3 points
    • Joseph KeenanJoseph Keenan, over 7 years ago

      I use Rdio and fill in the gaps with Grooveshark, too.

      Yesterday I finally looked up where Grooveshark source their music from. I always thought they had some crawler that looked for music files around the web, and streamed those directly, or something.

      But turns out it’s completely different! They rely entirely on users to upload music. There’s this really old school clunky Java applet that handles it, if you go hunting for it you can dig it up.

      I guess they are basically the same as Youtube, since they apparently “comply with DMCA takedown requests,” but the whole thing seems way more shifty.

      Evidently the courts are starting to think so, too. They lost a big case against Universal last year, with damages yet to be specified. Clearly Grooveshark aren’t worried, though – they just overhauled their interface (and it’s pretty good imo).

      1 point
  • Smail SmajkicSmail Smajkic, over 7 years ago

    This is the FBI. You are all arrested. ;)

    2 points
  • Joe Crupi, over 7 years ago

    Spotify + go and see them live when they are in town. Best way to support artists imo

    1 point
  • Hugo Magalhães, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    As a millennial, I always thought that much of the discussion on the topic of illegal music downloads originated from an outdate perspective of how the music industry should generate its profits. Because, in the last few years, while CDs and LPs sales decreased, attendance to concerts, music festivals, and music events in general increased exponential. The idea of musicians (read Record Labels) surviving exclusively from the profits of their record sale is, in my point of view, completely outdated. Music streaming platforms democratised music listening. By providing access to a huge catalog of music in a legal, affordable and above all convenient way. It still might required some improvement to be more lucrative to the artist. Although I feel it’s a much better compromise for every party, than simply ignoring the monument shift in our music consumption habits.

    0 points
  • Rasmus ErikssonRasmus Eriksson, over 7 years ago

    Like many others here, I used to download a lot of music. Youth and the inherent poverty that comes with it.

    I have an extensive taste of music and much of it is rather obscure and difficult if not impossible to find in a record store. To this day I can't buy much music from stores, except for jazz, blues and sometimes progressive rock. (I love 70s prog and collect original prints when I get the opportunity.)

    These days, I buy vinyls often directly from the bands, and CDs when the bands in question can't afford to release on vinyl. My collection is pretty vast and the majority of it is indeed vinyl albums. Many newer releases also come with a digital download code, which is pretty handy.

    I also hold a subscription to Spotify which, surprisingly, even has quite a few artists/bands that I like—at least their partial discography. I use it a lot at work and with Spotify Connect (streaming directly to my amp) at home.

    It's a mix of being able to afford it, and increased availability. No artists the size of those I most enjoy could sell on the internet when I was younger, and their records weren't available in the stores in my city. What could I do…?

    Most musicians I know are pretty indifferent to piracy overall. They think it's great that their music has a better reach and that more people can enjoy it, but it's obviously also staggering their efforts to stay alive and keep producing music. Almost all of them have full-time jobs and pay for the studio hours and production from their own pockets. Even the labels only chip in with a marginal sum because they can't afford more.

    0 points
  • Bent StamnesBent Stamnes, over 7 years ago

    I used to download music a lot too, which stopped 5-10 years ago. I honestly think it's because suddenly music was actually available for purchase. I buy all my music now, either via iTunes or BandCamp but more often than not (to the artists' detriment I'm sure), I just stream it on Spotify. Being an amateur musician myself, I do try to buy as much music as I can on BandCamp though, but then I just stream it on Spotify anyway (if it's available there), because seriously: file management - who has time for that any more?

    0 points
  • Vincent MillikenVincent Milliken, over 7 years ago

    To be honest I think there has been a huge shift in my listening habits that has stopped me from downloading music, I also used to download a LOT of music when I was younger - All I do is stream now between Spotify, Soundcloud and Youtube.

    Mite be mainly because these platforms have the content I want also im to lazy to put the effort into searching and downloading music.

    Lets just hope these streaming platforms are around for a long time as we all seem to have invested a lot of time building our collections with likes and playlists.

    0 points
  • Pedro Pimenta, over 7 years ago

    I still do. For me, there's still no other way. I can't buy everything I listen to, I wouldn't pay the rent if I did. I could pay for a streaming service but I don't want to to rent music, I want to own it when I pay for it.

    Won't make legal music cheaper? Piracy it is...

    I do buy albums, mostly from small artists from bandcamp or similar, when they're 4-8€, which I find acceptable.

    0 points
  • Justin TherouxJustin Theroux, over 7 years ago

    Between Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Youtube, I've been able to listen to pretty much everything I've wanted to for ages, and it's been legal.

    If I have to download music through a pirated site, I don't care – it costs the artist nothing to duplicate a file. I would never have even heard their music otherwise...

    0 points
  • Thibault MaekelberghThibault Maekelbergh, over 7 years ago

    I can see a lot of people my age doing it (or students for that matter) but I can't blame them. Not having cash coming in and limited budget but so many great artists don't really match. Here in Belgium it's actually said to be legal under the banner of 'home-copies', as long as you don't upload you stay out of trouble.

    Regarding my habits: I buy min. 5 vinyls a month (regular 12" singles or LP albums), iTunes Store & iTunes Match and Spotify for everything else. I find buying music much less of a hassle than having to search the web and wait ages for a 60MB download album at 50kbps.

    0 points