The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Opinion: Is illegal downloading acceptable?

A controversial piece by Matthew Byrne.


Okay I’m going to make an admission at the start of this piece. I frequently use Torrents to download music. Yes I know many people would equate this to musical treason, betraying all the bands I love by basically engaging in the idea that their music is worthless. But as students it’s an increasing pricey business getting your hands on a copy of all the records you’d love to listen to. I’m sure I’m not alone as to satisfy the musical thirst numerous students have; you would need to have a big bank account which isn’t a luxury a lot of us have.

Do we all have a God given right to hear every piece of music? Perhaps not, but I do find the prospect of the latest album being a few clicks away very enticing compared to the dent it will make in my student overdraft if I pay for it. Although I am filled with guilt at the thought of some artists spending their time putting their heart and soul into their work, and making little or no money thanks in part, to me.

Maybe I should use streaming services such as Spotify instead? I have given Spotify a go and without opting for the premium version and paying £10.00 a month, the experience is frankly infuriating due to the constant interruption from adverts. After the furore over Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich withdrawing their music because of the unfair deal artists receive from Spotify, it’s clear that artists really don’t benefit very much by making their music available on this platform. Take Grizzly Bear for example, who said that they receive $0.001 per stream.

Grizzly Bear do seem to be a band that are indifferent as to how people listen to their music- they said on the release of their Shields B sides “Ultimately no matter how you chance upon the songs we hope you enjoy them, stream, torrent or buy, we just appreciate the interest”. It’s an admirable stance that gives the impression they view their music not as a commodity but a piece of art to be stumbled upon by anyone irrespective of wealth. If as a band they can have a big influence on people lives then does the money matter that much?

There are of course other ways to show your support for bands. Normally I will venture out to the local haunt when my favourite acts are visiting because I appreciate the effort that a lot of small bands make to tour even when losing money at times. The way I see it you can reward bands who have made great albums by going to their gigs or buying their merchandise. If it’s a small band that really need the money to keep going, I ‘m happy to buy their album. However when I’ve paid over the odds for a Radiohead ticket at MEN Arena, I think downloading all the added remixes of TKOL illegally isn’t terribly perverse.

In short, I think you should when possible support your favourite acts in any way you can, be it buying their album, merchandise or a ticket for their gig, but when you’re struggling for cash , I’d say that illegal downloading isn’t such a big crime.