Pay for Music vs Download Illegally: Effects on the Music Industry

To pay, or not to pay – that is the question. Today, it is easier than ever to get music. You can find all the hottest new artists, albums and songs for free with just a couple of clicks online. If you want more of a variety of music without putting the work in to get it online for free, you can pay for your music via programs like iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora or Soundcloud, to name a few.

Many people choose the cheapest options for their listening pleasure, even though there are so many options to listen responsibly. So, one must ask, at what cost? (Pun intended).

Media piracy is illegal and happens daily by millions of people. Piracy is defined as the infringement of a copyright, which is the use of another person’s creation or idea. In this case, we are talking about music. Although most people would assume pirating music is a small act and doesn’t effect artists too much, there are many statistics arguing against those ideas.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, illegally downloading music impacts producers, writers and the talent or artists. Pirating music effects all those involved in the creative process, and the impact is not a small one to say the least. Pirated music accounts for billions of dollars the music industry loses. THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY. This may be hard to believe when musicians look incredibly wealthy and successful in the media. However, musicians do suffer financial losses due to the illegal downloads of their musical creations.

The music industry has completely changed over the past few years. Streaming music has become the most popular way to listen to music and, while it is not illegal, it affects the revenue of the music industry in the same way. Streaming content is the new mainstream way of listening to a lot of music at a cheaper cost. These applications start off with free subscriptions and generate revenue by playing multiple advertisements between songs on those free profiles. If you are like me, you get tired of these ads and choose to pay for the ad-free subscription. When it comes to streaming musical content through applications and paid subscriptions, the music industry takes a huge financial hit.

For emerging artists and musicians, streaming services can build a fan base, but rarely produce much revenue. Spotify for instance, pays no more than $.0084 cents per stream, which means to get the same payout as one iTunes download of $1.29, a new artist must get over a hundred streams on a streaming app.

This new age of music has brought a lot of good to the music industry. It has introduced us to some of our favorite artists, shared new music with us and allowed us to have millions of songs at our disposal for a low cost. However, the musicians we all love and listen to are getting the short end of the stick. Support your favorite artists and buy their music. Musicians work extremely hard to perfect their music, so as fans we should be supportive and not pirate the great music of the past, present and future.

How do you think the music industry has been impacted by today’s latest technology? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Brandon was born in San Antonio, Texas and attends Texas Tech University, where he’s studying Journalism with a minor in Public Relations. He is the first person in his family to attend college and is proud to be the one to pave the way for those younger than him, or for those who simply do not have the opportunity to receive an education. Brandon takes pride in his Latino roots and says that without his large family to challenge him, he would not be where he is today. He is able to be a role model to younger members of his family, and benefit from the support of older family role models.

Brandon currently works part-time for the financial aid office at Texas Tech and is a full time radio DJ, music festival correspondent and on air personality for the Texas Tech affiliated radio station, KTXT 88.1. He also works with news organizations within Texas Tech, but is most proud of his two podcasts about sports and music, which he single-handedly wrote, edited, advertised and produced.

On top of all these accomplishments, Brandon is proud to be a two-time student ambassador for Cengage. He has learned many lessons through being a student ambassador that he believes will help him succeed throughout and beyond college. After college, he plans to work with a news organization or radio station as a music and sports journalist. He also hopes to continue to produce his podcasts and create a public identity for himself. He looks forward to the future and dedicates much of his success thus far to the lessons he learned from working at Cengage.

6 replies
  1. Megan Kernan says:

    I would say there are pros and cons to the new music industry. From my experience, I don’t buy individual songs anymore so I would see how that is decreasing musicians’ profits. On the other hand, now that I have Spotify I listen to music much more. These new technologies create better publicity for new music and newer artists by suggesting music to listen to.

  2. Michal Cymbalisty says:

    My startup is looking to address some of these issues in the light of benefiting the artist. The industry seems to keep most of the money in their own pockets as opposed to giving back to the creators. Hopefully various platforms will emerge to help the artist keep money as opposed to giving it up to managers, marketers, venues and streaming services.

  3. Alisia Colon says:

    I must admit I used to download music illegally, but this process took so much time and sometimes after awhile the music would no longer be available for whatever reason. So for about a year now I’ve been paying for the premium package through soundcloud, and it is a bit expensive at $10 a month, but I think it’s completely worth it because with this package the music is available to listen to without the need for wifi or using my data. I never thought about how my choice in whether I download illegally or pay upfront affected the music industry because like you said they artists appear to be extremely wealthy, but now I know!

  4. emily eckes says:

    It’s crazy to me how I can download music illegally and not pay for a CD anymore. Artists count on touring to get money now they people don’t buy it in stores, and spotify has taken over. It’s truly sad how much it has changed.

  5. Natalie Schoenfeld says:

    Many people (especially college students) don’t realize the impact this can have! This shows that not only is it illegal but saving a few dollars for yourself can really hurt not only the artist but everyone involved. Great piece!

  6. Nia says:

    I say this all the time! Pirating music is hurtful to the sales and revenue that the artists are making. Great piece, Brandon!


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