A bit of creative curiosity and a lot of personal guilt have got me thinking about my music acquisition habits. It’s been six months or so since I’ve bought a CD that wasn’t a gift for someone else. These days I get my music online.

I’m part of the demographic of people who are bothered more by the cost of CDs rather than the inconvenience of them. $10.00 per CD (or even $0.99 per song) is just too steep for me when other options are available. I like having CD quality. I like jewel-cases with the track titles and little books full of lyrics, photos, and art. But I also like a lot of other things I could spend that money on. Mmmm…
cheese steaks
.

I more often listen to music on my iPod than a CD player. So being able to rip songs off a CD I buy is crucial. CD “protection” which prevents me from moving my music to a perfectly “fluid” format is not acceptable for me, and in this case I could be driven to illegal online downloads for inconvenience purposes rather than economic ones. It seems like this may be the case in the not-to-distant future.

Let’s assume I’m speaking hypothetically from now on to avoid incriminating myself…

If I rip songs off a friend’s CD or download music from allofmp3.com, I’m not only sticking it to RIAA. I’m robbing the artists of the little bit of money they would have received from the sale of a CD I didn’t buy. I’ve been able to ease my conscience so far by believing that the money I have saved shunning CDs has gone earnestly towards more concert trips. I’m sure I’ve spent more on concerts this year than I’ve spent on CDs (and concerts) previous years. I’ve gone to concerts I wouldn’t have gone to if couldn’t have heard the musician’s music for free first. Add to this the fact that artists receive a larger percentage of a concert’s profits than percentage of record sales.

From a high-level perspective, I am giving a larger portion of my disposable income to “the artists” than I would have if I were buying CDs and ignoring cheaper (so called illegal) online distribution channels. And this has kept me content for the past 2 years or so.

Let’s take a more detailed look at things though. I’ve downloaded a Kanye West CD and a Jason Mraz CD. I’ve seen Jason Mraz in concert before and will probably see him again. And while Mraz (and his band) may get as much as 1/3rd of the $100+ I’ll spend on tickets for his shows, how does this help Kanye West? Surely I owe this guy money.

But maybe I can just say, ‘Well, Kanye West just failed to impress me enough to motivate me to see him live.’ However, if I wouldn’t have been able to get his album for free (or really cheap without paying his label), I might have bought his CD. And in that case he would have gotten somewhere between $0.25-$2.00 for that CD.

[side note: I wish I had a good reference for how much artists get paid for CDs and concerts. If you have one, let me know. This page sites $0.0755 per track: Giving Away Music to Make Money. I’m also using the “common knowledge” that artists make more money from concerts than through CD sales.]

What about Mr. West and that $2.00 I owe him? I don’t know what to make of this. It’s very possible for me to say that I wouldn’t have downloaded the music if I had to pay (more) for it. That eases my conscious a bit.

But what about other artists, who I would see in concert if they played a venue closer to me? I’ve downloaded some Taproot. And I would see these guys in a heartbeat next time they show up in the Philadelphia area.

[results of a quick search: Taproot comes to Atlantic City with Stain’d, POD, and Flyleaf December 12th, 2005]

… but I haven’t been able to catch a Taproot concert so far. I have some “mp3 bucks” stored up to spend on that band. I could go out and buy the Taproot CD I guess, but I’d rather send them a check in the mail.

… not a bad idea, eh?

I’ll report-in later to expand on this topic with some ideas I have for “paying the artists”. In the meantime, anyone from the Kanye West, Jason Mraz, or Taproot families can contact me to get that check.

[other reading: Here is a website which explains a lot of thoughts I have on “illegally” downloaded music (with more research and analysis to support it): The Recording Industry is Trying to Kill the Goose That Lays the Golden Egg.]