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Illegal downloading: An artist's perspective

by Keegan Calligar,
For many, it’s hard to truly understand the ramifications of illegally downloading music. The recording industry has suffered greatly. According to the Institute of Policy Innovation, “projected losses from illegal downloading worldwide to U.S. record companies are at $3.7 billion.”

How do those losses affect those behind the scenes, and how do they feel about the new provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act? Keegan Calliger, reporter for The Pendulum spoke with Randy Nichols, manager for bands such as Underoath, The Starting Line, Say Anything, Hit the Lights, The Almost and Person L to find out just how illegal file sharing affects those in the music industry.

Keegan Calliger: Do you believe that college students are a large portion of those who download music illegally?
Randy Nichols: Yes, college students are one of the many growing groups of downloaders. As more people of all age groups learn the ease of stealing, it will continue to grow.

KC: What do you think about the government’s push to make illegal file sharing harder and take action against those who download music illegally?
RN: It’s about time! The recording industry should spend more time showing downloaders the damage that downloading does to artists' careers, rather than only spending time attacking fans. I think if fans saw some of their favorite bands having to quit touring and recording because they can’t afford to do it anymore, it may start changing people’s minds. The government’s push is still extremely misguided though; I caught the person who stole an Underoath record from our studio and leaked it online and the FBI didn’t see that as a crime, yet a 40 year-old mom in the suburbs who’s kid downloaded Soulja Boy is somehow a criminal.

KC: How are you personally affected by illegal music sharing?
RN: I’m watching my band’s income drop sharply over the last few years and I take a percentage of their income to run their business, so I have less money to pay my bills. I’m now forced to manage more bands and give each of my bands less time because I need to work more in volume than quality because individual bands are making less money. If the business continues to decline I may be forced to leave the business because I won’t be able to pay my bills.

Do you think that college students truly understand the ramifications of downloading illegal music?
RN: They know it’s illegal, but there are no real repercussions and until ISP’s and the government start properly enforcing and educating, it will continue.

KC: Do you support the idea of providing free, legal music downloading for students?
RN: Only if the colleges are going to create software that can recognize what songs are downloaded and use a portion of student’s tuition to pay
the people who recorded those songs. Truly free music that doesn’t involve artist compensation is just taking advantage of artists. I doubt any student wants to take a job that doesn’t pay them. Musicians start making music for their love of it, but at some point, they need to pay their bills, too. Students are in school to further themselves and be sure they can get great jobs. Why should their work to better themselves be at the advantage of artists?

KC: How do you think illegal file sharing has affected the music industry?
RN: It’s drastically cut the amount of CDs sold. Therefore, record companies are spending less money to promote new artists. Downloading
doesn’t hurt major, well-known acts as much, but it makes it much harder to break new bands because no one wants to invest money into a baby band, especially when its core audience is people who will most likely steal the product. Overall, the music industry is shrinking as countless people are leaving to work in businesses that have a product people actually value. At some point, you’re crazy to work in a business when your product is something that your core customer believes should be free as the air they breathe.

KC: Anything else you’d want to say to a college student about illegal file sharing?
RN: Will you let me and my bands come live in your  house and feed us meals for free when we can no  longer survive because our product no longer has any value?