Johnny Schaefer

Why You Should Still Buy Music (Even if you don't "have" to)

Johnny SchaeferI get it. Times are tight and we need to stretch our money as far as we can. That's why people flock to Walmart even if they often express discomfort with the reasons those prices are so low. We work hard for our money. We want to get as much out of it as we can. Therein lies the rub. Musicians, artists, authors and many others work really hard, too. Yet more often than not, people don't think twice about downloading music from pirate sites, burning music off of CDs friends have purchased, and streaming from sites that don't fairly compensate artists. I've lost track of how many (usually younger) people look me in the eye and say incredulously, "I never pay for music. Why would I?"

Years ago I was on a tour with a school choir and we were at a rest stop with a row of vending machines. Someone discovered that the ice cream machine was broken and that you could just take items from it. Ice cream sandwiches, drumsticks, popsicles, all your favorites were there. I watched for about twenty minutes as some people brazenly walked up to the machine and grabbed extras for their more sheepish friends who took the contraband with a shrug, as if to say, "Well, didn't take it. But, now that I have it it will melt if I don't eat it. It's not nice to waste food." Others shook their heads and said things like "You guys, that's not really right." People began to rationalize taking the ice cream. Some blamed the owner of the machine for poor maintenance. even though they had no way of knowing what kind of maintenance was done on the machine. Others said that they would understand if they were the owners and people took ice cream from the machine. "It's part of doing business." "One of those things". I even heard one person say that things like that are a gift from God or Karma, something like that, at the same time they were a lesson for the owner. I saw two people walk up to the machine and put money in even though they didn't need to, getting scoffed at by guilty onlookers as they paid for their treats. A couple of people were troubled by it and continued to discuss it on the bus on and off into the evening as we rode on to our next destination. The fact is, someone had to pay for that ice cream, and it wasn't those who got to eat it (with a couple of exceptions). 

I resurrect this story from memory because it speaks to the same sense of entitlement that I get from people who don't see a need to pay for music. They profess a true admiration for the artists that make music which moves them, inspires them, delights them and maybe even turns them on. But they don't see a need to compensate them. I heard on the radio recently that more and more artists are making their money off of T-Shirts, touring, synch licensing and and other souveniers than they are off of the music itself. I've heard people say that the recordings are more like promotional giveaways now to promote the other stuff. 

One thing that really hits me is when I see people fork over $5.00 for a latte at Starbucks or fail to bat an eye at paying $15 to park their car for a few hours but they wouldn't dream of paying 79 cents to download a song they supposedly love. They tell you they can't wait for the artist to release more music, but don't seem to understand that it takes time, energy, sacrifice and a whole lot of money to produce those recordings. Even with the new technologies that make it much easier to produce awesome recordings just about anywhere, it still costs a lot. Once I had a friend tell me that they loved my music so much that they made copies for all their friends. I was supposed to be excited about that. Sure, it is nice to know that people are hearing my music, But it would be nce to be paid for my efforts. Personally, I would rather have the musicians I love spend all their time getting better at music and creating more of it than having to work "day jobs" to make ends meet. When a musician I love comes out with an album or an author I like releases a book, I not only buy my copy, but I enthusiastically buy copies for people around me as a way of supporting and thanking the artist or author for their creation. I want more music from them and I want them to be rewarded just as I would tip a server in a restaurant or gladly pay my mechanic. The steady exchange of money is what keeps us all going! I also want to be part of the artist I love rising up the charts! 

A friend pointed out that there are a lot of sites on the web where music is ripped off of YouTube and offered for for free downloads as mp3s. One of my songs was in the Top Ten and had been downloaded thousands of times on such a site. Sure, I love it that people are hearing my music. But I worry about the quality when it is ripped off of YouTube and I wonder how I will be able to afford to make more music when it's so easy to get it for free, 

I'm not necessarily trying to make anyone feel guilty here. I guess I'm appealing to your sense of fairness. I do believe that when we freely give to others we are comong from a place of abundance and receive more. Comversely, when we withhold from others we are sending a message of lack and the universe replies by creating more lack. 

Try compensating the musicians, artists, authors and others who give you so much. You'll feel good about it. And by all means, if they crowd fund a project, help them out. You just might be contributing to a masterpiece. 

Johnny Schaefer is a Los Angeles based singer-songwiter. His album, Acoustic Remedy, is available at his website as well as places like Amazon and iTunes,Spotify and more. And, apparently, on pirate sites, too. Your choice. 

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