The Skinny on Music Downloading

Updated: Fri Mar. 27 2009 13:08:53

Legal music downloads hit record sales last year. In fact, they brought in over a billion dollars.

In the United States, illegal downloading of music is dropping. But in Canada, it's still on the rise.

And the attitude of many people is the music industry makes lots of money and there is nothing wrong with "sharing" music.

"We all enjoy music and it doesn't matter where we get it and as long as we all enjoy it who cares?" argued one man on the streets of Vancouver.

But it hurts musicians who rely on paid sales to make money. The American Federation of Musicians and its Canadian arm are starting something new soon called Pro-Tunes where musicians will load their songs onto the site and set their own prices. You'll be able to buy direct.

"The federation will allow them to upload their product and get 80 to 85 per cent of revenues to the musician. These days they only get five or six per cent on the commercial sites," explains Wayne Morris of the Vancouver Musicians Association.

What is also hurting musicians these days is a lack of live venues.

You used to walk down Hornby street in Vancouver and there was one live club after another.

Burrard had their live venues too and Granville street. And most hotel pubs brought in live bands at least part of the week. They just don't exist any more.

Shows like Canadian Idol, and American Idol have created some jobs the bands they use in the shows are fantastic. Even a show like Dancing With the Stars gives musicians jobs so that's good. With shows like Idol -- there is exposure for new artists -- some of whom have gone on to be big stars. Record companies don't really beat the bushes much anymore for talent so without these shows it can be hard to get noticed.

Coming back to where we started, the internet is a great way to get exposure, but a tough way to get paid. Many people have gotten used to downloading music for free from the internet. But there are options which don't shortchange the musician.

We all like to listen to music -- but it seems we don't like paying for it. Many people don't see anything wrong with loading their Mp3 player with pirated music they found on the internet. We recently polled a few people in downtown Vancouver.

"I don't think downloading music for free is that harmful," said one woman.

"Everyone does it. It's kind of a societal norm," suggested another.

The responses were no surprise to Wayne.

We've lost a whole generation or more of people who don't appreciate the value of music because it's always been there for them it's always been free," he notes.

Wayne says even though paid downloads hit over a billion dollars last year in north America -- with $50-million in the week before Christmas alone -- musicians are suffering.

"And I know there are people out there that are saying 'It's not costing the industry anything and it's benefiting the industry blah, blah, blah,' but to be honest it's really hurting the working musician," he says.

The money made today comes from concerts -- and that's just for the big names -- for the rest...

'Most musicians now they have to have a day job to support their habit, their music," Wayne explains ruefully.

"That's not cool it's still the artists music so you have to help the artist," said one concerned listener when we took those concerns to the street.

And what if there was a way to pay the artist? Wayne Morris has a suggestion.

Tack on a fee of two or three dollars a month on everyone's Internet bill to give to musicians: then allow you to download whatever you want. It's an idea some people like.

"Possibly, depending on the regulations with it," thought one man.

"It's a small monthly fee, I mean doesn't hurt me on a day to day basis and it is right, morally," suggested another.

You can also still get free music -- legally -- as a promotion -- like free tunes from Starbucks.

There are also a number of sites where you can download music legally for less than you might think. Wayne likes the i-Tunes, CD baby and Rhapsody.

But there are others.

The first legitimate Canadian online music site, was launched in late 2003 and then The legitimate services offer an extensive repertoire of affordable, high quality, virus-free downloads, while assuring that all rights holders are fairly compensated.

More sites listed here are accessible from Canada:

This site has several Canadian recommendations as well.

With a report by CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen

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