Age of extinction for record sales

Everybody does it. You know it's illegal, but you do it anyway. You figure it won't hurt anyone, and what does it matter? It doesn't affect you.

We are in an age where we illegally download or stream music for free, at no cost to us. The internet has made a plethora of outlets available at our fingertips.

The internet has shaped the industries of music, film, and television and has made them more accessible to anyone with a computer or smartphone. In fact, I would dare to say that it has shaped our mindset in making us take for granted what we think is already owed to us.

Earlier this month, U2 released their new album “Songs of Innocence” for free to anyone with an Itunes account - though it was said to be business. While it is still available as a CD or vinyl, essentially the whole world owns it already, like it or not. This begs the question, is music becoming a free entity?

It is no secret that music listeners are not purchasing music like they used to. Trends such as streaming music through websites such as SoundCloud, illegally downloading songs, or simply borrowing an album from a friend who purchased it, are popular methods to obtain music for free.

SMC students Shaze Williams, a theatre arts major, and Alix Morgane, business major, shared similar responses when asked how they procure their music. Williams explained, "I just download songs for free by pasting the url from Youtube to an external website and convert it into an mp3."

While another student, Pasha, who plays the guitar and is a music major, said "If you have any respect for the artist, you will buy their music." Pasha passionately expressed his integrity of wanting to keep music sacred.

Jim Bergman, SMC music professor, said his kids don't even really buy albums anymore. They just download their music from the internet.

"Over the years people have been trained that it's just this disposable anonymous product," Bergman said about music albums.

He went on to say, "Music has become free, like water. We assume that it's always going to be there, until it's not." He drew a picture of the day when there's no recorded music, when you don't have an ipod.

Ryan Hale, business administration student at SMC, who also plays guitar in a band called Into the North, has a strong stance on this matter. "People feel entitled and think, 'well why should I have to pay for this when I can easily get it for free on the internet?'" He stands firmly for the supporting of artists and said, "Album sales are important because the first week of sales determine your 'success."

Music Professor Matthew Altmire of SMC chimed in saying, "I prefer to go to the record store and pick up albums I like and I know many people who feel the same way. However, I know people who only download music online because it is faster and more streamlined, sometimes free."

Album sales aren't what they used to be pre-2000s. Frankly, the last album to sell over 10 million records was Adele's 21, which was released January 19, 2011. That was a great album, but I'd have to think in three years that there have been other comparable albums. It would be foolish to say that everyone is putting out 'crap'.

According to, as of August 25, 2014, 3.97 million albums was the weekly average sold. It is common for weekly units sold to fall below 5 million. Pre-2002 it used to be a crime if weekly units sold fell below 10 million. This shouldn't be shocking news, considering all of the file sharing apps and websites that exist. In fact, I would expect album sales to keep dropping in years to come.

Consumers are transitioning from purchasing music to streaming it so it is natural to see album sales shrink, but in the last ten years and even five years there has been a massive decrease.

On a slightly positive note, digital sales are still fairing better than physical CDs, according to Forbes reports. Physical CDs are bound to be non-existent any day now. That goes to show that everything is digital and the major influence the internet has. Everything is accessible.

If album sales mean anything at all to an artist's career, then their future might be looking dismal.

We are living in a post-CD, digital world where Disney's "Frozen" soundtrack is the best-selling album of 2014. This is a world where Lorde's album can barely sell a million copies, and 'Beysus' [Beyonce] a few million at the height of her career.

This is the exact opposite of what we saw in the 90s and before, when Michael Jackson or Mariah Carey could put out a random album and still surpass platinum status in the first month.

Just to put things into perspective, let's forget about the fact that we are taking money out of the pockets of everyday artists. Singers and bands are just the face of the music industry. The work to write and produce music takes a team, songwriters, producers, engineers, technicians. Think about the money lost or potential jobs lost. In 2010, the RIAA reported over 71,000 jobs lost over the illegal downloading of music and/or streaming of music. That number probably looks more like 100,000 today.

People aren't buying albums anymore, so artists are going to have to find more creative ways to make money. The bulk of their money comes from live shows and touring, but with the internet there are still infinite possibilities. Like Professor Bergman said best, "You can't change stop the change of what's going to happen, you just have to figure out how to get what you want out of it."

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