Music downloads and the music download war


CD sales are down, crippling juggernauts like HMV. Apart from uber-rich and uber-altruistic Radiohead, most bands fear for their financial future. What’s the state of play with music downloading today?

The mouse hovered over the download button for a few seconds. One click and a brand new album was downloading… an album yet to be released in this country.

A few minutes later, 12 tracks were ready to be played, shared and downloaded by thousands of other people across the world, illegally, from a website which allows you to download any album, from any genre at any time of the day.

The 19-year-old student said: ‘It’s the easiest way of downloading music; I don’t buy CDs anymore, what’s the point when I only listen to my iPod? I’d download from legal sites but it’s too expensive.’

Scrolling through her music collection, albums from the past, present and even the future can be found.

She clicked one of the many folders which had been downloading to listen to a perfectly clear copy of this album. You would never realise it had been downloaded illegally.

This girl is not alone. She is not an aberration. It has been estimated that over 8.0million people download their music, with 92% of those accessing these files illegally from across the internet: That’s over 7.4million people.

It is true people that seem to be turning from buying CDs to downloading, but the problem lies in many of them not paying for their music.

The price of downloading an album on iTunes is the highest in the UK. Maybe more people would download from legal sites if the prices weren’t so high.

CD-selling juggernauts like HMV are the biggest sufferers, having announced that their profits have halved on CD sales from the previous year. They are not only fighting against illegal downloads but MP3 sites such as iTunes, cheaper websites such as, supermarkets and people burning CDs for friends.

This has meant that these stores are turning to DVDs and games consoles to push their sales and profits back up.

Unlike many other supergroups, Radiohead have embraced the download generation, creating downloadable albums with no set sale price where buyers choose their own price, and creating tracks that include a code so you get a free MP3 of the track if you buy it on CD. It’s a answer to the issue. Could it be the answer?

The 19-year-old continued: ‘None of my friends buy CDs anymore. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t download. Even at Christmas time no-one buys CDs for other people anymore.’

America is the source for a good number of these downloads – many albums are released before the British release date. Otherwise many downloaders wait for the album to be released here before they download them. It only takes one person to upload it onto the internet for the whole world to be able to get a copy.

Gradually many downloading sites have been shut down with a small handful of people being sued for downloading mass amounts of music and using it to gain a profit.

However more and more sites are created and found by internet users every day, leaving it impossible to find and shut down every single one. And sites mushroom up out of nowhere – they’re frequently hosted in Russia and countries where royalty laws are different to America, Australia and the UK.

Left with decreasing yearly sales, the music industry is suffering from this illegal use of the internet. Is it suffering from swine flu, spanish flu or a mild cold? Only time will tell – at the moment only the symptoms are clear. We don’t know the long-term effects, and we’re still trying to find a cure. Indeed, it’s hard to tell at this stage if a cure is even necessary, or if downloading is a way to boost the music industry’s immunity and we just haven’t realised that yet.

As a last thought, this never-ending problem is spreading from music downloads to films and games. It’s pandemic, if you like. As we speak, the battle continues between downloaders and the entertainment industry, with no clear winner in sight.