I’m almost completely certain that everyone reading this article has used Limewire or some other similar service. For a while, the sharing of copyrighted files on the Internet – whether they be songs, movies, or TV shows – was virtually considered legal, or at least, not a ‘real’ crime. And why not? People wanted access to quality content for free, and it was readily available with few risks.

Then came the crackdown, and the landscape of the Internet changed. First the enforcement of existing laws made an example of many downloaders, and then new laws followed to try to contain the epidemic of what the music industry moguls deemed theft. But, by the time the law caught up with Internet culture (or, began to…it’s still pretty far behind), there was very little to be done.

The reality is this: fans of music don’t expect to have to pay in order to listen. It is so deeply ingrained in us through years of Youtube, Limewire, and BitTorrent that very few people will go to the store and buy a cd just to see if they like it.

This new landscape has led to many frantic attempts by the music industry to reshape how listeners find music. Spotify and Pandora, for instance, allow access to huge libraries of old and new music for free, if you don’t mind the ads.If you do mind, premium versions of both services can be purchased.  Many musicians also release one or two songs prior to an album or tour. Llast year I downloaded a free four-song EP featuring one song for each of the bands that would be a part of Circa Survive’s Violent Waves tour. This type of direct interaction between a band and its fans would not have been possible only a few years ago, when record companies dominated the industry, acting as the middleman between musicians and listeners.

Now, however, the middleman is merely unnecessary and expensive, and most musicians realize that. We are in an age of small record companies and independent bands that allow for much more freedom. We are lucky enough to be living in an age where we can support our favorite bands in our own way. We might not all buy physical albums right away, or pay for downloads, but it is likely that we will go to shows, buy merchandise, and spread the word. The music industry is becoming more grassroots by the minute and this has been incredibly beneficial for all of us.

The almost spiritual energy that permeates a good concert, the thrill of waiting for an album you pre-ordered directly from the band, the feeling that you are intimately involved. These things are irreplaceable. The direct relationship between artists and fans is ethereal, amazing in ways that former business models could never be. So, go forth and listen. Buy if you can, dance and spread the word if you can’t. Support your musicians, but don’t worry too much if you can’t do so monetarily.

Good music isn’t going anywhere.

  • maya kosoff

    I like buying merch at shows because I feel more confident that in the physical, tangible transaction of dollar bills and goods, I’m supporting an artist directly. Maybe this is a benefit of, as you say in your article, the “grassroots”-ization of the music landscape!

  • Lydia

    Hell yes, I absolutely believe that’s true. The experience of buying things directly from a band is just so much better, for everyone involved.