Why I Still Pay For Music (And Why You Should, Too)

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Ours is a world that has become selfish and impatient. We want what we want, when we want it and we don’t want to have to pay for it. And if it takes longer than a few minutes, then we’re going to tweet about our anger and pout all day long. The Internet is an amazing resource and those of us fortunate enough to have access to it should absolutely take advantage of it. But through our constant use and rapidly growing dependence on the source we have become accustomed to instant gratification and gratification at no cost. And we believe we’re entitled to this.

Although we are selfish and impatient and sometimes a bit crabby, we are inherently good people. Most of us try to do right by others. We hold the door open for people with arms full of books and we support our friends by going to see their weird plays experimental theater pieces. We return lost wallets and iPhones found on the ground to their rightful owners. We would never actually steal something. That would be wrong. That would be bad. And still, a lot of us have just stopped paying for music.

I’m not sure why, but it feels like we’ve become numbed to the idea that torrenting music or ripping songs off YouTube is stealing. Maybe because it is so ubiquitous that no one recognizes it’s wrong. We all love music and either we believe we have a right to it or we rationalize that since everyone is doing it, then it must be okay. It is the same apathetic approach we have towards social or environmental issues: alone, I can’t make the difference so why bother? This couldn’t be further from the truth. Should we all stop bothering with sorting recycling because carpooling to work everyday isn’t going to make the planet greener?

I believe in taking responsibility, owning my actions and doing my part. We are lucky to have rights but with those rights come responsibilities. We have to do what we can to take care of what’s around us. We have to remember that everything is connected and we have to choose love and positivity to improve the not so good things around us and allow for the good things around us to flourish. For me, part of that is paying for music, a product that I love so passionately and so intently.

At best my ideas are romantic and idealistic and at worst they are airy and half-baked, but at least one thing I mentioned holds truth; music is a product. Like that $300 Tiffany charm bracelet or that $85 Urban Outfitters sweater designed to look $14.00. These are products that are absurdly over priced and yet none of us would ever consider taking these for free, a fact which should stop every complainer about to whine “but music is so expensive” dead in their tracks. I can promise you that any song or album (I’m a big believer in albums, but that’s another essay) that you love will bring you so much more happiness than any object hanging in your closet, your jewelry box, or sitting in your driveway. Pick your poison, we all have a vice.

Many smarter people before me have claimed that spending money on experiences will bring you more happiness than spending money on material things. This is a rule I am still learning to apply. Every week, I see a new sweater or pair of cool pants that I momentarily truly believe will improve my life. I always regret acting on those impulses, but about music I have never been wrong.

I am an avid appreciator of the arts and I believe that the choice to make art is a brave one. Not everyone can bear to leave a part of his or her self on a canvas, a piece of foolscap or in a guitar rift. I think that art and the desire to create art is something that we should celebrate. We are so fortunate as humans to be able to experience it as onlookers and as creators. Art for art’s sake is something that is innately and uniquely human. Birds have songs too but those are for communication and a spider web is beautiful to look it but it serves another purpose. You might argue that this makes art a right. Maybe it is, but I don’t think we are entitled to it. Like everything else in life that is worthwhile we have to make some sort of trade, a sacrifice, or we have to put in the work to continue to enjoy it.

Some songs are for dancing and others are for crying. Some songs help you lose yourself, transcending you into an alternate reality while all your troubles fall away. Some songs are for finding yourself, bringing you further and further into your own mind, flashing a light in all the dark corners hiding your desires and fears. Each song hits you differently and some songs hit you harder the 2nd or 200th time you hear them. That might be my favorite thing about music; each song is an experience that you can continue to relive. So to I find that as I continue to chase my love of music I continue to foster more joy in my headphone-less life as well. I’m thinking specifically of a handful of amazing and inspiring people I now call friends after meeting them once at a show and then there are the pre-established bonds that have strengthened after discovering a shared love for a favorite band. All of this to me is priceless. This is why I pay for my music. TC mark

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