Technology makes it convenient for students to enjoy legal music

By Connor Rice

I have been known to steal.

Technology has made it easy to obtain music. In a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, I can download a band’s entire discography, and they will never see a cent. As a musician, participating in what has become a culturally-acceptable practice has left me awake some nights contemplating my own morals, but as a broke college student in a city with no proper record store, I had come to adopt it as a necessary evil.

But what I didn’t realize until a few days ago was that it doesn’t have to be this way. While technology makes it insanely easy to steal music, it also makes it just as convenient to obtain it legally without shelling out $2.19 for one song on iTunes. Citizens of DeKalb and students of NIU don’t have to resort to theft.

Ever since the Napster phenomenon, the music industry has reportedly taken massive hits to its sales figures. Being a proponent of independent music, however, I asked myself on a regular basis why I should care. These musicians make millions of dollars off of touring and merchandise, and I’m supposed to feel guilty about taking 15 bucks out of their pockets? Please!

But I neglected to think about the bands that didn’t have lucrative recording contracts and world tours lined-up. The bands who I actually respected. So, I continued to make excuses like, “If it’s not on vinyl, it’s not worth buying,” or “I don’t have access to the places that carry that artist,” or even, “I’m a poor college student. They’ll understand.” This allowed me to download all I wanted from under-the-radar blogs and MediaFire pages, “guilt-free.”

But I still felt those quiet pangs of regret.

Not only was I taking hard-earned cash out of the wallets of influential musicians, but it was making me lazy. Somehow, unzipping those folders and copying them to an external hard drive was more of a chore than an expansion of my music library. Oftentimes, those MP3s would just sit on my desktop, taking up space on my computer. I could no longer justify my actions, and it left me deeply confused.

A few days ago, a music streaming website aired a commercial asking me to try their service free for 60 days. My snotty, elitist attitude had prevented me from checking them out in the past, but my recent taste for more “mainstream” artists got me to log on and see what they had to offer.

I’m already unclear as to how I lived without it.

I’m now able to listen to music that I like at any time without having an ethical dilemma. I’m not only able to stream my favorite artists from any computer, but I’m also able to download full albums right to the app on my smartphone. From Fleetwood Mac to Scratch Acid, it’s all at my fingertips at a moment’s notice for $10 a month, with or without an Internet connection.

Readers, I urge you: try to find alternatives to illegal downloading. Just because we live in a city far away from indie record stores, and pay-by-song services are sometimes unaffordable doesn’t mean that we have to fall back on old excuses. I’ve found this course of action to be not only convenient, but rewarding.

Give one of those free trials a shot. You might be surprised with yourself.