The album has leaked. This blog post isn’t going to be about the music but about the discussions taking place throughout the fandom about downloading the album ahead of time. Obviously, there are many fans who think it is perfectly acceptable to get a copy of the album ahead of time for various reasons. There are other fans who disagree with those reasons.
The basic reasons that the fans who have downloaded the album, illegally, have given are either that they will buy it anyway or that the album won’t be available any other way. Most fans who have a copy of the album claim that it is not a big deal to have it because they will actually buy a copy when it is released. One thing I have noticed with this argument is that some of these fans aren’t saying WHEN they will be buying it. Will they be buying it on the 21st when it is available via iTunes? Maybe, they will wait until the physical release in February. Does it matter? If they are buying it on the 21st, does that make it okay as they really will be buying it as soon as possible? Does that make it okay? That doesn’t seem that horrible to me. In that case, it is like having a preview. What if they are waiting for the physical release? My question here would be: If they didn’t have the album ahead of time, would they have waited or would they have felt forced to buy it through iTunes? If they would have been forced to buy it and now they won’t, that seems more problematic to me. In this situation, it does seem more unethical as they are taking money from the band, at least for a few months. Maybe they are planning on buying both the cd and the vinyl. If they are going to buy it twice, does that make up for it or equal it out? Obviously, each fan has to decide that for him or herself. Now, what if the fans do NOT like what they hear? Will they still buy it at least once to make up for the illegal download? If they don’t, then the band has lost sales. Now, obviously, I can understand not wanting to buy a copy of something you don’t like but that doesn’t seem fair. After all, it isn’t like the band hasn’t given opportunities to hear what the new music is going to sound like so the fans have had adequate previews. After all, Mark Ronson has played some snippets on his radio show and they have put up snippets on their official website. My point is this: There can’t be an assumption that all people who have heard it ahead of it will actually buy it. Some won’t.
Another argument I have heard is that iTunes isn’t available so that the illegal download is the only way to get the new music. From my understanding, if iTunes isn’t available in one’s country, then another source will make it available. If my understanding is correct, then this sounds like a big excuse. If it isn’t, I still wonder if there wouldn’t be another choice. Obviously, I understand not wanting to wait. What fan does?? Yet, there has to be a different solution.
Of course, there are fans who are expressing some of what I expressed above. Some fans seem to go further and say or imply that fans who can’t wait aren’t good fans. For them, they might be using the lack of downloading as a means of elevating their status within the community. My point here, though, is to acknowledge that things seem to have shifted in a week. Last week, it seemed like the fans who had the single ahead of time were of higher status than those who didn’t because there were so few of them. Now, the reverse seems to be true as it is like those who have remained with patience are in the minority. Perhaps, they do deserve praise for waiting. Some think so. Some think it has shown a strength of character.
Beyond these two basic groups of fans (those who download and those who don’t), there are the people who share. I can definitely understand people’s desire to share with their friends. After all, it is possible that they are so excited that they want someone else to share their excitement. Maybe they want to be able to talk about the music with their friends. I can understand all of that. Obviously, though, people have shared WAY beyond just their friends. According to what I have read, the album is available on some of those torrent sites where lots of people can download it. The people who put it up on something like that have no desire to keep to a small group of people. They want it available to everyone who is interested. I have a hard time with that. Yes, I do realize that, for some people, that might be the only way to hear it ahead of time in full as some people don’t have friends who have access to songs or albums ahead of time. I understand and know that feeling. It is just how it is, sometimes. It is not like those people can’t ever hear it. They just have to wait longer.
As I have read and even participated in some of these discussions, my conclusion is this. As a fan and as a person, each individual must decide what she or he can live with. I know that, as a fan, I couldn’t live with having something that can be purchased, legally, from a band I care about. I would feel compelled to buy it even if it turned out to be something I didn’t like, as soon as possible. If I was one of the lucky few who got a copy of a song or video or album ahead of time, I would never share with the public. In fact, I might not share with my friends or many of my friends. I would feel enough respect for the band to keep it to myself.