Free Fault

Anthony Harris
Opinions Editor

Pardon me if I’m a bit lewd but lately I’ve been thinking of some age old advice mothers have been giving their daughters: why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? It’s a rather sensible question to ask when considering the value of abstinence (which is a very valuable lesson when one considers the STD rates in the 30314 zip code). But it’s also just good business sense.

Unless you are a complete technophobe, you may be at least somewhat aware of the hubbub with the Recording Industry Association of America and essentially every person on earth who downloads music off the internet. The music industry is trying at a rather slow rate to adapt to the change in technology and there are many growing pains that have caused artists to rethink their methodology.

The media and diligent music lovers all over the globe were enraptured this past October with Radiohead’s seventh album, In Rainbows. The band proposed a rather innovative idea with the album release: they allowed users to download the album from their website after paying what they wanted for it. Band leader, Thom Yorke, in a recent interview on BBC’s Jonathan Ross Show stated most people paid an average of £4 (or $8) for what many music reviewers called the best album of 2007. I personally paid about two dollars for it, but I’m just a cheapskate.

On the other hand (and with a probably more recognizable artist for this demographic), Morehouse Alumnus Saul Williams released his latest album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, with a similar business model. One had the option of downloading the Nine Inch Nail frontman Trent Reznor produced album for free or the higher sound quality version for five dollars. Yet, after this promotion, Reznor stated on his blog that 154,449 people had downloaded Niggy Tardust and 28,322 of them paid the $5 as of January 2 according to CNet News.

Reznor, already with the reputation of being a rather sad mad, was understandably disappointed. Williams was just happy to get his music out to his loyal listeners. I hadn’t gotten around to downloading it at all, really.

To make an even closer appeal to all of you, Lupe Fiasco’s most recent album, The Cool, has been topping the Billboard Rap Charts since its release, and has sold over 249,000 units as of January 16. While this is good for Fiasco, the numbers just aren’t what they should be in the rap world. But seriously ask yourself, did you really go to a store and buy this or did you download it?

Free, while it’s greatly appreciated by all, isn’t that great when you’re selling stuff. You take a great risk in giving things away or just having it all manifested in the universe for people to take instead of buy. When there are free samples at Sam’s Club, do you really buy what you tasted or just go on your merry way? While many businesses have given away products for free, one must note these things don’t have the same anticipated return.

One must never underestimate the power of free. The mere notion that I am saying this to a college demographic is actually quite redundant. But it just feels worthy to be said that we must not force the hand of those who may be willing to provide for us. True, Lupe may quit rapping after the next album, but it would be nice if more of us bought his work instead of bumping the burned copy in the car.

Perhaps I should head over to my favorite music store and buy the hard copy of In Rainbows to make up for my bargain deal and truly support my favorite band. I could probably buy that lunch meat they offered in Kroger. It’s just a step to show support for things I like.


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