The Downloading Debate

By: Kristen L. McNulty

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A special thanks to Shaun Groves for allowing us to read his article as part of this Impact devotional.

On our impact devotionals, I like to deal with modern day issues that our relevant to us and the way we live, and tonight's devotional is no different.
We've heard a lot lately about the issue of downloading music. We've heard the pros and the cons, the arguments for and against. We've heard from record labels, the media, judges, juries, music stores, those who download and those who don't. Well tonight on our impact devotional, you're going to hear from a Christian artist. Shaun Groves posted an article on titled "How Stealing Music is Hurting You TODAY, The first of many consequences" and he's been kind enough to give me permission to read it to you tonight. So here is Shaun's opinion on the subject:

I'm not here to rant about how evil you or someone you know is for downloading or burning music instead of buying it - just how irresponsible you are. Most thinking people with a conscience know that breaking the law is in fact wrong not only in our judicial system's eyes but in God's. Yet, the trend continues. I'm handed burned CDs night after night to autograph. I'm not sure why - though I've heard many logical reasons and seen fingers pointed in every direction. One possible reason why people flaunt the law (both God's and man's), however, is that our desire to better ourselves is greater than our desire to be better followers of Christ and servants to man. I can't change that desire in anyone. So, instead of trying I'd rather pursuade anyone who is still downloading music not to - by exploiting the character flaw within them (selfishness) that has caused them to steal in the first place.

I'll do this by telling you one way that your habit of stealing music is hurting you TODAY. Hopefully your selfishness will once again kick in and you will opt to take care of yourself - this time by not stealing music.

The short of it is this: Tour support is gone.

What does that mean exactly? Well, we artists sign with labels for many reasons. One is that they have money we don't to do things we can't to promote and create our music and ministries. One way in which label money helps is in funding tour production (for headliners) and buying an artist onto a major tour (for openers). For instance, I was not on the Bebo Norman tour or the Jars of Clay tour because they liked me as a person and felt like being nice. Both of those things are true, but in the end it costs a lot of money to bring shows like theirs to your city. And so, I paid to play on those tours - or, rather, my label did. (That money, by the way, comes from the budget to promote my record and is recouped by me guessed it: CD sales) A 20 minute opener's spot (with a band) on a major tour can cost as much as (and I've heard more than) 100K. But that's how many of you discover new music and new artists/ministers. That's gone now.

In the last few weeks label types (MAJOR label types) have eliminated tour support from their budgets. This means that there will be fewer tours, worse produced tours, and artists going into personal debt to get onto the few tours that are out there. It also means that headliners - who won't receive money from their labels to cover the expenses of tour production - won't be able to cut new artists a deal as Jars did for me. Already there are major acts struggling to find openers for this Spring.

The reason the labels are doing this to us is understandable. Their profits are shrinking. This is in part due to the economy in general but as money has gotten tighter for consumers more of them have become thieves as well. And what they have stolen is not just music but money - not from the fabled fat cat business men in Nashville - but they've stolen money that funded the very things they love: live music, big tours, sound, lights, staging, multiple artist shows.

So, if an artist can't get money from their label to put on a show for you that promoters will bring to you, they will either tour less, create a show that is cheaper and probably not as good technically, or they will put on a great show and pay for it by charging you more and more money at the ticket counter. I, for example, have to charge more these days to play at colleges because I can't rely on CD sales at shows to sustain my family any more. There are too many buying one and burning copies for their friends who also came to the show. So, I pass that cost on to the promoter and he passes it on to you. No more free shows or $5 shows soon.

And why should a label sign a college friendly artist like the next Bebo or Caedmon's or a youth driven artist like Skillet or Audio A when they know that the artist's core audience won't pay for the music? I hope you like Adult Contemporary.

When's the last time you went to a mainstream show? It was more expensive than most Christian concerts of equal production value wasn't it. The crews on big tours in the CCM world are from the same companies that work the major mainstream tours. Their prices are the same too. It's not cheap to carry around staging, lighting, sound gear and a crew of people smart enough to run it all. Not cheap at all. And soon you'll know just how expensive it'll be paying for it.

Thank you to everyone that buys music. Yes, it's expensive and we're working on that. Yes, the industry is full of flaws and we know it and we really are trying to make things better for you and us alike. But let me be the first to warn you that theft will only hurt the quality and scope of music in the end. We just can't bring you what you're used to seeing and hearing with less and less money with which to create and sustain it.

Again, this article was written by Shaun Groves a Christian recording artist. And while Shaun did a great job pointing some of the consequences of downloading music, there are also moral implications that you should consider. Would you walk into a record store, take a CD off the shelf and walk out of the store without paying for it? I don't think so. Well, then you shouldn't do the same online. If you want to "try before you buy" visit the artists website. Most of them have an online music player where you can listen to the CD before you purchase it.

Don't buy into the lie that you will download the CD now and then purchase it later. That doesn't happen, you and I both know that. Let's show the world that there is a difference between Christian and non-Christians, and lets do that in CD sales. Wouldn't it be awesome for the world to see that Christians are really walking the talk and have so much integrity that they are not willing to steal in order to satisfy their wants. Jesus did call us to be salt and light, and we are only going to do that if we practice what we preach.

So this week, why don't you uninstall Kazaa or Limewire or whatever you use and instead make your way over to the record store. Yes, you won't have as many songs as you would if you were stealing them, but you will have your integrity and the approval of your Heavenly Father. And no song that you could download could be worth more than that.

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This devotional was aired as a part of the Making A Difference Christian Radio Show.