Poll: Should music be free?

Paying for music is now a voluntary act, so why would anyone ever buy a CD, LP, or download?

Music, or should I say most recorded music, is already free; you can get it whenever and wherever you want it and pay nothing.

I've bought thousands of CDs, SACDs, LPs, and a few hundred downloads. Of course, when I started buying music I didn't have too many "free" options, other than radio or taping friends' albums. Radio was a great way to discover new music, but once I heard something I really liked, I bought it. My $3.98 "Led Zeppelin II" LP was a great investment; I've played it hundreds of times, and it sounds better than ever over my high-end hi-fi.

Times change, though. Fans no longer feel a need to support their favorite bands by buying their music. Some go to concerts or buy merchandise, and that's great, but they see no need to buy music. Some have paid subscriptions to Spotify or Pandora, and sure, that's better than nothing. Those services pay fees to record labels and artists, but those fees are a tiny fraction of the income they get from iTunes, CD, or LP sales. It seems that for most folks, $1 for a song or $10 for an album is too much to pay. So most bands make fewer and fewer records, and don't create a large body of work that will survive long after the band breaks up.

We're getting close to the day when major bands stop putting out CDs, and I'd be willing to bet that once their CDs are out of print, the prices people are willing to pay for CDs will skyrocket. So if you think $10 or $12 CDs are expensive now, just wait a few years.

About the author

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Home Theater, Inner Fidelity, Tone Audio, and Stereophile.


Discuss Poll: Should music be free?

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Articles from CNET
How to view photos shared on Messenger