A few days ago, I was able to download all tracks from Pakistani band Call's debut album Jilawatan, and have been listening to these over and over again since then. I like some of these more than the others and, obviously, listen to my favourite tracks even more often.
The last time I was so enthused by a musical act...er...artiste, was when I listened to Rabbi Shergill's eponymous debut album (titled: Rabbi), after a friend had very kindly led me to a website where I could download the relevant mp3 files. Besides, I have been collecting Qawwalis by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for some time now and my Rock collection prominently features the Irish band U2.
In fact, apart from the 'Tibetan Incantations' compact disc I picked up on a recent trip to Nepal, I can not seem to remember the last time when I purchased a music cassette or a CD. I believe it has been at least 5 years, if not more. God bless the folks that invented the mp3 and similar digital formats and those who provide the files online, for me and the rest of the world to download!
There are brief interruptions, of course, when a Napster or a Kazaa becomes a paid service, but alternatives are available soon enough and one can always find a way to download, without having to pay anything in addition to the cost of internet access, music albums or movies of one's choice.
Like in the case of Rabbi and 'Call', sometimes I do feel the urge to purchase a music album, just because I like the artistes' work so much that I want to support and encourage them. However, meditation has helped me learn to exercise self-control and self-restraint. So, I am mostly able to overcome the urge, unless it appears too difficult to be able to locate and download the music for free off the internet, which, as mentioned before, has happened only once in the past five years.
I am sure there are many others like me in the whole ding-dong world.
It is not as if a good artiste/band will not be successful on account of this, as is evident from the album sales of those that I have mentioned, but they definitely do end up losing a lot in terms of potential revenues.
The orthodox or conventional approach has been to locate websites that offer free downloads, file copyright violation suites against them and to force them to pay up. This leads them to being faced with two options, either to close down the service or to offer downloads, but not for free. Most service providers, when caught in such a bind, choose the latter option.
The way the internet has evolved though, new P2P (Peer-to-Peer) networks offering free downloads always spring up when existing ones are caught out.
I believe the artistes and the music companies should look for some out-of-the-box solutions rather than means to herald the end of the free-download era.
For instance, they could offer high-quality downloads, for free, on their own websites. Revenues could be generated by inserting 10-second long advertisement-jingles in the mp3's (or files of a similar digital format) before or after the piece of music that a user wishes to download, in addition to the advertisements displayed on the site.
I am sure they could earn a lot more in this manner, rather than selling music downloads online.
Similarly, movie files offered for download on the producers' own websites could contain full-length commercials.
If you can not beat them, as they say, join them!