Confessions of a Music Thief

I’ve a confession to make – I have, once or twice, downloaded music illegally.

For example, about ten years ago I downloaded a couple of Dream Theater albums.

I love Dream Theater, I’ve since spent a lot of money on them – CDs, DVDs, Concert tickets. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on their stuff over the years.

But I first heard of them when I was a penniless student. One of my bass guitar pupils came tome wanting to learn tracks from Images and Words – He gave me a CDR he’d burnt of the album.

We didn’t get far with a lot of the tracks – Dream Theater are a little beyond my bass abilities – but I did like the music.

So I downloaded everything I could, much of it via torrents.

Was that wrong?

As a consequence I became a fan and have spent over the years, hundreds of pounds on their stuff that I otherwise would not.

But of course it wasn’t legal.

Yesterday I discovered that my latest album has turned up on several torrent/download sites, leading to the biggest one day spike of listeners on bandcamp I’ve ever had.

Is this wrong?

I can’t bring myself to object. It is illegal, and frustrating because you can already hear it all for free and download much of it in exchange for just an email address.

Andrew Dubber, in his 20 things book, wrote about the process we go through when purchasing music. It goes: Listen, Love, Buy.

The modern listener expects to hear music before they buy it – and there’s no way to stop that.You have to turn someone into a fan before they spend any money on your music.

That’s exactly what happened when I first heard Dream Theater and subsequently with lots of other bands. The difference is that nowadays I discover music via legal means because they’re the most convenient – spotify, youtube, bandcamp etc.

I’d prefer it if I could control where my music was and prevent it from being on download sites that exist mostly to make money for others, but if people are hearing my music, well hopefully some of them will become fans. And that can’t be a bad thing.

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Music Thief

  1. It’s a tough one. I’m a music listener. I love music; when I’m home, it’s on, when I’m in my car, it’s on, when I’m on the train to and from work, it’s on. I believe in purchasing music and supporting musicians I like through CD/DVD/merchandise/concert ticket sales. But I’ve been guilty like Tom also of illegally downloading first to decide if I like it. When I was a boy, I’d go to a friend’s house w/some cassette tapes and tape their records. If I liked them, I’d buy the record. I guess that was okay in the 70s/80s? I don’t remember bands suing their fans like Metallica did (does?). Today, with prices for products rising at rates faster than salaries, I do sometimes still “preview” a CD, mostly for the established bands. I find that independent artists allow their work to be heard through websites like or and thus deserve to be purchased, which is what I’ve done w/Tom Slattery’s most excellent “Iron Bark” CD (heard it on AiiRadio and then bought it). At this point, nearing 50, I have friends who I might share a few .mp3s of the CD with who I know, if they enjoy it, will buy the full quality CD. Right? Wrong? Shades of Grey? It’s a difficult one.

    • Thanks for purchasing Ironbark! The first pressing of that is almost sold out.

      It is a difficult one. In some ways it’s getting easier because legitimate streaming sites now exist, but they don’t always offer a mobile option, which matters to me because I like to listen to music when commuting (Yup, still a long way from quitting the day job!).

      Yeah, indie artists tend to be a bit more modern and not into stopping potential fans from hearing the music. I think that’s the right way – and of course having 100% control over my music I can happily say that I definitely give people permission to share mp3s with friends – if someone burned 100 copies of the CD and gave them away I wouldn’t object! If someone’s spreading the word because they like the music I think it’s great. If soemone was tryign to make money out of my stuff without my consent I’d have a different opinion.

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