music enriches our lives. while this may not be a universal truth, it is quite close to being one. so talented musicians who want to make a living off of music, turns it into a business where they can put food on the table through their songs. however, since not every musician can run a business, we then have music execs and record labels to take care of the business side of music. then comes lawyers and overzealous musicians . . . and we end up with riaa: the recording industry association of america.
many are familiar with the riaa. if you have heard of lawsuits filed against people who illegally download music, you have probably heard of riaa. however, all of riaa’s lawsuit-happy ways have not slowed down internet downloads, not by one bit. with forums and torrent services in european and asian countries, it is almost impossible to catch the offenders.
but let us look at the other side of the coin. so, it is illegal to download songs without paying for them. fine and good. but what happens when you buy a song or an album that turns out to be crappy? can you get your money back? i know i have been burned many times.
in the US, the answer is no. most (if not all) retailers will not issue a refund if you bought a cd and opened it. (same thing with movies of course.) in this day and age, purchasing a download is the dominant form of music business, since people are ditching cds in favor of memory storage, or cloud computing. in some respect, downloads are more buyer-friendly; most companies will let you listen to a 30-second sample for free. itunes goes a little further: many of itunes’ samples are 60-90 seconds long, giving you a better picture before you buy. make no mistake though: a download purchase is just as final as an opened cd, if not more so. since there is no physical store, you have almost no way to address your purchase after it is done. sure, you can email, but it is too easy for a company to ignore your emails if it feels like it. fortunately, most downloads are cheap (typically less than a dollar), so you’re not burned too badly.
what is the point? the point is, when a consumer buys crappy music, the retailers and ultimately the record labels, don’t have to address the issue. the policy is no refund once you buy. so how is the consumer protected in this case? the answer is that the consumer is not protected at all. you get prosecuted for illegally downloading music, but you can’t get your money back when you buy music and find that it’s junk. to me, it seems the consumers are getting all the crap hands when buying music is concerned. until the law changes, it’s buyers beware.
the upside is that since this is the age of the internets, you can check out pretty much any song you want on services like last.fm, soundcloud, or even youtube. there you can listen to the entire song and figure out if it is worth the purchase. it is a pain in the a~* if you want to check out the entire album that has 18 songs, but at least there’s an avenue to make an informed decision about your purchase. just remember to buy wisely.