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Piracy May Keep the Beat From Going On

Musicians are being robbed of their livelihoods.

September 25, 2002|DIANE WARREN | Diane Warren's hits include "Unbreak My Heart" for Toni Braxton, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for Aerosmith and "How Do I Live" for LeAnn Rimes.

As a kid, I listened to the radio all the time. I didn't dream of becoming a rock star. I dreamed of becoming a songwriter. My dream has come true.

Sadly, the growing epidemic of illegal downloading and CD burning may make it a lot harder for a dream like mine to come true for other songwriters.

I struggled for more than 10 years, making the rounds of every music publisher and suffering countless rejections before I began to make a decent living from writing music. With my Dad encouraging me, I persevered and made sure my songs were heard by everyone in the music industry I could reach.

I believe in what I do and work hard to craft the best songs possible. And though I don't write songs just for the money, I do expect to be rewarded for my hard work. Certainly, it wasn't just my love for writing music but also the promise of being able to make a living from my craft that helped keep me going in the beginning.

Will today's young talent have the same opportunities I did? If people are not willing to pay for the music they love, why should anyone be willing to spend the money it takes to make the music?

Record companies put hundreds of thousands of dollars into producing and promoting our songs for one simple reason: They expect to earn it all back and then some. But if the fans are stealing music instead of buying it, what incentive do the labels have to continue? Would a housing developer lay out millions of dollars building a new subdivision if he knew that squatters were going to move in and live there for free?

Fans may think that everyone in the music business is rich, but that simply isn't true. A lot of great songwriters (and bands) get only one commercial hit in their career. Their real interest may be in creating alternative or ethnic music, material that is wonderful but simply not commercial. The money from that one popular hit makes it possible for these artists and writers to devote themselves to the music they really love. To the extent that illegal downloading robs them of those royalties, it robs them of this freedom.

In addition, there are the technicians, session musicians, backup singers and others who play an essential role in helping to make the music you enjoy. If big-name bands and singer-songwriters start spending less time in the studio because pirates are stealing their music, these people will suffer the most.

Music pirates aren't just stealing people's music; they are stealing people's livelihoods. To put it another way, illegal copying not only threatens the entire music business, it also threatens everyone who works in the recording industry.

It's illegal to walk out of a record store with a CD you didn't pay for. Why should downloading the same music be any different?

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