Is the Digital World Making Kids Feel Entitled?

As a teacher who often talks about creative writing, intellectual property, and other issues which try to support the view that artists be paid (and hopefully well) for their endeavors, I regularly run across attitudes from students concerning digital media which are concerning.

Just this week I had a student that complained about how expensive digital media (music and movies, I believe, was the context) and how the high price justified his actions of downloading the music or movies for free.

In my view, this is a very regrettable attitude for several reasons. First of all, the digital platform has CHEAPENED music and media, not made it more expensive. Anyone with more years under his or her belt would know that. In fact, digital media is not expensive at all. It’s cheap. Too cheap. Probably WAY too cheap. I remember how much music used to cost.

Back in the early 80’s, during the prime years when I would be buying 45s (yes, those round things that played music on a record player) I would save up my meager allowance and seek out my favorite songs on vinyl so I could enjoy them at home. So I bought songs from Toto, Journey, Bob Seger. I think I even bought Eddie Rabbit’s “I love a rainy night.” And how much money would I plop down for those? Ninety-nine cents. Perhaps a dollar twenty nine. That was one hit song and then a thrown in B-Side that nobody liked.

As a reminder of time, that was thirty-five years ago. I was paying the same price for a song in 1982 as I’m paying now if I download one from Amazon or iTunes.

Music is expensive?

Remember when CDs came out?  I easily plopped down $18 for a CD back in the late 80s and early 90s. Now? Most new music can be had for under $10 because of the digital platform.

So this excuse that music (or movies) are too expensive just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The digital world has cheapened music, not made it too expensive. This student’s excuse doesn’t hold up to empirical data.

But the problem with that comment goes way beyond the reality of the price of a song. It goes to an attitude that I believe is troubling. And that is this: “I am entitled to listen to that song as much as I want. And if I think it is too expensive, then I should be allowed to break the law and get it for free, because I’m that special.”

Too many people believe they are entitled to entertainment.

That’s what digital has done to the marketplace.

A Lexus is too expensive for my budget. But I should be able to drive one. So therefore, I’ll go steal one.

A trip to the Maldives is out of my reach. But I should be able to enjoy that. So therefore, I’ll hack in and steal someone’s credit card so I can support it.

If you can’t afford a song, what makes you entitled to it for free? What have you or anyone done to deserve to hear a song you didn’t want to pay for? What part of the creative process, the musicianship, the production, the marketing, etc… did you contribute to that makes you deserving of hearing even a few chords of a new song without paying for it?

I’ll tell you which part. No part.

And the excuses keep coming:

  • They (the artists) are so rich anyways.
  • Everyone is doing it.
  • It’s so easy to download from Youtube. Why pay for it?
  • It’s not like anyone cares in my country. Even the police buy bootleg DVDs.

There are artists who are rich. So what? Irrelevant. It’s like saying there’s so much money in the bank so I deserve to rob it. There are plenty of other artists (musicians, writers, etc…) who can’t make enough to live on. It in no way gives anyone license to enjoy their content for free!

Everyone is doing it. Just listen to your mother’s voice to hear how foolish you sound.

It’s so easy. It’s also easy to walk over to your neighbor’s lawn and take their potted plants. Try it someday.

No one cares? So we base our actions off the wrong actions of others? Where were you raised?

If a song is good enough to take up 4 minutes of your time, it should also take up $1.00 from your wallet.

If a movie is worth wasting 2 hours of your life, it’s at least worth a $3.99 rental.

We all need to get back to respecting value – especially the value of the creative arts. Our cultures are bathed in entertainment, and we spend hours each day enjoying it, yet we sanction and encourage a lazy attitude toward making sure the artists get the money for what they have created. Imagine how boring your life would be without it. You might even have to walk outside and look at the azure sky.

Pay for your entertainment. It’s never been cheaper, so don’t cheapen it anymore.





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