This post is for the brave few who still don’t use streaming services to listen to their music. Maybe you can’t afford the data, or you’re a radio connoisseur, or a CD junkie (God forbid)–or you’re like me.
I still own an iPod Classic with the original iPod click wheel, a faulty 1/4 inch headphone jack, and 120 GB of open musical ocean.
Another disclaimer: I may take some heat for what I say here, considering I myself am a musician. But I’ve chosen to go the route of complete honesty here for the sake of authenticity with this topic.
I have been collecting some of my music through…*other means* for years. I would tell myself it’s ok because I spend enough money on music in general: I pay for enough t-shirts, vinyl, merch, and live shows that it eventually evens out. Maybe the mentality is that “those bigger bands out there are already making enough money etc. etc.”
It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but most of the time the desire for new music just exceeds the amount of money in the bank.
So I sail down to the bay of pirates and fish for tunes.
The alternative is to buy an album for 15 or 20 bucks on iTunes. Or I can head down to my local Lost Temple of HMV and retrieve a CD-relic from the ancient crumbling ruins instead.
Now don’t get me wrong, for the right album I will spend like 30 bucks to order it on vinyl. And if I see a band play live or local that I really enjoy, hell yeah I will buy their album. But I can’t bloody well do that for every new indie band I trip over each day–especially given how many there are.
The problem comes if you have more of an eclectic taste in music, because you discover a lot of music that you can’t actually acquire through *other means*. If you’re lucky (and the band is small-time enough) they may have it up on Bandcamp for 5 bucks or pay-what-you-want, but most of the time that’s not the case. So many artists and bands inhabit this grey area where their music is kind of ‘less-accessible’. So where do you go to get albums for cheap if you’re as broke as I am?
Ten cent songs and one dollar albums as far as the eye can see. You just sign up and make an account. They have a surprisingly substantial library of music to browse. Anything from top 40s like your T-swift and your Kanye (or whatever is considered top 40s these days) to smaller, up-and-coming indie darlings alike.
The only catch is that you have to load a minimum of $16.14 ($15 USD) on to the account at a time. But they throw in a bonus if you add more. For $32.29 you get a bonus of $10 for free, for $53.81 you get $25 for free, and so on and so forth.
Maybe that sounds like too much money to pay up front for you. But you don’t have 9032 songs on your iPod blah blah blah–(is this coming off as pretentious yet? Good. Then we’re off to a great start.)
As an aside, the only reason I have that much music is because I compulsively keep full albums on it, and I like the idea of going onto shuffle and discovering songs that I never even knew I had.
But anyhow, back to the topic at hand.
The first thing I thought after coming across Mp3million was, “ok, is this actually legal though?” I am trying to be better about this stuff, so I thought I’d look into it a little.
Their FAQ section had this to say:
Yes, the activity of Mp3million.com is carried out according to the legislation of the license agreement # 67/17M-10 of the Rightholders Federation for Collective Copyright Management of Works Used Interactively (NP “FAIR”). Service http://www.Mp3million.com pays full-scale author’s royalties to owners of pieces of music, trademarks, names, slogans and other copyright objects used on the site. Any further distribution, resale or broadcasting is prohibited.
Okay so that’s a lot of ‘legalese’ to sift through. After a bit of reading and eventually stumbling across a fantastically in-depth blog post written by a Jay Matlock, I got an “almost answer” to my original question.
I’ll try and break down the gist of the article into bullet points:
- Mp3million operates outside of the US, so instead of paying a flat rate per song to artists, they pay around 8-10 percent per track depending on the country.
- They claim that the reason they can be so cheap is because they charge you the $15 up front and therefore get a guaranteed minimum amount of money from each customer.
- Apparently a couple similar Mp3 websites that were being run from somewhere in Russia have been sued and canned in the past.
- Matlock argues that maybe if Mp3million has stuck around for so long while all the rest were shut down, that could suggest they’re legitimate.
- Matlock admits that he emailed them once and asked if they pay artists as much as iTunes does, to which Mp3million said something to the effect of “We can not disclose our policies, and thank you for your business. Okay bye.”
But to answer the question “is it in fact legal?”, his verdict was: It’s Plausible.
I’m not going to lie, my post originally started out as basically a promotional post for Mp3million. Like they aren’t paying me or anything, but still.
Now it’s kind of devolved into a tiny investigation piggy-backing on Jay Matlock’s research.
So here’s my verdict:
It’s enough to help me sleep at night.
Thank you, and goodnight.