Since the music industry is quite diverse it is consequently impacted by a great number of ethical issues. The issues span across the production side to the consumptions side of music. They issues deal with things as inconsequential as lip syncing to the breaking of laws when stealing music. Although there are a lot of different areas that can be examined within the industry, the most important ethical issues fall under the category of compensation.
The first major aspect of compensation is in regard to royalties. Royalties are defined as “an amount of money that is paid to the original creator of a product, book, or piece of music based on how many copies have been sold” according to Webster’s dictionary. Artists earn money from the sale of their original work. This means that any public performance of the artist’s work, on radio, TV, or at a bar, does not earn them any money. The concept of royalties is derived from copyright law as well as from the idea that when radio stations gave an artist’s music air-time, it would consequently lead to more sales. This whole system of compensation for artists is now being questioned. This can be attributed to several different factors but the foremost is the advent of the internet. People are increasingly more connected which is the cause of a complete re-imagination of how music is shared. As the internet developed a lot of new outlets for enjoying music emerged: some of which were more ethical than others.
When the online music sharing industry was evolving there were a lot of opportunities for great innovation but there was also opportunity for laws to be broken. In 1999, a music sharing website called Napster was founded that raised a lot of ethical issues about intellectual property. The site allowed users to download a myriad of mp3 files of songs without having to pay for them. The question then became “Just because we can get the music we want without paying for it, should we?” (Tyson, 2000, p.1). This issue of illegal downloads, which is also referred to as piracy, has been a hot topic ever since the introduction of Napster. According to Recording Industry Association of America “In the decade since peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 47 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.7 billion” (RIAA, 2014).
When people illegally download music they are robbing the artists of royalties. The fact that people are increasingly stealing music begs a further question of how slippery this slope is. Will the music industry stop making money altogether because people can just find a way to get their music illegally? While this is the far extreme it is important to note the far reaching implications of what this could mean for the industry. Striking losses of profits would cripple artists and everyone involved in producing or distributed the music. An example of how the music industry is losing profits on royalties is...