Before I go any further, let me start with this confession:
I used to pirate things off the net, too.
As some of you know, I am a full time creative. I’ve been making music, producing, and creating visual art for almost 7 years now and doing it full time for 3 years. However, I am both the everyday & creative consumer — (separating the two is important for a point that I want to make later on). In 2012, I started making beats along with writing and recording my own music. I would spend hours upon hours watching Youtube videos on beat making, mixing plugins and even recording equipment. But once I started doing the research I realized “damn, this stuff is expensive”. I really wanted to get my hands on a lot of the plugins I came into knowledge about but I didn’t have the money.
A Friend Put Me “On”
When I began sharing my music online, I soon discovered a new community of friends who also were music creators as well. We would always share tips with each other about beat making, song writing and all things related. I don’t remember who it exactly was but I do remember a music friend showing me how to download and install cracked music software. In the beginning I was a little obsessed. I did buy some of my own sounds and software but I also downloaded a ton of cracked software and pirated sounds. I even learned how to distinguish “good” cracked software from “bad” cracked software. I became a internet pirate connoisseur. If your software installer didn’t have 8 bit techno music and/or fake animation characters didn’t cover the window layout, you crack might of been average. I even downloaded extra pirating software, that helped override or get around software that had preventive pirating algorithms. If some of my software stopped working, it wasn’t time to buy it — it was time to find the updated cracked versions.
What’s really crazy? While I look back on this, I thought I was saving money. But while I was “saving money” I was just hurting the people who I pirated from.
Some years went by and one of my good friends told me in one of our conversations that he was going to stop pirating. He had started a business and had started producing some serious records for people and he wanted to do things right. His reasoning — I remember it almost word for word:
“If we want to be completely honest about it, pirating is stealing. Many of these companies we pirate from aren’t huge companies. But they put a lot of money into making music software and it’s how they feed their families. I was recently challenged on having cracked software. How can I put out music as an artist and a producer and ask people to support me if I’m not supporting the people who supply the tools for me to make music?”
He was right.
How dare I expect people to support my music or even buy my beats, if I’m stealing from others just to make it? He then challenged me to stop pirating music software and sounds — (we’re almost to the point I mentioned earlier). I didn’t want to hear or accept it but I felt convicted in my heart to stop. I didn’t stop pirating all at once but I slowed down A LOT. I started realizing that pirating was extra work in itself to keep up with!
Ex: When I got a new laptop and was forced to update my OS on my Macbook, a lot of my cracks stop working. So I had to either find new ones or just be without a certain sound because I didn’t have the money to get the plugin.
Eventually, I stopped. I started buying the music AND video software I was ripping off, one by one. I even accumulated some debt doing that because I wanted to be totally out of the piracy chapter in my life.
When It Hurt The Most
Last year, I started a business venture with my good friend J.Pelham. Pelham & Junior is our small sound/sample design company. We originally started working under our friends at Soul Surplus and releasing content under them, first. I had stopped pirating completely a few months before working with them. However, after a couple of months, Soul Surplus eventually gave us an opportunity to move out and start on our own. After about 3 months into us selling through our distributor, I had started seeing some of our payments being “refunded” to the customer. I instantly knew what was happening.
People were calling PayPal and telling them that someone had used their credit card to make a fraudulent purchase when in fact the lie detector test determined that was a lie! But of course, PayPal always sides with the customer when it comes to digital downloads (eye roll emoji). They were essentially getting our content for free! I was furious. I could feel my beard hair turning gold, electricity surrounding my body and gravel floating up in the air as I took to social media to express my anger. People were stealing from me! This is how I paid my bills and took care of my wife!
Weirdly enough, this made me glad I had made the decision to stop pirating software. It aslo made me realize I needed to stop pirating completely. This meant no more streaming or downloading movies or TV shows. I went cold turkey on bootlegging all media the first quarter of 2018. If I didn’t own it, I either bought it or put it on my list of things to subscribe to in the future.
“It’s Not Hurting The Big Guys”
(Remember that point about me being the “everyday consumer”? This is how it relates to you.)
Most of you may think, “Pirating (or bootlegging) is not really hurting movie makers, tv shows or big software companies.” While you may not be hurting the actors, producers or CEO’s pockets, you’re still forgetting the “little people.”
Many of us don’t sit through the credits at the end of any Marvel movie or your favorite TV show. Some of us may not look through the credits of any Call of Duty game or the latest release of Microsoft Office. But do you know that it takes a ton of people to develop these sources of entertainment we enjoy and/or develop these tools we use to work?
Let’s think about movies for instance.
There’s sound design, sound engineering, set construction, costume creation, CGI design, key grip, post production, location scouting and so much more! When you pay $10 for that movie ticket or stream it from your favorite streaming service, that’s how these small companies and labor workers get paid. It’s not just the people in front of and behind the cameras “getting rich”.
Every time you illegally download a movie (computer software, tv show, or music etc) you are literally taking money from those people’s pockets. And many of those people aren’t rich. This is how they live.
So, when you think about illegally streaming or downloading something again, remember these two things:
You’re taking money from hard working people’s pockets — would you want that to be done to you?
Invest in yourself. Invest in those who create art that inspires you. Invest in those who create to entertain you. Invest in people that provide you the tools to work.
Til next time,