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Published March 13th, 2013
The Cost of "Free Music"
By Lucy Portnoff
Lucy Portnoff is a ninth-grader at Miramonte High School. She is active in Public Speaking and Mock Trial programs and enjoys art and music.

Many Lamorinda teens, myself included, listen to music almost constantly. Music provides enjoyment, relaxation, and effective stress relief when dealing with the workload of high school. However, because teens are listening to music so frequently, favorite songs and genres can become boring and repetitive. Fast. The solution to this problem is Pandora.
Pandora is a popular internet radio service used by many teens in our community, In fact, research shows the age group that most frequently uses Pandora in the United States is under 24 years old. The service provides access to a free, personalized radio station that "only plays the music you'll love." To ensure that this is indeed the case, following the Amazon model, Pandora finds and plays songs similar to those of the artists previously selected by the user. The user can provide positive or negative feedback to such picks which is then used for future song selection.
However, significant controversy surrounds Pandora and other inexpensive or free music providers today. To keep the prices reduced, these services often lower the royalty rates paid to the artists who produce the music to ensure that their company continues to thrive.
Within the music industry, it is common for large companies to prosper while the artists do not receive the royalties they have earned. Popular artists including Katy Perry and Pink Floyd are among the numerous musicians protesting the lower royalty rates proposed. Artists are rightfully concerned as they have dedicated their lives to fulfilling a career in the music industry, producing popular music for their audiences. Selling their music is the basis of their income and they deserve the earned revenue.
While these services are the most efficient, affordable way for teens to acquire music regularly and legally, are teens entitled to free access?
Miramonte junior Youngjoo Ahn believes that all teens should have access to affordable music to provide adolescents with a well-rounded musical education. When learning an instrument or a piece of music for the first time, music educators agree that professional recordings are the best teachers. By listening to the professionals, students learn to mimic these techniques and improve ear training, a skill that identifies pitches, chords, intervals, and rhythms solely by hearing. Also, studies have shown that non-lyrical music actually promotes focus and work ethic within education. Ahn states, "Affordable music is such an asset to education that everyone should have the opportunity to listen."
However, Stanley Middle School eighth-grade musician Zoe Portnoff argues that free or inexpensive access to music is not an entitlement for teens. In many ways, teens are not entitled to free music any more than they are entitled to free iPhones. Music is a product created for the enjoyment of an audience, meaning there is a price attached. According to Portnoff, "While inexpensive music is convenient, it is not a right. These artists deserve to be paid fairly for their work, just as any other manufacturer is."
For Pandora to remain competitive, it cannot continue to designate 54 percent of its income in royalties as opposed to the 8 percent required from satellite radio. To increase income to the company without decreasing royalties, it is possible for Pandora to mirror satellite radio by introducing subscription fees and adding audio advertisements between musical selections. This idea has proven to be unpopular. Increased audio advertisements both repel users (often sending them to online piracy sites to obtain music free from such commercials) and have yet to prove effective. By lowering their distribution fees as well as royalties paid to the artists, Pandora and other providers can give adolescents the opportunity to broaden their musical education and increase important learning skills.
In the end, the question to be asked is: Should free music be available to teens? If so, who pays for it?

Teen Scene is YOUR voice. If you have something to say or have writing skills and want to be part of our Teen Scene team, email our Teen Coach, Cynthia Brian, Cynthia@CynthiaBrian.com.
The opinions expressed in Teen Scene are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Lamorinda Weekly.

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