For the longest time I've been a huge proponent of actually paying for the music I download. I understand how incredibly stupid that sounds, when at any given time, day, place even the most inept person behind the controls of a computer (hi dad!) can find and download their favorite hits for free.
I've always had the mind set that you get what you pay for. There's a reason why the shitty "on sale" power drill is on sale, and the Makita is 300.00 USD. The same principles can be applied to Wendys and White Castle, Sony and LG, Disneyworld and Busch Gardens.
These things are better, won't break down on you, won't give you horrible spraying shits that coat the bowl is fecal spatter, and won't make your kids wonder why you're such a dead beat. The extra you're paying for is convienence, the ability to be rest assured that things are going to be ok.
So when faced spending 99% of one dollar to download a song, I don't see it as a huge deal. I've always figured that for the price of a dollar I was not paying for a song, but guarenteeing that what I was getting was a quality download of the exact song I wanted, without some dickweed teenager's trojan virus-laced coding within my copy of Busta Rhymes "Pass The Couvousier (remix.)".
But the downside to paying a dollar for a song off of iTunes is that shit adds up quick. Like the proverbial Lays Potato Chip, you can't have just one. I started to look at my credit card receipt (which I use to download music from the iTunes Store) and noticed that the bulk of my purchases from iTunes was hovering around about 10 to 15 bucks a month. And when you're dropping triple that on gas every two weeks, plus groceries, etc, it's quickly realized it's an unneeded expense.
So I started to ask around about free downloading sites or "torrents." Which ones were good, which ones to stay clear of, etc. The Lady turned me on (...) to uTorrent where you get a host of five or six other torrent sites that feed off of each other through one search. She downloaded it to my beleagured Dell laptop (I also trusted her because she was running pretty much the same programme on her beloved iMac book) and started to rob the music industry at mousepoint.
This wasn't my first foray into the world of illegally downloaded music; as mentioned before I had dabbled in this practice well before the days of iTunes. If you're reading this and are under the age of 21, you probably have no clue that Napster at one time used to be 100% free, and spawned warped and horribly virus-ridden children in the form of Morpheus, BearShare, LimeWire, etc, not unsimilar to how Gaea spawned the Greek Gods by slicing open Chronus's ballsack.
These programmes fed off the "Peer2Peer" networking system which allowed you to download files from multiple people or "sources" at once.
Have you ever been to an orgy? I have (hi mom!), and it's not as cool as you'd think it would be (if that's your thing) because it's literally a clusterfuck. People stepping all over each other, not knowing names or even faces, just literally fucking each other over to get what you want. And as we all know, unprotected sex with multiple people - as in transmitting files indiscriminately - can lead to viruses. This has always been a major concern of mine, on both the literal and figurative fronts.
So I left the "free" world of downloading music (and I say "free" with quotes because really, nothing is free, what you skimp on with cost of a download, you pay for with some Asian nerd wiping your harddrive at the price of 65.00 USD an hour) and started to pay for it. Whatever, it's only a dollar.
And there were considerable advantages to paying for the download: It didn't take literally all day (or multiple days) to finishing downloading a song or album. And when the song or album finished, you weren't left with some piss-poor quality, purposely mislabled, recorded-in-a-basement garage band/wanna-be rapper.
Nothing is more irratating than searching for Ice Cube's 1994 album "The Predator" and coming back with some cock-smoker's own personal rendition of "It Was A Good Day."
All in all I've found that using a torrent isn't that bad. I haven't had a lot of issues with the downloads, only that the reception is spotty and it takes, at it's fastest, up to an hour to download some stuff. I do miss the point-click-download-play function that made iTunes so great, along with the album art, because I'm incredibly impatient and have an ever decreasing attention span.
I'm curious to see if with gas prices going up, will iTunes do something to prevent more consumers from jumping ship as I have? Will they recognize that people in their targeted demographic (which would be iPod owners, which is virtually everyone) pass on filling their iPod in leu of filling their tanks? Someone should call up Steve Jobs and present him with this problem so that we (and by "we" I mean, Me. Capitalized. That's right.) can get the best of both worlds. Either start having gas stations hand out free iTunes gift cards with every x amount of gallons pumped, or Apple can start handing out free gas cards with every dollar amount purchased on iTunes.
It'd be win-win for everyone involved.