An unprovoked comment on MP3 swapping

Long before the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing, I was taping my friends’ LPs and CDs onto cassette to sample in my car. I have hundreds of classic rock albums on Maxell XLII90s in storage in my parents’ house.

I bought a CD burner in 1998 and burned scores of albums in the years since. When Napster hit I had a field day finding music I hadn’t heard in ages.

I am 30 years old and my music collection now includes more than 150 records, 500 cassettes and 1200 compact discs. The vast majority I bought retail or used. I once estimated that I have spent more than $10,000 on music in my lifetime.

Ten grand.

The unquantifiable portion is what I would have spent had I not had free access to music. It easily could be less. Would I have shelled out $60 for the first Led Zeppelin box set had I not taped their studio albums years earlier? Would I own six Morphine albums if I didn’t possess a burned copy of their debut first?

I do not disagree that file sharing has hurt the RIAA’s sales; a 25 percent decline in three years is severe. But the argument cuts both ways.