This December, Beyoncé delivered a gift a good two weeks before Christmas: she dropped her incredibly secret visual album in the dead of night as the Internet responded by absolutely losing its mind. In response, nearly a million fans flocked to iTunes to purchase the 17-video block that Bey and Co. managed to complete over a few months without a single peep escaping to the media. Yet, according to Billboard, about a quarter million people have downloaded Beyoncé illegally since its release.
Now, I've never really been one to illegally download music and now that Spotify — a paid service that streams most of the music you could ever want or need by track, album, or playlist — there's almost no reason to download songs illegally. Understandably, when Beyoncé released her album, the Spotify option went out the window. Not only is album not on Spotify in its entirety (you can only stream "Drunk in Love" and "XO"), the visual component of the album is not streamable through the music service. Bey released a handful of the videos from the album and a few teasers, but for the most part, you must purchase Beyoncé in order to fully enjoy Beyoncé.
Being required to purchase an album in order to enjoy it is perhaps a little annoying to some who've become accustomed to consuming as much music as they can without giving up any funds or returns of their own, but Beyoncé isn't simply the latest vapid hit, a la "Blurred Lines" or "We Can't Stop," that you need to put on your phone so you can play it at a barbecue. Beyoncé is a full-blown work of art that demands more than one of our faculties in order to experience it.
The visual album has proved, in its 10 days of existence, that while we're supposed to have lost our ability to concentrate on one thing thanks to smart phones and the Internet, we can still stop and pay attention when something incredible is before us. We, as a society, stopped, watched, and listened to what Bey had to say. (Of course, it'd be great if she could teach a few politicians and leaders to command a room like that, too.) Regardless of your opinion of Mrs. Carter, you've got to admit that with her visual album, she's created an experience and not just music.
So why is that so many people insist on obtaining this experience for free? Sure, a good chunk of these folks might be tight on money around the holidays, but that's not necessarily true for everyone who torrented the videos. How is it that when Beyoncé releases tour dates, people are willing to drop hundreds of dollars on scalped seats toward the back of the stadium where B may as well be a Polly Pocket doll, but when an album that is a lengthy performance in and of itself is released at a surprisingly manageable price point, that's not deemed worthy of purchase?
It's understandable that folks who are used to instinctively downloading every new album would simply follow their original mode of operation for Miley Cyrus' Bangerz, but when someone with as much freedom to experiment as Bey has releases a project — "album" simply isn't sufficient — like Beyoncé, is it too much to ask that your M.O. shifts to reward that action?
Of course, I'm not completely naive. There's no changing the culture of illegally downloading music, movies, and television. Fans have grown accustomed to getting what they want without consequence and they'll continue to do so. All I'm saying is that when someone you adore and respect, be they Beyonce, Kanye West, Lorde, or whoever else floats your boat, creates something new and unique, one way to tell record companies that you appreciate that level of creativity is to cough up the 15 bucks. It's a simple way to support someone who refuses to settle in the well-worn grooves laid forth by generic pop music. Unless of course, you really want a homogeneous sea of similar beats and empty lyrics?
Yeah, I didn't think so.
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