To those who threw a fluorescent light bulb at me last night: that really was not necessary. Please don’t do that.
Lowering the price of compact discs is one of the best ideas the music industry has had in a long time. (NYT article) We’re in an age where piracy is a given. Instead of trying to prevent the availability of pirated music (either legally or technologically), the industry should focus on making people want to pay for music.
How? Four ways. (In order of decreasing importance.)
(1) Get more of the money to the artists. We all want to support the music makers because we (a) want them to benefit from their music and (b) want them to make more music. Lowering CD prices can support this goal by increasing CD sales. That reasoning is a bit circular though. The best way to get more money to the artists is to simply give them a higher percentage of the profits. That has to happen at the label end if labels want to stay involved.
(2) Sell music for a reasonable price. $15 is just too much to ask for a CD. There’s just something psychological about putting down the better part of a $20 for some tunes. I can attest to this. I haven’t bought a retail CD in about half a year, but yesterday I picked up Interpol (right on… so good) for a mere $10! I might have paid $12, but certainly no more than that. I’d buy several other CDs today if they were $10 each.
(3) Reduce transaction costs. Online music sales are a fine idea, but when asking people to pay for something they can get for free, you have to make it exceptionally easy. For example, by using PayPal donate buttons, I don’t have to fill out any forms, write any checks, or reply to any confirmation emails. For a few dollars, it’s time and effort that prevent me from giving / paying, not the money. On the tangible side, I could do without the bag, printed receipt, shrink wrap or that stupid sticky seal that just leaves residue on your CD case. With the exception of books, I can’t think of anything I’ve bought recently that didn’t include something intended to be thrown to a garbage heap the minute I got home.
(4) Increase / maintain the quality of music products. I’m not going to get into a discussion of musical quality, but I’ll say that I’d much rather have a stamped and printed CD than one burned off my own computer. (for the same reason I’d opt for a silk-screened T-shirt over an iron-on) I buy CDs for the music, but I’m not blind to the packaging, the track arrangement, and the liner notes. I don’t want something so customized that is stripped of those extra artistic elements. To the extent that the music industry can preserve these by finding a price point that makes consumers choose the “real thing” over the bootleg or custom hits CDs, I’m fully willing to cooperate.