John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Think of the Net as a Giant Mixed Tape and Price Accordingly

Of the 1,770 songs stored in the average MP3 player of the average 14- to 24-year-old, nearly half are pirated. This according to a new study by the University of Hertfordshire, which found nearly two-thirds of that demographic willing to admit it downloads music illegally. Commissioned by the recording industry group, British Music Rights, the study also found that 58% had copied music from friends’ hard drives and 42% had shared their music over a peer-to-peer network. A full 95% said they’d copied music in some way or another at one time or another.

And 80% would pay for a legal subscription-based music service that would allow them to discover, swap and recommend music.

Which, if true, illustrates the great disparity between the consumer and industry views of digital music. Because according to the Hertfordshire study, consumers–at least those in this particular age group–view digital music on the Internet as a sort of giant mixed tape to be explored and shared. They don’t have much of an emotional connection with it: “Respondents seem to attach a hierarchy of value to different formats of music, with streaming-on-demand the least valuable (though still valued); ownership of digital files somewhere in the middle; and ownership of the original physical CD the most valuable.”

The recording industry, of course, has failed to recognize that hierarchy. When, and if, it does, the study notes, it may finally succeed in monetizing that mixed-tape ethos that’s befuddled it for so long. “Survey responses suggest that respondents would continue to purchase CDs and go to gigs, even if they subscribed to a legitimate peer-to-peer file-sharing service,” the survey adds. “Fans want to support or pay tribute to their favorite artists and ownership of a digital music file does not necessarily do justice to their sense of devotion.”

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work