I was thinking this morning about music downloads. Now, I don’t download much music for a variety of reasons, including the fact that very few sites support my preferred format, Ogg Vorbis. What I was wondering this morning was exactly how much I’d be prepared to pay for an MP3 or Ogg version of a four or five minute track.
If I lived in a country such as Canada where a levy is imposed upon storage media in order to cover the supposed costs to the music industry of ‘piracy’, then clearly the price I’m prepared to pay is zero. I’ve already paid, so I should be free to download whatever I want. The same would apply if we had a system similar to the proposed Dutch one, where a tax is put on hard drives and other storage devices.
I live in the UK, however, where we don’t have such a system. So what is an MP3 (or Ogg Vorbis) file worth to me? Well, clearly it’s not worth as much as it is on a CD. I don’t get the nice booklet and other packaging. The storage and distribution costs are minute compared to shifting actual physical media around the world. Most importantly, the reproduction quality is nowhere near as good as a CD.
Then there’s Digital Rights Management. While it’s easy enough to circumvent, that’s not the point. The record companies obviously don’t expect me to do that. So, if I accept DRM, I have to pay for the same track several times if I want to play it on a variety of devices. I know that most systems allow for some sort of limited copying but it’s never flexible enough, at least for my needs.
So, if I accept relatively poor sound quality and DRM, I reckon the most I’m prepared to pay is around twenty pence per track. Somehow, I suspect, that’s not going to happen.