What Price MP3?

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.

4 thoughts on “What Price MP3?

  1. this is some good food for thought. i’ve liked iTunes, but i’m not too keen on how much they charge (at least on my side of the lake — it’s $0.99 per individual song download.) i think downloading should be kept as a free medium and artists and labels should continue creating good products in terms of cds and jackets…because at the end of the day, i WILL end up wanting a physical copy of my favorite music.

  2. The issue you really need to look at is; how much are you prepared to pay the artist for creating the track in the first place, and then accept that retail and record companies are going to add markup to that amount. Consider your own hourly pay rate and then, think about the process your work goes through until it hits the end consumer. Think about everything else you pay for and put the hours of entertainment etc that a music track will give you. Are you really saying that a track and all the work going into it is worth less that a coffee from Starbucks? Less than a mars bar?

  3. Chris, the track is worth less because the music companies devalue it by reducing the sound quality and, more importantly, by adding DRM. I’m all for compensating artists fairly, but I’m against being ripped off by the companies that some artists choose to sign contracts with.

  4. I can’t say that anything I’ve downloaded is inferior quality to a CD.
    And I don’t think the DRM makes any difference, you can still cut it to CD, (if you downloaded it on a pc) the only thing you can’t easily do is pass the MP3 file around. So if you want to play the music on anything other than you machine, you can. I obviously can’t speak for things like iPod, iTunes etc…

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