Journal: News & Comment

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
# 10:14:00 AM:

The broken music market

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Vin Crosbie of distills the essentials of the broken online music market -- which I've rambled on about before -- into a wonderful, cogent essay. The key bit:

The online market is malfunctioning because the difference between the price at which the music companies are offering to sell downloads and the price at which consumers can download from other people is so vast there's no agreement between buyers and sellers. No price equilibrium means no market.

Some recording executives claim there can never be a functioning market as long as people rip CDs and offer music files for free. Some even claim the price consumers will ultimately pay for free sharing will be the collapse of the music industry and the end of music recording.

Neither statement is true. Consumers do pay for free music. That price is poor quality. The sound quality of files ripped from CDs is mediocre at best. The quality of downloadable files offered by recording companies is far superior.

Quality has value. The trouble is that value isn't $9.95 to $24.95 per month, plus restrictions.

Sound quality isn't the only issue, and that one will be easily surmounted anyway, but Crosbie's point is otherwise correct. Peer-to-peer file sharing is notoriously bad at actually finding the music (or movies, or whatever) you want, even with something as simple as a name -- never mind chart status or anything more obliquely relevant. As I wrote recently, "Demand, meet supply. Please."


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