Making Music Cheaper Than Coffee Won’t Devalue It
People say that if music costs less than a cup of coffee or a bottle of water it will devalue the 'art' of music. Ian S. Port, the SF Weekly music editor, doesn't think so. He contends that fans don't judge the artistic value of music by what it costs. If true, they would look down on the artists that give away free MP3s and those available on file-sharing sites. Some do. As far as young fans are concerned, they most likely don't. He thinks that those who contend that pricing music lower than coffee or water miss two essential points.
First, neither of those items can be downloaded quickly and anonymously at zero cost. If people could touch a cup of coffee and make it their own, while the other person that bought the cup still had their own, they would. Especially if no one they knew bought coffee—ever. Port adds that in this day and age it has become reasonable to pay 3-4$ for a cup of coffee because it's a tangible, personalized good that's made in front of you. Buying music on the other hand, paying $10 to download a digital file that's a copy of a copy—all of them made at no additional cost beyond storage—is different. That's why young people, he argues, consider it to be rational to pay that amount for coffee. It makes sense. Moreover, Port thinks comparing the cost of music to that of coffee is apples and oranges all over again. Making downloads dirt-cheap may be, at present, one of the few ways left to compete against file-sharing. After all, free music online isn't going away.
He believes that lowering the price of music won't devalue the 'art' of music; it will get more people buying it. Anyway to increase the volume of sales in the face of the downward spiral of physical ablums would be wothwhile he asserts. Though, lowering albums to $1 poses problems with royalty calculations, he thinks Rob Dickens has the right idea about music. Superfans will still pay high-prices for elaborate packages and vinyl lowers would too. Here's what Port had to say:
"Several have argued that selling an album for less than a cup of coffee or a bottle of water would devalue the art of music… young people who don't buy much music anyway — don't judge the artistic value of music by what it costs… coffee and water bottles can't be downloaded quickly and anonymously at no cost, while digital music can. Second, paying $3 or $4 for a tangible good seems intrinsically reasonable… to a 13-year-old. But paying $10 to download a digital file that's a copy of a copy of a copy — all of them made at no additional cost — somehow doesn't." (Read on.)
Does making music cheaper than coffee devalue it? Or, does Port make some good points about the inherit difference between the two?