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Jackie Henrion

Really compelling article. It resonates on a couple of different levels. The radio which was free in the 60's and 70's repeated the songs often enough for us to develop the attachment and want to buy and own the song, And the radio was supported by the revenue of advertisers whose message was repeated enough to cause collateral demand. It still works pretty well for country stations whose followers still depend on FM. Other genres have suffered though.

And I did very much resent having to buy an entire album just to get the one or two songs I liked from the radio. So iTunes has proven it's value because I can buy the specific song I like. But it's interesting to hear that file sharing has eroded the sense of satisfaction as well.

Ben Lazar

This is a very long winded and pretentious way of saying that when people download music for free, some, if not much of the value is gone as well, because there was no investment. Uh, yeah.

Bit Torrent isn't a flight simulator. It's a way of getting content (music, TV, movies, games, apps, software and more) without having to pay for it. That's it. That's not a judgment about it or against it. But at least let's deal with reality and say what it is. Go on Pirate Bay and see how many times Microsoft Office has been d/l'd. In that case, people know exactly what they're getting. They just would rather not pay for it if they don't have to. Any other explanation is just not related to reality.

This post is one long attempt at rationalizing the truth that people download music for free because it's a way of acquiring more music without having to pay for it. That's it. It's simple. And when you make no investment in something - whether it be monetary, emotional, time, etc., value decreases.

This is a simple matter. What is to be done about it is the challenge.


Which is why streaming music solves both problems. Consumers hear the music first, but, if they really want to own it, and put it in their iPod or burn a CD, they will need to take the plunge and buy it, leading to the satisfaction you allude to. Now, five or ten years ago, previewing an album via illegal downloading may really have been the only way. But now, with streaming, that is no longer a legitimate excuse.

Kyle Bylin

This assumes that there is enough market saturation of legal alternatives and awareness among fans as to when they can and can't expect to stream the albums they want to hear through these services.

Almost every album on earth is available to stream on YouTube--in full, usually before it's even released--where else?

As well, most people learned how to file-share music with no strings attached before they did anything else--and haven't had to find alternative means to play albums as the way through before they buy them.

Yannick, the GeneralEclectic

>Granted, stores installed many listening posts and booths in stores, they only allowed for minimal previews. Just >enough to get the gist of an album, but not enough to make an informed decision.

Having spent countless hours and hours at the listening posts in CD stores during the 90s up until 30 second sound samples from each song that I could also listen to at home replaced being able to have a listen to the CD in its full sound quality, I must disagree with your notion that you could not get to know an album well enough to make an informed decision. Of course I could, because I spent enough time listening to the albums in question. Usually, I only buy an album if more than half of its tracks are good and some of them stick out as immediate hits. It still works this way for me with the 30 second streaming sound samples that the CD stores provide on their websites. It's just that I refuse to buy non-physical formats a/k/a anything but CDs or CD-Rs because of the hassle it would be to archive them.
I guess my mixtaper perspective of things is relatively different from yours, Kyle, after having read your posting about how you built your own music collection and why: whereas like you said there, you've been having fun presenting friends with your vast collection (that included music that you didn't even like but knew others liked) to impress them with for the sake of self-promotion maybe, I've been having fun presenting friends with music they have never heard about for the sake of broadening their minds and promoting the music. These are two distincively different approaches to recorded music. Yours surely is better for being a music business blogger than mine ;-)

>Almost every album on earth is available to stream on YouTube--in full, usually before it's even released--where else?

Contrary to me, my girlfriend does not buy any music at all anymore but when she wants to listen to a song or a whole album, she finds it on youtube instead, simply because it's free. Youtube most definitely is the Napster of the current era and the iTunes file sales business model does not stand a chance against free. Yet, youtube is owned by internet giant google and it does not look likely that the record labels could sue youtube out of business in the same way that they have done with file sharing organisations. Now that advertisers have been backing the pirates for a while, it seems obvious that the digital hitmaking business model is effectively dead.
Physical CDs, on the other hand, are something special to those who like them, and will continue selling. It's just that by ways of numerous promo campaigns, Apple and the digital community has decreased their coolness factor considerably and put it onto portable players sold by the electronics industry instead. Yet these portable players just do not provide their users with what music lovers (and mixtapers) like me really need (like full sound quality, liner notes) - just with what gadget lovers need.

>The paradox of reversible decisions

That was a very interesting read. Thank you. But I guess it's less those people who try hard to make a decision to not buy an album that are helping to kill the content industry, but rather those who help sell advertising by not caring about if they get an incomplete product as long as its free.

Shea warnes

First, this was an interestig read! Its great to have different looks on social trending. So good job Kyle!

However, P2P software is not a flight simulator. It is an argument agreed a downloaded album would not necessarily mean the purchase before. But this Freakonomics twist on how we're like an harvard experiment is a bit much.

Factors for the shift in consumption are simple. Quality of content, Ease of obtaining that content which ultimately effect how much we value that content. Its not some subconscious inability to not return music.

A button clicks are hard to compete with. It's all about the value added content now.


Given the risks, why would they want to continue that behavior? Would it not be easy to unlearn the bad habit of file sharing, and stream instead, if your goal is just to hear what the album sounds like before purchasing? Also, consider that a lot of the original file sharers were college students. Fast forward a decade, haven't they grown up a bit, and are more concerned about engaging in an unlawful and potentially risky activity when there are now better alternatives? I would add My Space Music to a site where you can freely stream many albums, but at the very least several songs from an album.


Over 37,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2008. "Given the risks, why would they want to continue that behavior?"

But hey, if you want to emphasize the criminality of music fans, I'm all for that.

What I'm hearing is, "Why won't those consumers behave the way I want?" Because they are free agents capable of making choices. They've made a consumer choice: they have decided the legal options suck, pretty much all of them, compared to file sharing.


go forward to 9:55!


I think this is related :)


Unlike driving a car, file sharing copyrighted material on the internet is illegal. It is risky in that the internet never forgets, and the file sharer could get in trouble. It is risky in that there is no guarantee as to the sound quality of these files. It is risky in that the file sharer's $1,000 computer could become full of viruses and no longer function just so the file sharer could download a $10 album -- talk about a lousy rate of return on risk.

I don't *want* the consumer to do anything. I am just a lowly consumer myself. I am just trying to understand why in 2010 file sharing is necessary to preview new releases, when that music can be found for streaming RISK FREE elsewhere on the internet. Of course, if the point is to get the album for free & never pay for music, well, that's a different topic than this post.


So well said.


That's a good point that no one talk about.

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