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zerosum dirt(nap)

I Am Not A Freeloader

November 06, 2007 by nap · Comments

So have you heard the new Radiohead album yet? What did you think? And more importantly, what did you pay for it? ComScore estimates that 2 out of 5 of you did. They released a study today suggesting that, during the month of October, 40% of visitors were willing to pay an average of $6.00 for the digital downloads. Click that link for the full details. It’s also interesting to note that US consumers were will to pay more, on average, than the rest of the world.

The press is having a field day with this, and opinions are mixed. The ‘glass is half empty’ point of view seems to be that, holy crap, there are a lot of freeloaders on the ’net.

No kidding, really?

On the other hand, the ‘glass is half full’ folks point out that, hey, people are actually willing to pay for stuff, and that music on the ’net still has a perceived value after all.

I’m siding with the latter camp. Official sales figures won’t be released until after the holidays, but shit, I think these initial estimates are fantastic. Moreover, I think they show tremendous potential for non-compulsory tipping for digital goods in the public space. Software and media piracy is only a problem because of how we perceive and hope to profit from selling media on the web. Labels don’t need a new type of DRM, they need a new approach to what they’re selling. It’s information, and once that information is out there, it’s free, regardless of how much you perceive it’s worth to be. Magazine publishers figured this out a while back, and make their money through online advertising.

What Radiohead has done is adapt, and prove that, at least to some extent, a donation-driven model can work here. Of course, public radio beat them to the punch by at least 50 years, and they’re not the first band to sell music online, but it certainly signals a big win for those of us who believe that all web users aren’t freeloading scum. Even if the average user is a freeloader, the point is that the band can make enough from their efforts such that producing art for public consumption is profitable.

Anyway, the average worldwide price for all downloads, including freeloaders, was $2.26. I’d love to know what the bands’ actual per-album net was on their previous album, 2003’s Hail To The Thief. I’d be shocked if it was much higher than, say, $6.00 (update: this article estimates that it was probably between $3 and $5 USD). Personally I paid about $7 USD.

Oh, and the album is pretty good too.

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