Thursday, 27 May 2004

Legal Download site problems

Perusing the newly launched legal Napster, I came across an intrinsic problem with the new world of legal downloads - that of being mercilessly ripped off.

I know people will download the songs they want, but there's also a contingent of people who want value for money so will go after the "The End"s of the musical world or "Tubular Bells Part One" (both exceedingly long tunes) as opposed to something like The Residents' Commercial album (60 songs, each exactly 30 seconds long).

My specific perusal let me to the random search for Jeff Buckley's "Live At Sin-E" Legacy Edition release. Decent album, full of early versions of songs from Grace as well as witty banter with the folks in the coffee shop.

Problem is, every track is 99c - from the 15 second "Monologue: Cafe Days" to the 11 minute rendition of "Dink's Song". If you had limited resources would you pay $10 for a few minutes of monologues or 50 minutes of long songs?

Pricing structures like this will naturally make music fans gravitate away from being completists - who would buy whole albums with such short tracks, where most of the time (in this case) it's just Buckley saying things like, "are you having a good time tonight?" "Well at 99c, no, I'm not Jeff."


If the album is to continue to live, as I've stressed before, a financial model for making the entire album a desirable proposition has to be found. With the case of Live at Sin-E, I can buy the Legacy Edition for 13 quid. Downloading it's 30 odd songs at 99c... well, doesn't take Stephen Hawking to tell you you're getting fleeced.

Then there's the case of the packaging. I've already got the whole Live at Sin-E Deluxe Edition album in MP3. I really dig the Legacy Edition packaging and want the bonus DVD, the 24 page booklet and whatever other tasties that come with it. There's more to the music experience than just listening (hence the 74 page book that came with the Cure b-sides boxset, but alas that's another story).

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