Adventures In Audio with Audio Masterclass
Is iTunes the future of music sales?

Is iTunes the future of music sales?

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I remember when I first became aware of the Internet, back in 1995 or so. I met
a guy who was setting up a paid-for music download website. He was so confident
– he told me that it would wipe out record stores within a year!

I wasn't
so sure about that, but I knew that the Internet would be at least highly important
to music, and I learned all I could, as quick as I could.

The idea
that music sales would switch from the traditional record store to the Internet
persisted. Other paid-for music download sites came and went. I know of one
personally where the backers invested over $3 million, and went bust with only
a few hundreds of dollars in sales.

So how
come Apple have got it to work with iTunes? In fact, have they got
it to work, or is it all going to end in tears?

For me,
the pricing model just doesn't work. iTunes and other paid-for download sites
charge around $1 a track. The record companies would like to charge more –
up to around $2.50. Let me tell you why this is too much to pay.

The problem
is that downloads just don't last. OK, you can burn onto CD, but I'll bet that
not many people do – they'll download onto their computer and transfer to their
personal music player, iPod for instance.

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But as
we all know, computers crash, files get deleted accidentally, you get a virus
or worm… And even if these things don't happen to you, you're going to want
to upgrade in the future. And the digital rights management built into these
download services isn't going to make it easy for you to migrate your tracks
to a new PC.

Yes, you
should regard your tracks as being here today and probably gone tomorrow. They
are ephemeral. Remember that most people won't burn to CD because they either
can't be bothered or don't see it as important.

Now I
don't mind paying say 30 cents for something that is here today and gone tomorrow.
But not a full dollar. When I buy a CD, I know I have it to enjoy permanently.
And in case of fire or theft, my CD collection is specifically written into
my household insurance policy.

Try insuring
a download!

I predict
that the current download boom will lead to a fallout when people realize that
their expensive collection of tracks one day has vaporized.

I also
believe that where people will hesitate before paying $1 for a download, they
will download like crazy at 30 cents a track, and the record companies and
artists will reap even more money.

David Mellor

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David Mellor