Pick Your Payment: Alternatives for Pirating MP3 Music Files

Nearly everybody likes listening to music, but not everybody wants to pay for it. That’s why illegal downloading is a growing problem for the recording industry, particularly for the most popular artists.

In response, musicians are trying new ways of distributing their records. As broadband Internet access is more and more available, almost half the people in Poland are using it for work, entertainment and as a source of information.

One can download almost everything. Musical artists and record companies are losing megabucks through illegal downloading. Even albums of the most popular pop stars are suffering from low sales.

“I can’t remember when I bought a CD the last time, three years ago maybe,” says 20-year-old Mateusz from Poznan. “It’s expensive. I usually download music from the Internet.”

But in the view of the law, that may be a crime. Even “peer to peer” programs in small quantities could be subject to two years imprisonment. It is not difficult for police to find illegal music in computers. The IP address included in every file makes tracking easy. Illegal music downloading is so common, however, that many pirates go unpunished. Fearing that CDs are sliding slowly into oblivion, the Polish pop group De Mono last year launched the revolutionary idea of selling its album “Seven Days” not on CDs but on MP3 players instead. “Pen drive music,” as they called their new product, includes four music clips and a little book with photos and lyrics. The flash drive with the band’s logo looks really attractive. The user inserts it into a USB port and your computer will do everything else. There is no need to install anything.

“We have often wondered, together with our friends, how to meet young people’s needs,” Piotr Kubiaczyk, De Mono bassist, told the news agency PAP.

“There are already web sites offering MP3 files legally. We want to make this virtual world a little more substantial. And that’s how we figured out our “Pen drive music.”

In addition to all the tracks of “Seven Days” PenDrive includes MP3 and video formats and about 300 MB of memory for other data. Its price of about 50 zloty is a normal price for MP3 players.
The idea of buying “Pen drive music” doesn’t attract every music fan, however, as price has been the main reason they buy CDs so rarely or don’ t buy them at all. Instead they download illegally for free. Record companies are trying to encourage CD sales through various sales promotions. But the British band Radiohead may have had the best idea.

In 2004 Radiohead concluded a six-record contract with EMI and decided neither to renew it nor to seek another label. Instead the band chose to take charge of its own distribution.

Its new album can be purchased in two forms: 1) a beautiful collector’s disc box containing a CD, two vinyl records, artwork and lyric booklets; and 2) a digital download. The price of the disc box is 40 British pounds. The price of the download is up to the user.

Radiohead concluded that it could make enough money on tour and through the sales of disc boxes to allow it to theoretically offer the download free of charge.

So it made the pay-what-you-want download proposals for the entire album. Radiohead’s fans appreciated the band’s innovative offer. They paid an average of more than 8 British pounds per download, and some paid even more than the CD usually costs in music stores.

If this experiment is successful, it could be a breakthrough in distributing music. It may turn out that offering a pay-what-you-want download of a new album prior to releasing it on CD will be the only alternative to illegal sharing of MP3 files.

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