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Digital Music Piracy A Case Study For Law Enforcerment Careers

Aug 17, 2007
Amidst all the huge media press devoted to the subject of the recording industry's difficulty in protecting their interest in the new digital age, one might wonder - who are these people who download music? What is their motivation? Presented here, a case study. This is a composite study which blends together the reported experiences of many music downloaders - the study is true to a large part of this set, but not accurate to any specific case, with names removed:

What follows is a short history of my economic experience of music and a simple business plan proposed for the labels to recapture my wallet.

Back in the old days, when I bought my first CD player, I went out and replicated my sizable vinyl record collection at $12-$13 per album. This took all of my spare cash as a struggling student with no loans. Over the course of a year, I bought more than eighty CDs. It was hard, but I hated records and tapes because they wouldn't be portable. Back then, the local rumors had it that the price of CDs was inflated to cover the cost of manufacturing in the new media format and would eventually come down below record prices because they were considerably cheaper to make.

Five years later, the prices didn't go down and I had the misfortune of my CD collection, then at over 200 albums, having been stolen from my ghetto apartment. That was more than $2500 and I was still pretty poor due to the early 90s recession affecting my industry. The upside was that stolen CDs were so valuable then because there was a budding used CD market in the major cities. Once record stores started selling used CDs in quantity, I stopped buying any new CDs altogether. This is the early 90's and I already dropped out of the record label's direct market. Here I was, an early 20's kid that was so in love with music that I would spend the better part of my expendable cash on CDs and yet I dropped right off of their books because I could buy an album for $9 if I waited a month after it came out.

As I matured in my career, I started making serious money, but I still wouldn't buy new CDs. I was used to paying between $6 and $9 and there was no way I would go back. I probably missed out on a lot of music, because I was limiting my selection to what college kids would buy and return.

Then came CD burner technology. I spent many hours burning all of my friends' CD collections. Shortly thereafter came the MP3 file format. These services made it easy to download music for free or a nominal service charge, and was not at the tie seen as illegal, so suddenly my music collection no longer involves CDs at all anymore.

So where does this leave me now? Well, I'm in my late 30s, making a six-figure income, and I like a huge variety of musical genres. I could easily spend $100 per month on music and not bat an eye, but I still don't. The record labels have alienated me by suddenly treating me as a criminal for the cost of doing business with them. So, what can they do for me that would convince me to give them my money again? It's really quite simple!

A reasonable service at a reasonable price, like the Russian sites do. I select the quality and quantity of the songs and pay a reasonable price for downloading them. The bottom line here is that I'll pay up to $4 for a CD encoded at 256k VBR with no obnoxious DRM interferences - no less quality and no more money.

Give me FTP access to a full catalog with all of the labels in one place. They should be high quality MP3s, verified, DRM-free, properly tagged, and in a format that guarantees I can port them. How much would I be willing to pay for this, well for a ballpark number figure $2 to $4 for 10 songs. That works out to 20 to 40 cents per song. You could also bill based on bandwidth per megabyte downloaded.

I promise that this would keep me, and most music listeners, from downloading music "illegally". I might give some of this to my friends for free, but that is usually stuff that they wouldn't have bought anyway. Burning a CD of songs for my friends is fair use to me, as it always has been to the public at large. RIAA, I haven't given you money in over 10 years; that is a huge failure on your part.

Win me back. It's not that hard and it's not too late. I am the consumer and you are supposed to be serving me. Make me a happy to do business with you, and I'll open up my wallet for you; but treat me like your enemy, and I will be a wolf poaching your chickens with impunity. The choice is yours to make.
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