IT: Technology, Language, and Culture

Janis Ian: Downloading Take II

Dave Winer‘s discovered that Janis Ian has posted “FALLOUT — a follow up to The Internet Debacle” a sequel to her excellent “Internet Debacle” article. She’s again making easily understood arguements, including real numbers from her own site, for allowing free and/or inexpensive downloading of music files. Ms. Ian writes:

Do I still believe downloading is not harming the music industry? Yes, absolutely. Do I think consumers, once the industry starts making product they want to buy, will still buy even though they can download? Yes. Water is free, but a lot of us drink bottled water because it tastes better. You can get coffee at the office, but you’re likely to go to Starbucks or the local espresso place, because it tastes better. When record companies start making CD’s that offer consumers a reason to buy them, as illustrated by Kevin’s email at the end of this article, we will buy them. The songs may be free on line, but the CD’s will taste better.

It’s a thoughtful, well written piece by someone who’s a performer and a consumer. Go read it.

Ms. Ian is absolutely right, as her own numbers demonstrate. People will download free files, or reasonably priced files, then go buy the CD. It’s very much part of human nature to be acquisitive. We want something we can clutch in our hot little hands. If users find that they like a particular artist’s work, they’ll download the files, sure, but then they’ll want the nice jewel case, the cover art, and the liner notes. Rather than their idiotic obsession over “Internet Piracy,” producers, the RIAA and those who stand to profit should start thinking about adding value to the physical artifact, and how they can capitalize on the nature of the ‘net, instead of trying to choke their own customers.