According to a new survey sponsored by British Music Rights (an institution representing songwriters and music publishers in the UK), 80% of British P2P users between the ages of 14-24 would pay for a legal file-sharing service. According to Ars:
What the respondents appear to want is an unlimited download service free of DRM that could be legally accessed for a monthly fee, something that doesn't yet exist. Even legal P2P systems like Qtrax wouldn't offer this level of access. People were quite clear that an on-demand over-the-web streaming service like Last.fm won't cut it; they want to own and control their music.
On their part, British Music Rights showed a touch of class by saying the survey results were to be greeted with optimism by the music industry. "It is quite clear that this young and tech-savvy demographic is as crazy about and engaged with music as any previous generation. Contrary to popular belief, they are also prepared to pay for it, too. But only if offered the services they want."
That those crazy Internet kids today are just as engaged with music as your grampa was listening to the Big Bopper bop should surprise no one. But there is undeniably a difference between the intent to pay under a certain set of ideal circumstances and reality.
So would 14-24 year olds actually subscribe to an ideal service without DRM and unlimited downloads? $10 a month (for example) is still more expensive than Bittorrent's free. I'm optimistic. I think most people do believe in rewarding artists for their work, when they actually sit down and think about it. What they don't believe in is music controlled by central servers, the inflated price of current music, the paltry slice of proceeds that actually go to the artists, and so on. It's simply too exhausting to weigh each and every one of these valid concerns every time you want to download a song... especially when you can have it in a single Azureus session.
Any aggregate lack of morality in not paying at all is made up of many microscopic decisions based upon convenience and thriftiness over ethics. In other words, asked to make one choice about whether you are willing to do the right thing and pay $10 a month to get all the DRM-free music you can swallow while rewarding the artists for their work, most people will say yes, even if they do a lot of torrenting. Those who won't could never be convinced to pay at any price.
And that last group of people are the ones the record industry really should be prosecuting, as opposed to the incidental pirates who are subject of most of the RIAA's lawsuits... the guys who love the music and are willing to pay for it but reject the way it is being delivered. A DRM-free, unlimited subscription service at a reasonable price would separate the wheat from the chaff. It would end the persecution of technologically savvy music-lovers who have simply evolved faster than the industry itself... and reveal the real villains. Reason enough, from a consumer perspective, to at least give it a go.
Survey: young people happy to pay for music on their terms [Ars Technica]