Survey: 14-24 year olds want to pay for their music but await the perfect service


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 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]

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  1. If they did this it would also need to be in a high quality format — FLAC is nice, and hey, why not just go whole-hog like Nine Inch Nails did and do 24/96 wave files? I would happily pay >$20 a month for unlimited DRM-free 24/96 wave files.

    It would also increase hard drive sales!

  2. Subscription to an unlimited download service? I’ll believe it when I see it. If I could download songs and albums at the same speeds as on torrents I’d be able to download the equivalent of thousands of dollars worth of music every month. Not that I do any such thing, of course.

    Perhaps a hybrid system would be more effective – the ability to listen to an unlimited amount of music per month, but you can only download a certain number of tracks per month (high quality and DRM-free of course).

    If it was an All-You-Can-Eat affair it would also seem mildly unfair to people with limited bandwidth too.

  3. Yeah, Kaiza, that’s all valid. I mean, the big hump here would really be getting the music industry to accept an unlimited, DRM-free subscription service at a reasonable price. I suspect that any such service is a long ways off: I honestly have no idea if it’s even financially plausible, but I am sure that the music industry would view any such move as the equivalent of singing their own death knell. Of course, they’ve accidentally been doing that for quite a while anyway.

  4. Unlimited downloads of DRM-free music for a monthly subscription? So what’s to stop me from paying the fee for one month, taking a day or two off work to download several hundred pounds’ worth of music, than cancelling my subscription?

    I fall into that demographic and, as the article says, am perfectly capable of getting music from Bittorrent but prefer to get legal copies. I’m not scared of getting caught and prosecuted, I simply prefer not to steal. I’m unwilling to buy DRM-protected music because at home I run Linux, at work I have a mac and my MP3 player can’t handle copy-protected files. So all of my music has to be bought on CD and ripped.

    I just want an online music shop that acts like an actual shop: I visit, browse through an extensive library, buy the tracks I want then leave, transaction finished. You know, some sort of system where I give a shopkeeper money and end up owning something. Revolutionary idea, no? Unfortunately the big companies that offer this don’t like the UK (amazon, itunes, napster: all sell a large library of DRM-free music but not to the UK) and the small companies have tiny or obscure music libraries.

  5. This isn’t anything new. There were discussions about this back in the 1998-9.

    The concept that has been discussed is a license fee that you pay to a middle man that distributes funds accordingly.

    People that hoard music, and I used to fall in that group, can only consume so much. We end up with so much stuff we can’t process and consume it all.

    I say so what to hoarders, let them spend money on hard drives, backup systems, new wireless networks to deliver they precious content. Most people if given the option, I propose, would choose to participate in an honorable way of downloading music.

  6. I don’t like monthly subscription plans. There was a music site that everyone liked and they paid money for thier music. It was called and it got shut down because it was russian and breaking all sorts of laws. The problem with itunes and the like is that I don’t want to pay 75% the price of physical disc for digital downloads. $.99 per song is not a good deal. They just need to drop their prices to about 20 cents per song and I think itunes popularity will skyrocket.

  7. So what’s to stop me from paying the fee for one month, taking a day or two off work to download several hundred pounds’ worth of music, than cancelling my subscription?

    Nothing (except download speed) — that’s the beauty of it. If that’s all you’re willing to pay, then the music isn’t worth several hundred pounds to you.

    There will be plenty of people who sign up but only download a couple of albums a month, or a dozen or so singles. That’s worth £10 to them. It evens out. And you might just decide to sign up again in a couple of months, to download a few more things, but your list will probably be shorter. They’d still be making money off of you, even if it was £.50 instead of £5/album. The people who continue to pay are willing to, for the convenience of constant availability.

    It’s like signing up for an MMORPG and playing like mad for a month and then quitting. The servers are already there. They’re already paid for. A hundred thousand other people are playing. The money is flowing in. A few moochers might be “unfair” but they don’t hurt the system.

  8. @7 Stratosfyer

    Well put. I don’t know enough about the market to decide whether the economics would work, but it you make it sound plausible.

  9. We don’t have Amazon MP3 store yet. If it’s not DRM free on iTunes or on eMusic, your only option is bit torrent.

  10. While I’m out of the surveyed demographic (and not even in the same country), I’d say this should surprise virtually no one…except maybe RIAA sponsored lawyers who make their fees by convincing music labels that all kids are thieves.

    I don’t even think it would have to be unlimited; if you combined eMusic’s pricing structure with iTunes’/Napster’s/Amazon’s library, I think the amount of music purchased would potentially skyrocket. But it’s the brick and mortar costs of major label buildings and staffs that help keep the price high (IMHO as an ex-musician). The “producers” (labels, not artists) spent decades creating the power they have; once that power switches to the “deliverers” (iTunes, et. al.) there’s no need for 7-figure label VPs.

    Of course, if we think music prices will not be raised by Apple/Amazon/etc. to subsidize every major software flop and *their* 7-figure software VPs, we’re living in a dream world.

  11. “The Proposal: Voluntary Collective Licensing

    Since 2003, EFF has championed an alternative approach that gets artists paid while making file sharing legal: voluntary collective licensing.”

    A Better Way Forward

    The EFF’s voluntary collective licensing proposal is the basic thing the survey says people want. People are so smart.

  12. As for the thing about people caring how much musicians get paid, I think its mostly another red herring excuse for justifying non payment.

    Also I gotta wonder how the cheap subscription pot gets divided. Who gets paid? My records sell in low numbers, but as a small label/producer/artist, I’d bet that it would cost me more than it is worth to try and get an accounting statement out of a subscription service.

  13. @#12 Too right! Most important to me is that the artist gets paid – if they get their money then they will continue to produce the music (or books or TV) that I love. Hence I buy music , and I donate to podcasts I like. This is purely selfish as I want them to carry on producing the goods !
    What does annoy me in this digital age is the trend in the UK for music to be played on the radio and then not released for download for anything up to six to eight weeks later. I am baffled as to why this is done because by the time the music is available to buy I’ve heard it enough to not bother getting it! Equally annoying is finding out that a song you like is not available at all in the UK – I’d encourage all musicians to have their own sites where their music can be bought DRM-free regardless of the purchaser’s location.

  14. I think might have something going for them (I’ve been using their CD trading service thing for nearly the past 2 years). They’re now doing this thing where you can listen to ANY song in full once (after that they turn into 30-sec clips), then buy the “web song” for 10¢ (which you can listen to unlimited times online, anywhere), or buy the full MP3 (no DRM) for 89¢ (79¢ if you already bought the web song).

    I didn’t think I’d use this much (I’ve never been a fan of online music services to begin with, aside from iTunes exclusives and obscure stuff on eMusic). But I’ve been giving full listens to albums over the past week I wouldn’t have checked out otherwise – because of the “first play is free” option. It’s better than Bittorrenting because the music is right there for you, ready to stream on first listen. If you’re one of those “oh, I need to download and listen to it a few dozen times before I decide if I like it or not” people, then I guess something like this isn’t for you. Me, I think one full listen of an album gives me a fairly good idea whether I want to pursue it further. I buy my music, but the kids can keep on justifying the reasons for their terabytes of pirated music. Whatever, I really don’t care.

    I hope Lala isn’t another disaster in the making though. They’re still in Beta with this whole streaming-on-demand thing, so we’ll see how it goes I guess. Hope more of the kiddies learn about it. All I know is I’ve streamed the new M83 album 10 times in a row today, thanks to Lala. 🙂

  15. I’m in the demographic and I prefer downloading first, reviewing, then paying by purchasing a CD from the artist’s website.

    If I have money 🙁

  16. If only there was such a thing.

    I can vouch that yes, a lot of us would pay if we could control our music. I’m 16 and know that all but one of my relatively close friends would welcome a DRM-free subscription service as long as the price was reasonable.

    There of course would still be piracy, but definately quite a bit less for our age group on the music front.

  17. The only way I pay for TV and video content anymore is through Netflix. If they make Netflix for music, I’ll pay for that as well.

  18. Certainty of value / quality is more vital when the cost increases. The inverse is also true.

    I think some percentage of “hoarders” are actually treasure hunters, sifting through huge piles of, well, crap, to find a few solid gems. If they’re prolific enough about telling people what they’ve found, they’re music reviewers.

    Even if they’re not, chances are they’ll try to influence someone to look at what they’ve found. (what’s the point in finding a treasure if there’s no one to share / sell / tell it to?) So music hoarders are super useful for artists.

    But they also take the work of “sifting” father from the established system, which is problematic for labels, since what other real value can they bring to the marketplace besides sifting and promoting?

    It reminds me a bit of the open software vs. commercial software situation. Of course minimizing volunteer / free competitors makes a pay-to-play service more valuable.

    And a pay-per-song model makes free competition more costly.

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