Monthly Archives: September, 2009

Are music downloads a ripoff?

I was looking at the music downloads on and I don’t get it. 90+ cents a song? That’s almost as expensive as buying the CD.

So let me get this straight — the seller (Amazon) expects the customer to supply his own storage medium (instead of providing him with a physical CD); pay for his own bandwidth to download the songs (instead of having to transport the CD to a brick-and-mortar store by truck); print off his own cover art (if any is provided); can cut out the middle man (the distributor), who traditionally takes 30-40% of the final price of a CD, thereby greatly increasing his and the label/artist’s profit margin; doesn’t have to pay rent and maintenance costs on a brick-and-mortar store; and on top of that, doesn’t even supply the customer with an uncompressed, CD-quality sound file in .wav, .ape, or .flac format, opting instead for the lossy .mp3 format (which saves them a lot of money on bandwidth compared to the lossless formats) — and despite all that still expects the customer to pay near-CD prices for these downloads?

No thanks. As exaggeratedly expensive as I’ve always found CDs to be, this is worse. You’re getting even less for your money than you were before, with the only real advantage being that you can choose the songs you want instead of having to purchase the whole album.

Prices like these encourage piracy. I’m sure many people would gladly pay a reasonable cost to download music — say, 25-35 cents for an .mp3 or 40-50 cents for an uncompressed file — but no one in his right mind is going to pay 90+ cents for an .mp3 when he can get it for free from his buddy or through any of several file sharing methods.

Another thing that strikes me is how little competition there seems to be between these music download sites. They uniformly charge between 80-99 cents a song, with some claiming to go down to 50 cents when you buy a membership or a package deal. You’d almost think there was some price fixing going on.