Are music downloads a ripoff?

I was looking at the music downloads on Amazon.com 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.

7 responses

  1. I think the computer executives know darn well that computer buyers will pirate music and don’t care.

    However, the computer execs must pretend to care about record companies’ “rights.”

    Thus the computer execs are running the download business as a legal smokescreen. It’s just a way to avoid spending legal fees. It doesn’t matter if it loses money, so long as it loses less money than a lawsuit.

    If it leads to new products or new markets or a profit – so much the better.

  2. I am in my ‘right-mind’ and I purchase songs for the fee of 99 cents. Buying a whole album for 9.99, which is the common price on iTunes, is a great deal. Who wants to receive the whole CD case and cover art? You pay for convenience, not the packaging. Anyone who pirates music is a common thief that should lose a hand. How did people get music back in the 1960’s??? They flipping bought it. Stealing it was not an option, unless you put the album in your coat and walked out of the record store with it. People on this Earth, especially all of the whiney little bitches in the U.S are getting lazier by the day and are falling into bizarre idea that they are entitled to certain things.

    JLH

    1. You’re being ripped off. As I’ve already explained, downloading music should not cost anywhere as much as it does. If you enjoy being ripped off, that’s your problem.

      An advantage to having the CD is that should all your files get wiped out by, say, a virus or a drive failure, you can always go back to the CD for a fresh rip.

  3. “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?”

    I share your complaint about the lack of lossless audio on paid music download sites.

    If you’re going to ask people to pay for music-files, the least you can do is offer CD quality audio.

    It’s disrespect to both the musician and listener that they do not offer lossless.

    I know business is business, but if a label/retailer really cared about their products they would offer lossless.

  4. Eventually, most music companies will STOP selling CD’s as music will ONLY be available in “pay per recording” digital format. (Eventually, they’ll figure out the mechanics of “pay per listen” like cable TV has with “pay per view”.) However, considering the “quality” of much of the music being released nowadays, the lack of ‘hard copy recorded music’ is no great loss! By “quality” I mean ‘redeeming social value’, NOT the ‘sound quality’….

    1. You’re probably right about the CD’s days being numbered, though it’s hard to say what the future holds. Certainly music files are becoming the dominant format, but curiously, vinyl records appear to concurrently be making a comeback. Is it just a fad? 50 years from now, it will still be possible to listen to a vinyl record, by virtue of it being an elemental, non-proprietary technology, whereas listening to any of the current digital formats could be iffy.

      What prompted me to write the entry above is that I wanted to buy a CD of harpsichord music that was first released 25 years ago and found to my dismay that the album has been discontinued on CD and is now only available as an .mp3 download. So I ended up picking up a used vinyl copy instead. 😉 Sure, the record isn’t as hi-fi as digital but at least my grandchildren will be able to listen to it, should they want to.

  5. Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the great effort.

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