A few years ago a popular song asked, “How do you keep the music playing?” Owners of music file-sharing services and recording companies are now asking the same question, with a twist.
“How do we keep the music playing on the Internet?” is more like it these days. What seemed a highly progressive and potentially profitable idea is now teetering on the edge of consumer rejection. And nothing makes the big boys in the recording industry shake in their boots more than consumer rejection, particularly rejection among the most sought-after demographic group — American teenagers.
Still, the reality is that teens are not yet downloading music in a volume large enough to support an entire industry. Further, some of those who might be interested in doing so simply cannot, since they do not have credit cards.
As for alternative payment systems, such as PayPal, many teens are not even aware of their existence.
All this doom and gloom leads to the question: if online music loses teens before it even finds its commercial legs, does it lose the war?
Maybe it’s too early to tell, but so far things are not looking up for the online music industry.
The relatively small group of sites that actually sell music downloads offer a somewhat limited selection of pop or mainstream titles. Obscure heavy metal groups and serious jazz appear to be plentiful, but don’t look for Britney, Christina or even Jagger in great numbers.
As for the record companies — the entities that could offer a huge selection of the most popular titles — they appear to be dragging their corporate feet in bringing the best inventory online.
Stop by the much-heralded Pressplay.com and you’ll find a notice telling you to leave your name and they’ll let you know when it’s soup.
And Musicnet? Not yet.
According to a recent survey from Gartner Research, only 6 percent of adultInternet users paid for digital music online in the study’s three-month period of 4,000 such users.
The problems? First, there is the residue of Napster and all of the free-music file sharing clones it spawned. Second, many users find the whole music downloading process tedious and cumbersome. If there is one thing we have learned about online selling, it is to keep it simple.
Simple it is not. In fact, it takes a while to get up to speed on the technical end of downloading music, and even then a user must have the right software to make it happen.
All of it takes precious time in which the user might run out of patience or be otherwise distracted.
It’s Only Music
Add in to the mix the fact that we’re not talking about one of life’s necessities here. We’re talking about tunes. And up until recently, tunes could easily be had for free on the Web. Those were the days, my friend, and we hoped they would never end. But Napster is dead, and its imitators will likely face a similar fate. So now the question is: Will American consumers rewire their thinking to pay for something that was once had so easily for free?
But until they make up their minds, the free file-sharing services abound. Just because the American judicial system doesn’t like Napster doesn’t mean file-sharing technology will disappear.
On the contrary, look for newer entrants with names like MusicCity.com or Kaza to provide almost any type of file that canbe traded — at no cost.
Oh, and if you were wondering where that coveted teen demographic hangs out, look no further. No credit card? No problem. What malls once were to teens, these free sites are rapidly becoming.
So Much for Free
It’s a tough call as to whether online music can become a successful commercial venture instead of the peer-to-peer free service it has been so far.
In our culture, music can be had for free (or almost free) on so many channels. MTV and VH1 are usually part of the basic cable lineup in most markets. Our computers are capable of copying CDs, which we listen to in our cars, during our workout or wherever we choose. And of course there’s the good old radio.
We seem to have added music to our list of inalienable rights.
Why should we pay for more music? Will we? The recording industry seems hell-bent on proving that we will. Techno-savvy teens beg to differ.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.