Free Music

I have believed for several years now that music will eventually be free or cost next to nothing. I'm not speaking about piracy here, but the undeniable reality of the Internet that is making peer to peer file sharing different than stealing a CD in the minds of young people . It's hard for the old school to accept that record labels will be giving music away when they are used to selling it (and re-selling it to the same customers as they did when the CD replaced vinyl). You kind of understand why they don't want to give that money model up. But the movement is under way now to monetize the downloading of music through advertising. My Gen Y students at USC are not big believers in the viability of experimental concepts such as Spiral Frog because it will require viewing commercials they feel are too long and too frequent. The labels are moving toward the ad model with deals they are making with Google's YouTube. Their toes are in the water. Will they jump in? Jumping in is not in their DNA. Labels are usually late to the show. But there are some things worth noting. Subscription services -- not hot. Young consumers don't want to pay for things. Ad supported download models -- conditional. If the ads are short while downloads are taking place, they seem to like it better than paying for music. (Remember, this is a generation that has been downloading music for a long time of their short lives which is why record labels are losing the war even if they win a few RIAA-induced legal skirmishes). CDs with value added (boxed sets with merchandise, extra tracks, printed material and other goodies) -- not appealing enough to make the youth market want to spend for an entire album (iTunes-enabled Cherry picking changed all of that, too). I continue to believe that music is on its way to becoming like the mass of everything available on the Internet -- free or free with ads with the caveat that the ads must be short and infrequent. That's a hard pill for record labels to swallow, but to date there are no other plausible alternatives to the inevitable. There never are.