Price in Indecent Proposal: $1m
by Cosmo Lee

They say that every person has a price. That is, every person has some monetary threshold at which one can be induced to do things one normally wouldn’t do.

Let’s tweak that to apply to downloading.

First, let’s assume that the default behavior by a metal fan in 2010 is to download music for free.

The “I buy CD’s” and “I buy vinyl” folks might protest. They are valued and integral members of the metal community. They are also in the minority. Or if they aren’t, they will be soon. The vinyl folks are certainly in the minority. Vinyl is expensive, so it will forever remain a niche market. CD’s are on their way out, and downloads (paid or not) are trending up. This is undisputed.

It might seem cynical to assume that metal fans would download music for free. Metal carries notions of “supporting the band” and “supporting the scene.” But in the face of illegal downloading, these notions become ones of honor. Honor is not a business model. The rational metal consumer (ignoring the theoretical flaws of the “rational consumer” construct) will download music for free. The cost is zero both in terms of money and chance of getting caught. You’re almost a dummy if you don’t download illegally.

However, as I’ve pointed out before, illegal downloading has other costs. The biggest one is of time. To download illegally, one must find a suitable Internet back alley. For obscure releases or those where the record label has clamped down on illegal downloads, the search time can be great. And, as everyone knows, time is money.

Metalhit.com sells MP3 albums for $5.25 each.
Would you buy them at that price?

So you’re at a website that sell MP3 albums. Your natural inclination is to click away from the site to search for a free download. At what price point do you stay on the site, buy the album, and avoid the hassle of seeking the free download?

For one commenter on the Amie Street post last week, $2 was still potentially too high.

Some people are hellbent on getting music for free. They will expend great amounts of time and energy to avoid paying for music. For them, no price is low enough.

I would wager, though, that most people would pay for convenience. I have better things to do than to trawl the Internet looking for illegal free music. My price is $2. If an MP3 album is $2 or below, and I’m thinking of getting it, I will pull the trigger 99% of the time. Between $2 and $3, I will think for a bit, but still pull the trigger over half the time. Anything above that is more iffy.

What’s your price?