Economics Main

The value of free

I just bought Norah Jones’s latest single “Thinking About You” from Yahoo Music, a good song made better by the fact that it’s offered in 192 kbps unprotected MP3 format. That is, there’s no Digital Rights Management (DRM) to “control” it. The publishers take the risk that I’ll (illegally) share the song with all my friends and the world at large, while I Mr. Consumer enjoy the play-anywhere convenience.

The Wall Street journal reports that Yahoo Music General Manager David Goldberg favors unprotected downloads:

Antipiracy software on music isn’t helping the industry because the same music is already available without copy protection on CDs and through Internet file-sharing programs. What’s more, many consumers don’t like the limitations that copy protection imposes on how and on which devices they can listen to their music. (The Wall Street Journal)

This also allows Yahoo Music to compete with the iTunes Music Store since these unprotected MP3 files will play on any iPod.

This week on Cory Doctorow, sci-fi author and co-founder of, explains the value of giving away something for free. He invokes Tim O’Reilly who said, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”

As a consumer, I have too many choices and not enough attention span. To win my attention, give me something for free. To win my wallet, make it easy to buy and consume your product.

6 replies on “The value of free”

Couldn’t agree more with your post. “To win my wallet, make it easy to buy and consume your product.”

matt harrison: I also got the Windows Media error (I’m on a Mac) but after putting in my credit card the download was indeed an unprotected MP3. (Seems stupid for them to be checking for Windows Media.) This isn’t available for all of Yahoo’s Music. The WSJ says they’re piloting it with Norah Jones and maybe they’ll expand.

I’m so irritated with the recording industry that it’s rare I’ll purchase music anyway. If that isn’t discouraging to them already, they should know that I would ***never*** knowingly purchase a sound recording that has DRM protections on it.

From your post it would seem that Yahoo provides mp3 downloads. Do they do that often? A quick perusal of their site seems to suggest otherwise. (Windows Media Player required + wma content). (Plus the hints on yahoo home page that yahoo is optimized for IE is annoying and insulting)

For those of use using linux this is no better than Apple’s Music Store.

Well said, Richard. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve purchased a track from iTunes, only to download the same song illegally off a sharing network so I get better 192kbps fidelity and greater portability and convenience. I even delete the original iTunes track. Call me a digital music Robin Hood of sorts. 🙂

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