Seven lessons that the Music business can learn from AllofMP3 (RIP)

For those who do not know, AllOfMP3 was a website based in Russia, from which music could be downloaded at approximately one-quarter of the cost from domestic providers such as iTunes. I use the past tense because the Internal Music Cartel known as the RIAA (AKA the “Music Mafia”) had them shut down as part of the price of Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

However, there are lessons to be learned from the experience; lessons that the music business refuses to learn. The world has changed, but they cling to the old ways. AoMP3 was a signpost to the future – a signpost that the music business is, apparently, desperate to avoid.

  1. Piracy is not the issue – price is. People who love to paint AoMP3 as a “piracy organization” conveniently forget that people actually paid real money to download songs from AoMP3. These people could have used peer-to-peer to get free music, but didn’t. It follows that there are a whole lot of folks who will happily pay 25c for a song, but not the $1 that you insist is not enough to keep the music industry in the style to which it has become accustomed addicted. eMusic proved this  point some years ago, when they halved the cost of their (legal) music downloads, and sales rocketed sixfold. Unfortunately the music business insisted on their full rate, forcing eMusic  to operate at a loss, so the experiment had to be abandoned.
  2. Give the customer what they want. Don’t like MP3 format – Want your music as OGG files of even WAV format? AoMP3 did that. You still haven’t gotten the clue.
  3. Quality matters. AoMP3 offered downloads at all bit rates – higher quality at higher prices. For some of us, 160kbps is simply not enough – we want higher quality options than is on offer.
  4. You’re not in the art business… Music stops being art when the artist hands over the masters. After that it’s mass-produced synth-pap, and should be treated as such.
  5. …you’ re in the data business. AoMP3 charged by the megabyte – bigger files cost more. The longer the song, the higher the quality the more you paid. Seems fair to me, though I am sure that  the “musies” disagree.
  6. DRM doesn’t work: The music business things that our “rights” need to be “managed”. Why? Because they don’t trust their customers. AoMP3 distributed unprotected MP3s which play on any device at a price which was low enough that it “wasn’t worth burglary”. All this tedious mucking about with licenses and “trusted devices” just serves to annoy your customers. As those who purchased music with Microsoft’s “PlaysForSure” DRM found  out when it would not play on their brand-new Microsoft Zune player. “For Sure”, indeed!
  7. Your customers are not thieves: People did not go to AoMP3 because they were looking for something free – they can do that already. They were willing to pay for the product. This fact seems to be blissfully ignored by big music, perhaps because they feel that they, rather than the market, get to set the value of the product. Sorry to bust your bubble, but that is not an option. You can insist on your “rights” if you wish, but you cannot stop your customers from walking out the door.
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