FREE is your new bicycle. Sorta.

Posted February 27th, 2008 by k

According to Muzzle of Bees, Amie St. is “releasing the entire catalogs of Beggars Group (XL, Rough Trade, 4AD), Matador Records and Polyvinyl Recording Co. — more than 15,000 songs.” and more importantly “All songs are initially free to download and rise in price based on popularity, up to $0.98. All songs are DRM-free mp3s.”

In fact at this moment Elvis Perkins’ Ash Wednesday album is $2.30. That’s not exactly free, but that’s a pretty well-received record that made it on to a lot Best of ’07 lists. The National’s Boxer is currently $5.54. Apparently as songs/albums become popular, the price goes up. Stelios made a killing with this technique in the UK. I’m not sure they’ve got the algorithm quite right, but I’m no economist, or maths student.

I’d still prefer “FREE” but $2.30 ain’t too bad.

update: I just grabbed a ton of free albums. It takes forever to find good free stuff, but it is still available, for now.

I think the problem for me is that while at heart I want to pay for music, I don’t want to pay pre-consumption and paying post-consumption is weird and/or not a natural transaction model. In fact, I’d almost rather be taxed based on my consumption or pay a subscription fee of some sort tied to what I actually listen to not what I’ve downloaded.

I listen to a lot of music, all of it downloaded. Some tracks I really like and would like to support those artists in some way, but others I may only hear a few times at most and then never hear again, and while they probably deserve to get $.20 or something for those listens, that’s not really feasible. Worse, buying the music of the bands I like through iTunes or Amazon or even Amie St. doesn’t really seem like good economics. The band is only getting a small percentage of that fee, whether it be $.99 or $.09. Of course, to some extent the same is true with buying tickets to a show, particularly one at a large venue with ticket management by TicketMonster.

These aren’t new problems and I know we’re all sort of slogging through the same mess, but I honestly thought this would all be solved by 2008. Of course, I don’t have the solution. I like David Byrne’s thoughts and the idea of artistshare. That might very well be a step in the right direction. Maybe some sort of subscription system tied into a Last.FM system that actually tallies plays of tracks so that the right people get rewarded for my listening habits. Hell, maybe I’ll just start doing something like that of my own volition and see how it pans out.

Addendum: This is fascinating and odd. (from Amie St.)

A REC is short for recommendation, and the REC system helps you discover and download new-to-you music on Amie Street. What makes the REC system awesome is that you get money usable toward the purchase of more music simply by recommending your favorite songs.

You can REC any song you have purchased by writing a short review and/or telling other users who it sounds like. You receive money as the song you’ve REC’d becomes more popular with other Amie Street members. A rise in popularity means a rise in the price of the song. If the song becomes more popular, you are then rewarded with more money in your account.

If you REC a song while it’s free and it subsequently rises in price to 98 cents, you can Cash Out and get that 98 cents back to spend on more music. If you REC a song that is priced at 1 cent or higher, you’ll get half the difference back into your account when you Cash Out. Make money by leaving a shout-out for your favorite artists? What could be better than that?

You get RECs every time you buy credit on Amie Street or invite friends to the site, and you use up one of your RECs each time you REC a song.

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