With Microsoft looking to use free music
as an enticement, it's worth looking at how well the various attempts at colleges and universities to offer "free" music downloads are going. As you may recall, a few years ago, Napster made a huge effort to get colleges to sign up
for their service, claiming they could then let students get "free music." Of course, it wasn't free at all. It involved many restrictions (it was for streaming rather than downloads, you could only get music from on-campus computers and, most importantly, all your music disappeared upon graduation) and of course, the university was paying for it somehow -- and that cost money
that could have gone to other student programs. Despite what the industry seems to think, college students aren't that gullible
. Most seemed to see through the bogus offer. Last year, the report from one university suggested not a single student
bought a song through the service, even as they kept on buying songs from iTunes (the service allowed free streams with "discount" purchases, which no one took). Now the Wall Street Journal has chimed in and noticed the same thing at many different universities. Students are smart enough to know that, even when "free," these services provide a raw deal for users
, and they'd rather do without them entirely.
Of course, this goes pretty far towards destroying the recording industry's claims about how kids only want "free stuff." This shows that (once again) it's not about free, but about convenience. Even when something is free, if it's inconvenient, people won't bother. Other services have shown the reverse is true as well: if it's convenient, people will pay for it. So why is it that the recording industry still focuses on the "can't compete with free" story?