by Mike Masnick

RIAA Got It Wrong, Convenience More Important Than Free To Students

from the we-don't-need-no-dumb-restrictions... dept

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?

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  • identicon
    anonymous coward, 6 Jul 2006 @ 5:28pm

    in order of importance

    1.) quality
    2.) convenience
    3.) price

    the music industry fails on all three counts


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christina, 6 Jul 2006 @ 5:44pm

    Anonymous has it right there. Being a college student myself, in order, I like:

    1) Cool stuff
    2) Cool stuff that is convenient
    3) Cool stuff that is convenient that is free.

    If stuff is free, but it's neither cool nor convenient, nobody wants it. It might as well cost way too much, because nobody will buy in anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    i buy music to share on P2P Clients..., 6 Jul 2006 @ 6:36pm

    .... not really.
    but anywho, i appreciate the people who do :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jul 2006 @ 7:06pm

    And thus the answer for many users is this:

    1. Filesharing = quality content (usually)
    2. Filesharing = convenient quality content (usually)
    3. Filesharing = conveniently free quality content (as long as 'they' don't know)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Clair Ching, 6 Jul 2006 @ 8:29pm


    I guess it boils down to the oversimplification of the youth culture. It is not easy to simply have it boil down to the coolness factor or something being free. The comments here got it right. There are factors to consider like quality, convenience and also the price.

    Sometimes I think that the music industry just doesn't get it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Clair Ching, 6 Jul 2006 @ 8:43pm

    Educating the people

    The thing with myths is that we tend to believe them because so and so and such and such put together makes sense. Somewhat. But we all need to learn to verify facts before jumping to conclusions. There have been a lot of mobile phone related myths before and hopefully, there won't be much iPod myths. Then again, you never know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Clair, 6 Jul 2006 @ 8:47pm

    Oops. My bad. This comment was supposed to be on another article. O_o; I got confused with the tabs. Please disregard the comment re: iPod and lightning

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Huwang Chung, 6 Jul 2006 @ 8:51pm


    Why even bother with all the hyped up BS, get Dumb and crunk, I figure as long as I'm paying my cable bill, Everything on the NET should be free, i mean thats the point of the internet, free po-ups, porn, and music.... what else should be on the net....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mike Mixer, 6 Jul 2006 @ 10:08pm

    free stuff

    This reminds me of all the times a friend says " I got a (whatever) that I don't need anymore here you go". Everything from a washer and dryer to more old computers than you can shake a stick at, all of which I had no need for, didn't have room for, and couldn't haul home anyway. It's amazing how ungrateful people will think you are when you decline the boon they hand you with love. Are ya feelin' the love?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    david, 6 Jul 2006 @ 10:11pm

    err grammer, anyone?

    i think you mean "converse" not "reverse."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Albert, 6 Jul 2006 @ 10:21pm

    I'm not sure what you mean by "Convenience"

    I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that college students picked something like itunes over somthing like Napster because of "convenience".

    Could it not have been that they opted for itunes because they didn’t want to rent songs.

    Of course they end up renting ipods but that’s for another subject. (They may rent ipods but not songs.)

    Could it not be, then , that people associate Napster with rent and Itunes with own/buy.

    If this was in fact the primary consideration leading to your article then I'm not sure that the word "convenience" is applicable here.

    It might be, for example, that college students realize that this time and these collections of songs may mean something to them latter in life.

    In other words for the same reason people take pictures. To remember a place and time.

    Given a choice, the average person, I think, would probably want to own their "Keep-sakes" rater then renting them over time from some company.

    (I dont know, Maybe "Rent-Sakes? Or lets see Company+Rent - "Creep-Sakes"?)

    As far as I can tell, this example is not so much about convenience as it is about the association, in the human mind, between things that have personal value and the idea of renting vs. owning.

    -- Albert

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2006 @ 9:46am

      Re: I'm not sure what you mean by "Convenience"

      All of what you said is factored into "convenience." Convenience is a catchall for factors that would be controversial if called quality. The overlap is vague. But as a general trend, factors involving where/when/how something can be used are considered convenience factors. A 72" television is very high quality. It is very inconvenient.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    confused, 6 Jul 2006 @ 11:17pm

    isn't downloading entire discographies at the click of a button and downloading them for free more convenient than anything the riaa (or anyone else for that matter) could do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    college rules!, 7 Jul 2006 @ 12:04am

    renting, DRM... where did my purchased music go?

    Renting music... the concept alone is hard to understand... especially when I want it on my ipod.
    DRM music is flawed and may not work in 10 years (try reinstalling your apple OS a few times).
    Lots of college kids are broke.
    Filesharing networks are both convenient and free.
    DRM free netlabels are the future. It's a shame the RIAA doesn't trust it's own best customers. They've lost me for good. Apple too..
    Any guesses when the MP3 or AAC format will become obsolete for the next best format.. so you can re-purchase your entire music collection all over again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tashi, 7 Jul 2006 @ 12:58am

    It's really a shame the RIAA can't see that through their own greed. Just look at Linux and Windows. Free and stable and inconvenient (in many aspects) over bloated, buggy convenience. I'd be willing to say that people are willing to pay over what's reasonable the more convenient something is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Monkey, 7 Jul 2006 @ 1:42am

    The RIAA are old guys who are just trying to squeeze out money from kids. Many bands such as Sum 41 disapprove of them suing people for downloading music. The RIAA doesn't give a rip about copyrights. They only want to make money and use that reason to do so. The world would be much better off without greedy people like RIAA. Sharing is caring!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Snyper82, 7 Jul 2006 @ 2:39am

    Here here...

    I agree, and think also that a lot of people fileshare but will later buy the cd because they like it so much. At least I know a lot of people who do that sort of thing. In this case both sides win, RIAA gets there money and the fileshare community gets another neighbor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    shableep, 7 Jul 2006 @ 2:48am

    RIAA is just scared to hell about the changing market. They're lashing out with frustration.

    By the way, filesharing does not offer much guaranteed quality by any means. Especially when what you're looking for doesn't play on MTV.

    It's all very immature (as far as the internet music scenes development). So any actions taken towards people for their actions is based on very immature conclusions from an immature market. More time and energy should probably be spent on finding a system that works. iTunes is run on iPod success and convenience. It's successful but still not reasonable.

    Pricing should be lowered when distributing digitally. It's not like they have a limited supply of MP3s to send over. The lower the pricing, the larger the customer base, the stronger the sales momentum. $1 a song? That's a bit ridiculous when you add everything up. You're using pennies of their bandwidth.

    God I'm being opinionated. But damn am I frustrated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • renting ipods? renting music?

    you don't have to own/rent an ipod to own music from itunes. you can just play it on your computer. so you can own your music and not rent it. renting is retarded. if that company, let's call them napster, shuts down what the hell happens to your music? do you lose it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Topher3105, 7 Jul 2006 @ 7:17am

    Nothing is both FREE and EASY

    Although its every man's dream.

    But, I digress. I got 20 "free" songs when I signed up with Vonage, one of the few perks of that disaster. Anyways, when I finally got the code to get my free music, I went to the website, which was part of the company, and then tried to get my free music. Browsing and adding songs to the cart was easy, although the selection wasn't great, and when I went to check out, Vonage said that I should enter the value of 20 songs times $.99 when I entered me certificate ID. That would leave me having to pay for the taxes. I screwed that nonsense and put the full total of the order including taxes, and it accepted it.

    The fun came when I wanted to actually download the music and play it. The download engine didn't seem to work on Firefox, and even using IE was spotty. It took way too long to download the music. The REAL joyous part of the experience was when I tried to play the DRM protected songs in Windows Media Player 10, and the player wouldn't play them, period. I tried to find a utility to remove the windows DRM on the music, ( I mean, I do legitimately own the music at this point), but after browsing many suspicous websites that wanted to set way too many cookies and run way too many scripts and active X controls, and downloading one dubious application which only crashed my system (but wasn't reported as a trojan by Norton Anti-virus) I almost gave up on the songs.

    I finally installed Windows MP 11 and tried it one last time, and I actually was able to unlock the songs and listen to them. I promptly made a CD of the music and then ripped it into iTunes to put onto my iPod.

    The moral of the story is, be wary of anything Vonage offers you, because it probably sucks in reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2006 @ 9:06am

    Useless file formats and DRM

    For me it's more about the fact that what they want to give you "for free" I don't find that useful at all.
    I want MP3s! A no-nonsense format that's been around for years, sounds good, doesnt take up much space, and wont yell at me when I try to copy it from one device to another.

    This is why I have been using all-of-mp3 for a few years (till I just heard they are not paying any royalties at all to the artists, true or not?).
    I don't mind paying for music, but once I've paid for it I want to do with it what I please!
    I don't giveaway copies to friends or share my collection, I just want something functional.
    The price is less important to me, $1 per song is too much IMO, but if they started legally selling MP3s without all the DRM and other BS that comes along with it, I would be willing pay their dollar a song.

    The RIAA puts very little trust in us normal people and I think that's hurting them more than anything at this point, they come across as a big bully, kill the little guy, my way or the highway sortta bunch and I want NOTHING to do with it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Riley, 7 Jul 2006 @ 9:51am

    " that DRM does not work."

    I think Apple would disagree with you ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Cannadude, 7 Jul 2006 @ 11:17am

    Why all these huge record comapnies anyway?

    Used to be that recording hard copies of music en masse was prohibitively expensive and the domain of these large record companies, who in turn figured ways to promote and distribute more and more records more effectively in an age before easy digital content distribution, becoming the go-to between artists and markets. Later on, promotion and marketing account for far more of the actual work being done, with some artists having managed to sell hundreds of thousands of records and still be bankrupted by the company tab they ran up. Now, with anybody owning a computer and recording equipment able to record, edit and market themselves, and for cheaper than a company with a massive creaking infrastrcture to support, organizations like the RIAA stand in the way of burying a dying business model, instead legislating their importance and necessity to a public that decries their existence. They have videoself, why not a burning/label printing vending machine for music, eliminating the need for massive production runs to win most visibility on the retail shelf, wasting so much in the process. Without the sprawling retail infrastructure, who would need the mass supply and ditribution networks of these companies, instead produce and deliver in proportion to demand with the order and inventory tools now available, and create an atmosphere where indies can market themselves on an even playing field with the biggies and their racket, keeping their rights to themselves in the process and deciding themselves who can legally do what with the products of their labour.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kate, 8 Jul 2006 @ 7:56am


    One reason they are clinging to this worn out excuse is to cover the fact that the industry is changing and the whole fat music industry is going to have to restructure its' business plan. And for those who were getting rich off of unfair contracts with obsolete provosions in them about "breakage discounts" and so on, this would be an unwelcome change where they may have to tighten their belts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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