Thinking more about individual file sharing versus online music stores, best epitomized by Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Steve Jobs was quoted in a Wired News article as saying “We’re going to fight illegal downloading by competing with it,” said Jobs. “We’re not going to sue it. We’re not going to ignore it. We’re going to compete with it.”
My experience using the p2p file sharing services is that they are usually far from satisfactory as a strict consumer experience, all questions of legality and morality aside. Even when you find something you want, the encoding is likely to be poor and full of bleeps and burps (“artifacts”), the transfer speed connection to the peer is usually poor at best, the peer may disconnect or become unreachable before your transfer is over…and when you finally get the file, it may be something entirely different than what it was labelled – my favorite example of this was getting what claimed to be a version of Bye Bye Blackbird by Ray Charles, and it turned out to be Joe Cocker singing that song! I’m sure Joe would be flattered by the mistake, but Brother Ray would most likely be gravely insulted!
It’s good to remember that the p2p file sharing services and protocols grew up as a response to the legal pressure brought by the entertainment industry. Initially the first wave of online music file distribution was done by individuals making songs available via ftp sites. The evolution of p2p was a case of an evolutionary adaptation to unnatural social pressures. After all, it’s not like blogging, where you’re actively seeking the individual input and viewpoint of the peer you’re getting the data from.
So who wouldn’t rather have the songs they want available from large, fast, reliable online servers that are centralized and professionally managed, with high quality encoding and reliable metadata? Hmmmm….sounds a lot like what the Apple store is reaching for.
And I find myself increasingly going to the Apple store first when looking for music – though it’s not as complete as I’d like to see it. But, as a working professional, I perhaps have a degree of disposable income that much of the file sharing audience does not – for me paying $10 for an album is frequently worth it for the reliability and speed of the service, though I think it is still a higher price than I’d really like to see. I think the eventual price point for this kind of service remains to be seen, especially if the real aim of the service is not to make money by itself, but in conjunction with selling hardware (see Thursday’s post).