I’m very snobby about “free” music. Let me just say it outright: illegally downloading music is theft. It’s no different to walking into HMV and walking out with a CD without paying. I’m not setting out to offend you, but if you illegally download music you are a thief, and therefore (in my opinion) immoral.
How ridiculous that I anticipate that being a controversial statement. I suppose many of you have stolen music before, and now feel a bit upset that I’m calling you a dirty little thief. Well, I’m making no apologies, so if you’re really offended, either get over it and read on, or navigate to a different website.
Great, now that’s over, let’s get on to the real topic for today.
One of my favourite musicians (Back Ted n-Ted) recently released his album in the UK for the price of pay-what-you-want. Radiohead did the same five years ago. Oh boy, it’s just so tempting to pay nothing, isn’t it? After all, he’s offering us that choice. If he didn’t want us to get it for free, he’d set a price. No? Well, perhaps he knows that if the price sticker read £9.99, people would just nick it instead. Perhaps “something”, be it 1p or twenty quid, is better than nothing at all.
A couple of years ago, in Berlin, I went to a great little wine bar called Perlin. Their pricing strategy was exactly the same. You went up to the bar and requested whichever wine you felt like. You walked away from the bar, glass in hand, no worse off. The idea was that at the end of the night you put into your empty wine glass as much as you felt like paying.
I guess the owners hope that by the end of the night, their slightly merry clientele will be slightly over-generous.
Sometimes it didn’t work that well. My friends and I took a mathematical approach, giving a glass of wine an average “price” and multiplying this by the number of glasses drunk. Our problem was not being able to remember how many glasses we’d had. . .
Well, Perlin has been going for thirteen years now, so it’s working somehow. I’d recommend it if you’re in Berlin.
When the recession first kicked in I read an article about a restaurant in the UK like this. They tempted in city workers for lunch, promising a meal for whatever price the customer felt that the meal and service merited.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work at all. Brits started leaving offensively small amounts. They saw it as a free meal, rather than looking at the family, struggling to keep their business afloat, trying to innovate to survive.
So, to the crux of the matter. Many of my friends are young, skint and in debt. Do we pay what we think the music, wine or meal is worth? Or do we milk the foolish sellers for as much as we can get? It’s not so clear cut, of course. It’s a personal decision, and most of us will probably opt for a price influenced by several factors, in between
1) the optimum price (free!),
2) what we can afford and
3) what we think it’s worth, or what the artist/seller deserves.
I hope that’s given you some food (and wine and music) for thought. Thanks for reading.