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Online music replies summary

Hello people --

This is a summary of the replies I recieved to my online music
questionaire last week.  I'm not going to go through and tabulate
specifics on all the answers, partly because there were almost 30
replies and partly because some of the questions can't be answered in
simple yes or no terms.  At any rate, here's my summary:

> 1) Have you ever downloaded unauthorized MP3 files from the net?

Surprisingly, very few people claimed to have done this.  Only four or
five individuals said they had; one person didn't even know that it was
possible to download files without the artist's permission!
> 2) Have you ever copied recording onto MP3 and then uploaded the file to
> the net?

Again, not many people had done this.  Of those who had, most did so
strictly for promoting or sharing their own music; only one or two
seemed to have "ripped" unauthorized copies and uploaded them.
> 3) If MP3s of a particular song were available for sale online via a
> secured credit card server, would you be likely to purchase them?  What
> do you feel would be an appropriate price range for a single song (4-6
> minutes)?  For an entire album (40-76 minutes)?   Would you be more
> inclined to download individual songs or entire albums?

This issue had the widest range of answers and opinions; there was no
clear majority consensus.  Many people were disinclined to purchase MP3s
under any circumstances, seeing the format as more of a promotional tool
for recordings than as a product to buy as such.  Some said that they
might be inclined to buy them online if they had CD burning software, if
the sound quality were better, if more established artists were making
material available in the format, or if there were highly rare
recordings available via the format that were otherwise unavailable.

The recommended price was usually around $1 - $2 per song and $5 - $10
for an album.  (One person suggested a few cents per song and $1 - $2
for a full album!)  Most people clearly felt that the cost should
definitely be lower than a physical item like a CD, and some people
remarked that they would miss the material trappings like a jewel box,
cover, sleeve, etc.

One of the most recurring issues raised here was that of download time
-- most who would prefer to download individual songs cited time as a
prominent factor (one person quipped "Downloading takes too long -- and
I have DSL!") in their choice.

Another issue raised by a few people was the potential obsolescence of
the whole concept of the "album" as such, and the increased fluidity of
how music "releases" are thought of conceptually.  A possible sign of
this was the fact that most people seemed to be more inclined towards
individual song downloads rather than full albums.

> 4) If you had the choice between purchasing officially sanctioned MP3s
> from a commercial site or downloading unauthorized files for free, which
> would you choose?  Why?

Many people felt that this issue depended on the artist -- they would be
more inclined to pay for files from a lesser-known artist who was
selling them directly, and more inclined to get unauthorized files from
major acts on major labels.  Most people cited the issue of supporting
the artist's ability to profit from their work, and were concerned that
their listening enjoyment was not coming at the expense of the artist
being cheated out of their right to this.  A lot of people remarked that
they would download unauthorized files for free simply because they
viewed the MP3s as a preview; if they liked the music, they'd buy the
CD, and if they didn't like the music they'd simply delete the file.

> 5) If you had the choice between purchasing a CD online or purchasing
> the album in MP3 format online, which would you choose?  Why?

This was very close to a unanimous consensus; nearly everyone chose CDs
as the preferred medium, for reasons of sound quality, universal
compatibility, accessibility, and not having to mess with a
computer-based interface and the attendant hassles (hard drive space,
backing up, download time, audio in/out, etc.)

> 6) If you had the option of having MP3s e-mailed to you rather than
> downloaded directly from a web site, would you be more or less inclined
> to purchase them?  Why?

Most people were opposed to the idea of having MP3s mailed to them,
citing the complications of having large files sent to their mail
systems.  Not knowing when the files would arrive was another concern. 
Of those who preferred mailings, most seemed to think that it would be a
faster process than downloading it themselves.

> 7) If a web site offered a secure credit card server to process CD
> purchase transactions, would you be more inclined to purchase the album
> than if it was only available via mail-order?

This was basically a unanimous "yes" -- the only person who said no
remarked that he didn't engage in any online commerce.

> 8) If you do purchase music online (either as CDs or as downloads),
> which sites do you frequently visit/purchase from?

There was no clear frontrunner here; many people had never purchased
online.  Of those who had, most of the replies were either one of the
obvious and well-known sites like cdconnection.com, amazon.com, or
cdnow.com, or else artist's individual sites.

The consensus seems to be that MP3 is a great way to hear music on a
short-term basis, but is not to be taken seriously as a format for
repeated, long-term listening, or as something to buy or sell.

For people to be readily prepared to buy downloads online, several
things seem to be necessary: sound quality needs to be better than
what's currently available, download time needs to be shorter, and the
downloaded material needs to be accessible away from the computer, be it
through CD burners or portable players. 

Thanks to all who replied; hope this was useful to people.