Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson - who figures he spends over $1,000 a year on digital music - had some interesting thoughts to share today on how the music industry turned him into a pirate.
The Streets uploaded their new record, Computers and Blues, to Soundcloud and the Hype Machine was featuring it. I gave it a listen and was smitten. I tweeted it out myself.
Then I searched the Internet for the record. It was not even listed in iTunes or emusic. It was listed on Amazon US as an import that would be available on Feb 15th, but only in CD form.
I'm not buying plastic just to rip the files and throw it out. Seeing as it was an import, I searched Amazon UK. And there I found the record in mp3 form for 4 pounds. It was going to be released on Feb 4th. I made a mental note to come back and get it when it was released.
I got around to doing that today. I clicked on "buy with one click" and was greeted with this nonsense (click on the image if you want to read it).
So then I went to find a VPN or proxy service that would let me grab a UK IP address so I could buy the record. All I could find was monthly or daily services that were 2-3x the cost of the record. I could not find a free service that would let me change my IP address for a few minutes so I could download the file. As much as I wanted to pay the 4 pounds and pay for the record, I wasn't going to lay out $10 or more to do that.
So reluctantly, I went to a bit torrent search. I found plenty of torrents for the record and quickly had the record in mp3 form. That took less than a minute compared to the 20+ minutes I wasted trying pretty hard to buy the record legally.
Wilson's frustration over being willing to pay for music, but being unable to buy what he wants, is way too common.
The Internet was supposed to make it easy to find and buy "long tail" content. Music, books and video that are too obscure for local stores to carry were going to be instantly accessible via the Internet.
Yet, here we are, 15 years after the rise of MP3s on the Internet, and a lot of people are still turning to piracy because they can't buy what they want.
Ironically, the more fanatical you become as a music fan, the more niche your interests become - and the harder it becomes to actually find someone that will sell you what you're looking for.