ILLEGAL DOWNLOADS ARE STILL THE EASIEST WAY TO GET THE BEST MUSIC AND MOVIES. COME UP WITH SOMETHING BETTER, AND PEOPLE MIGHT PAY.

COMES WITH POTENTIAL

A lot of people ask why there hasn’t been a proper iTunes Store (or any other online music store) for India all these years. By now, Apple must have sold tens of thousands of iPods in India and people coming from abroad must have brought an equal number in over the years, so why wouldn’t they want to capitalize on all those iTunes users? Besides, you don’t even need an iPod if you only want to listen to music or watch movies on your computer. Indians consume music and movies by the gigabyte, just the same as Americans and Europeans, so it isn’t about a lack of demand. Broadband is also spreading, so that isn’t the concern. There hasn’t been any competition in the online space. The most likely reason that no major online media seller has set up shop here is that people just don’t believe in paying for what they download unless they really value owning it.

Would you pay 48 rupees, the equivalent of 99 cents, for a single song? Probably not, if you could download exactly the same thing for free using some file-sharing program.

IF THE FILE SHARING NETWORKS WERE TAKEN AWAY, VERY FEW WOULD CONSUME PAID MEDIA. WE DON’T VALUE IT.

Songs go in and out of fashion; most of the music people download is popular one day and then boring the next. Movies are watched once, maybe a few more times over the course of years unless they’re incredibly funny or moving. More than that, pirated content is free and abundantly available, and there’s no guilt or fear associated with it. Nobody here has been sued for using P2P networks, nobody thinks that singers and actors are any poorer by losing out on a sale, and nobody believes they are committing any crime. A lot of people download just because the files are there, building up collections to share and trade. If the file sharing networks were taken away, very few would continue to consume paid media at such a pace. We’d just find other things to do that don’t cost any money. We don’t value it, we only consume it for transient enjoyment. The most commonly pirated tracks are today’s top 10 singles and latest movies, and the CDs that still sell in stores are Greatest Hits collections and well-known cinema classics that people know they’ll watch regularly, or would just enjoy owning a copy of.

It seems the only company willing to take a risk in India is Nokia, with its Comes With Music campaign. Details are still fuzzy and the tracks in the Nokia Music Store appear to be wrapped with nasty DRM, but Nokia might really be able to pull it off with its huge installed base and the idea of bundling coupons with new phones. The service is still way too limited right now—it seems you can’t buy tracks over and above your coupon’s value even if you want to pay more for them! To take it to the next level, Nokia could think about including the cost of a lifetime subscription with each multimedia handset, and call the downloads free. Much like downloaders rarely calculate how much they’re paying for their Internet connections and electricity, Nokia’s customers don’t even need to know they’ve already covered the cost. The Nokia store becomes the default first place to look for new music. If they also get things right with direct downloads to a handset, they’ll be sitting on a goldmine.

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