I actually bought music today

by phil on Friday Mar 26, 2010 1:46 AM

Hey guess what. I bought music. Online. That's right. You heard it right.

The process began when I was in a "war room" at Mutual Mobile helping some developers create an Augmented Reality app, and the room was really quiet, as almost everybody had left for the day. And I wanted to accomplish two goals. One was to liven up the atmosphere. The second was to scratch this music itch I was having. I've been listening to The Stooge's Raw Power on loop, and like a catchy advertising tune, I was hearing the hooks in my head all throughout the day, and I just had to listen to it, right, now.

So, what was the quickest way for me to do this? I could launch iTunes and purchase the album. But that would have been, what, nine bucks or something? Too much for just a fix and mood music. Next option. What if I bittorrented it? Nope, I was on the corporate network, and we needed that bandwidth. Hmm, what about pirate streaming from Grooveshark? But that's only really good if you're queuing up individual songs, one-at-a-time. I wanted to dive into the whole album.

And then—ding ding ding—I remembered about Lala, an online music start-up that Apple acquired a few months ago. Lala has a huge catalog—almost iTunes huge—and lets you play songs once for free. But the kicker is that I could buy a web-only version of Raw Power for 72¢! Yes, that's right. For less than the price of an iPhone app, I could get my fix without thinking twice. Sold!

After I surfed around, I bought a couple more albums, including She & Him's Volume One and Volume Two for $1.17 each.

While I was blasting these tunes, I mentioned to my fellow programmers (who are college-aged) that I had just bought music. They responded with gasps. "Why?," they asked. I then gave my spiel about Lala, and one of them shyly mentioned, "You know my album's on there."

"Oh, I didn't know you were in a band." So I typed in his band's name Salmonella Rex, clicked a few buttons, and 90¢ later we were listening to his music. He was floored. Another developer asked, "Wait, how much of that do you get to pocket? Are you with a label or anything?" "Nope," he replied, "I just uploaded the songs myself, so I get pretty much all of that. Thanks!"

That's one of my favorite forms of flattery. Buying your friend's wares right there in front of them. Anytime a friend tells me they just made an app and put it on the App Store, I pull out my phone and purchase it without hesitation. Oftentimes, I'm the first person that they actually know of who buys their product, and it really makes their day. While it's only about 70¢ royalty from Apple for a $1 app, the first time it happens, it's a psychological shock when you realize, Wow, I made something original. And someone bought it.

If the race-to-the-bottom in media pricing means more ordinary people can have moments like that, then maybe all this creative destruction due to liberal file-sharing has been worth it.

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