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 Music Is Bad

Toby Slater

A new study offers a simple explanation for the popularity of Napster: Most albums suck.

The poll, carried out at the beginning of May, asked 15,000 Americans between the age of 16 and 49 why they use Napster and other free download services. The answer? According to Kettia Nadege, Melodicom's CEO, people resent buying whole albums just to hear the two tracks they like.

"The number one reason people download songs for free from online sites like Napster is because they do not want to pay $13 to $18 for a 12-song CD that only has two or three good songs", she says. "Instead, disgruntled music buyers are simply downloading the two or three songs they want for free on Napster or similar web sites."

According to the study, music fans understand that CD audio is of a higher sonic quality than MP3; 72% of those polled would actually prefer to buy a CD, but only "if it was full of great songs not mediocre filler"

If the findings hold true, digital downloads could divide the music scene in half. Singles and one-off hits might become increasingly popular as free tracks through Napster, while timeless or coherent albums continue to sell on CD. A majority of respondents "went out of their way to buy music that moved them emotionally and had classic appeal", but would rather download MP3s of tracks they suspect to be "wishy-washy or too trendy sounding."

But it is possible that customers' frustrations are not strictly directed at songwriters and musicians but instead towards those who set the prices for recorded music. "Respondents stated they are tired of being ripped off", confirms Nadege. "Napster allows the public to turn the tables and rip off the... record companies."


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