In response to my initial post, Dave from Paideia Posits wrote:
“…would this leave a common group with the burden to donate enough money while others consistently wait for the free version? Or will artists continue to raise their “bottom line” for new songs in order to make more money? Perhaps it would result in better products as people would only donate for new songs if the previous one was good. Poor quality would require artists to lower their new price to win back the fans…how would the consumer know what they are donating money for? How would they get their “sample”?”
I assume the donation requirement would be dictated by the popularity of the artist. Therefore, the cost would be dependent on demand for that artist’s music. A musician such as Jay-Z would ask for tens of millions of dollars, while an unknown artist would need to set their requirement much lower, even as low as hundreds of dollars. It’s interesting to note that this system wouldn’t reward an artist for the success of a breakthrough debut album, as their payday wouldn’t come until they released their second album. The financial reward for an album wouldn’t be dependent on the quality of an album, but on the quality of the album released previously. This may result in issues if the fan base isn’t satisfied with the quality of the latest album. It’s hard to imagine that a refund policy would be possible. Also, the price the artist demanded would be up to them, so they could always set that requirement to “0” and release a “sample” if they wanted to.
In response to Amanda’s post, I suggested it would be interesting to see a study showing the economic impact through future purchases that are the result of free music downloads, particularly of artists that one wouldn’t have become a fan of otherwise. After some quick Googling, that exact study wasn’t found. However, related studies have been done, analyzing the correlation between music downloads with increases or decreases in sales. This study found that music sales were not hurt by downloading, and suggests that downloading has allowed consumers to “sample”, and actually led to an increase in sales revenues. However, other studies found the opposite, a decrease in sales. Clearly this question raises several other questions, none of which have a black-or-white answer.