"But mom, everybody does it!"

The Ipsos Group is a marketing research firm. According to a recent survey, 18% of Americans 12 and over — about 40 million people — have downloaded music within the last 30 days. Most of them are males age 24 or younger (downloading activity falls by half in the 24-34 group, and by nearly half again in the 35-54 group). Few believe that downloading hurts artists, and almost nobody believes that downloading is wrong.

The most popular reasons given for downloading were:

  • To sample music online before making a purchase
  • To download songs they want without having to purchase an entire album
  • To get access to songs not easily available in stores

The RIAA probably interprets this data as “our customers are criminals”. But what it really says that the RIAA doesn’t understand their customers’ customers, and is therefore fumbling what’s supposed to be a leadership role during the transition to digital distribution.

Why isn’t there a legitimate way for me to get music not available in my local music stores, or even on CD at all because of the costs involved in duplicating and distributing them? Why isn’t there a way for me to sample music and then easily purchase (say, for 50¢) individual songs?