Any record labels that want to somehow salvage their flagging CD sales (or at least stem the tide), should take note:
I, your average, music-loving consumer, am willing to pay! Yes, I will pay for high-quality content. But here's the catch: the content has to be good. Specifically, it has to be better than any and all available free content. Preferably much better.
I bring this up because I recently paid a premium to buy a hard copy of Emmylou Harris's new album on the promise -- straight from Nonesuch Records, who I really do want to like -- that with the CD I would also get an exclusive DVD featuring live performances interspersed with interviews.
The trouble is that these "interviews" are less than 60 seconds apiece, and add up to maybe five minutes total. Don't you see, record labels: I am actually willing to pay you my money! But the deal is that you then have to provide me with something awesome that I can't get anywhere else. If I can go onto YouTube and get better interviews -- much better interviews -- then your DVD is not worth any additional money. What's more, you've pissed me off with flimsy promises and halfhearted efforts. This just makes me that much more likely to torrent an album, download it when it's onsale at Amazon for $3.99, or rip it from a friend.
The explosion of content doesn't, in fact, mean that people are no longer willing to pay for content. On the contrary, the explosion of content is generally such an explosion of crap that if you give me something of high quality, I'm actually likely to value it even more highly. Case in point: I was willing to pay $20 for a CD/DVD combo when I could have downloaded the songs alone for $8. Now that I feel ripped off because the interviews were superficial, fleeting, and worthless, I'm that much less likely to pay for something like that ever again.
What special brand of idiots are the record labels today? They (still) have the resources (for now), and should be at the absolute top of the content food chain -- able to provide me with amazing stuff I can't get anywhere else. The trouble is that they end up spending more time figuring out newer and cleverer ways to rip people off than ways to provide cool content. Or great value. Or both! It's just bad business, and any moron can tell you that bad business is a whole lot worse for record labels than any new technology -- MP3s, torrents, whatever -- ever was.
All this just makes me that much more willing and likely to work outside the labels' "system." When the "system" sucks so hard, who can blame me?