Dear music industry,

Please make it easier to be legally compliant.


I had an unpleasant experience this morning in the iTunes Store. I mentioned on Twitter to my friend, Bronwen Clune, that Josh Groban’s new album, Noel, had a very good version of Little Drummer Boy on it. I figured, heck, it’s only 99 cents, I’d send her a copy of it legally through the iTunes Store, make a nice Christmas gift, right?

Apple apparently had a different idea:

“An email you’ve specified to receive a Gift is set up for an account in a different country’s iTunes Store (Australian). Gift recipients may only redeem their gift in this iTunes Store (United States).”

Apple, did it ever occur to you that I might have friends outside the country I live in? This is, after all, the Internet, where borders are crossed with the click of a mouse. I checked other digital stores that have a pay per download, and no luck on Amazon or CD Baby. Everyone loses. The musician doesn’t get paid, the label doesn’t get paid, Apple and other providers don’t get paid.

Instead of buying and sharing the music legally, I had to go dig up a YouTube video that someone else had posted with the track as its soundtrack. I’m not willing to break the law by ripping the track myself but if someone else has already done the work and stuck their neck out publicly, I’m not opposed to sending a link.

Here’s the thing. Apple – you missed a revenue opportunity. Please let me BUY music for friends internationally. I realize the US dollar is close to worthless overseas, but still. How many musicians in iTunes miss out on revenues and sales every day because of this e-commerce paywall between nations?

Music industry – the lesson is not that free will always win. EASY will always win. I could rip this track for free by breaking the DRM and converting to an MP3, but that’s 10 minutes of my day I can spend doing something else (like blogging about it). That would be free, but I want easy. I value my time more than my money, because I can always make money, but my lifespan is finite and irreplaceable. Make it EASY for me to legally buy, share, and distribute the music I love, and I will. Yes, price is a consideration, but it’s not the ONLY factor.

Musicians – always have more than one e-commerce store distributing your stuff, because occasionally a customer will want to do something unexpected with your music, and if they can pay you for it easily, all the better. For example, I can imagine a tip jar being set out on a musician’s web site that says, “Feel free to rip my CD and if you want to send an MP3 to a friend, all I ask is that you drop 99 cents in the jar per track. Thanks.”

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