I have recently commented elsewhere on the new consumer promotion from Pepsi and their tie-in partner, Apple Computer. The commercial in support of the promotion, which debuted during the Super Bowl (to the tune of a 2.3 million dollar media buy) features kids who were sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for downloading copyrighted music. The hero of the spot, a fourteen year old girl from Staten Island declares, she will continue to download music for free and “there’s not a thing anyone can do about it.” The spot is made even more ironic by the use of “I Fought The Law,” a 1960s classic remade here by Green Day.
Pepsi and Apple are giving away 100 million free song downloads. This is an instant win game, where one looks under the cap for a winning code. As a consumer promotion this is brilliant work. The RIAA and its constituency wins by getting two huge and powerful marketers to share in their “this stuff shouldn’t be free” world view. Pepsi wins by tapping into what’s hot today among its core audience. Apple wins by gaining more market share for its iTunes product, now available for Windows users, as well. But what about the consumer? Does the consumer win?
One aspect in this debate that seems to be consistently overlooked is the fact that a digital download of recorded material does not equal a compact disc. Not only does the consumer miss out on the liner notes and such, but the sound quality of a downloaded file is most often inferior (due to file compression) to that of the original CD. My contention here is MP3 files are but samples of the real thing. And true fans of the music will download the songs AND buy the CD.