“Free Is A Magic Number (The Market Is Changing)” by Matthew Slater

If I told you that you could make a profit selling a product for free how would you react? Laugh in my face? Thought so. You'd have production costs, distribution costs, and costs for the raw materials themselves – but companies do it all the time. Tasters entice you to try a product, and the hope is that if you like it that you will continue to buy it at the price set by the retailer. In the media realm it's a ractice called freemium. Free + premium = freemium. It's about giving a sample, building a customer-base behind it, and then selling the product. Ricky Gervais is a good example – make a podcast available for free, gt a crowd behind you (in his case, 1 million subscribers) then sell the product (in his case, £1). If he retains half of his target audience he'd be making £500,000 – that ain't bad work if you ask me. The idea revolves around digital distribution. It's also a big part of the reason why piracy is so widespread and accepted in a lot of circles. When I buy a TV I'm getting the craftsmanship, the raw materials, the components – as well as an item that can provide entertainment in so many ways (TV, DVD, games consoles etc). With a DVD, or a computer game, or a CD or a copy of Photoshop what do you get? A cardboard box, manual and some disks. A fraction of the price of what you were charged for it. You pay for what's on the disk – content in other words. Cut out physical distribution and a bunch of other middle men, and you're left with a file. Sell it at a more reduced rate than usual and the market reacts. I know I'd rather spend £5 on an album rather than £10, and it feels a lot more personal when it's something that you're not stealing from a big company like Microsoft, like Adobe. It's like stealing from a local shop rather than an ASDA. We feel the effects of it more when we can see a victim, can put a face to the name. Moreso than that, it's about rebalancing a market where we can buy spindles of CDs, create and rip our own MP3's and where piracy has made the consumption of music more convienent. Something must be done.