Legal music wins web popularity contest

But is it just because it's free? Surely not...

But is it just because it's free? Surely not...

Today's Digital Download Day seems to have been a runaway success. The fact that many people were unable to digitally download anything for great portions of the day offers a clear indication that it at least proved popular - if only in theory. Since the early hours of the morning the UK's music loving population have been clicking onto http://www.digitaldownloadday.com to claim their £5 of legal free music which is being offered by Peter Gabriel's online music distributor OD2. However, those doing so may well have seen this message: "Don't Panic!!!!
We are experiencing a massive demand at the moment (which is good!) so we have had to limit the number of connections to the website at the moment.
But don't worry you can sign up for the free promotion anytime in the next 5 days so just check back later and get your free music." The hope behind Digital Download Day is that consumers start to realise the benefits of legal music download services. The first part of this battle is won. In commercial terms, if you can get people into your shop, by whatever means, then there's a good chance people will start buying things, thus making you money. Supermarkets get people in with cheap beans, Peter Gabriel's loss-leader is 50 free downloads from a catalogue of more than 100,000 songs. Different sectors, same principle. And on the opening day of the supermarket - with special offers in abundance - it is not unreasonable to expect things to get so busy that would-be punters are unable to get into the car park. Similarly, Digital Download Day (which actually lasts for five) appears to have become oversubscribed on its first day. The real question is whether these people will be so impressed with the service they keep coming back for more. In truth they probably will - these marketing practices are not left down to guesswork. Supermarkets don't go out of business having not sold anything but beans for months on end. Of course there are those out for their freebie - as with any special offer. There are people who close their Egg credit card account as soon as the six months' interest free period ends. But there are also those who stay and pay the interest rates for several more months. So while the majority of those taking up the freebie will go once they've had their £5 worth, many will doubtless choose to renew their subscriptions again and again on a monthly basis. 'But it's available for free!' cry advocates of illegal file-sharing sites. Yet people still buy CDs, when they could copy them from the library or from friends. The fact of the matter is there are enough people logging on to Digital Download Day who will be download virgins - those for whom OD2 is their first and last port of call in the quest for digital music. Die-hard music fans who've been into digital downloading for years know all the illegal sites and where to download the best MP3s. But for the online equivalent of the man who buys CDs four times per year and never troubles to look further than his local HMV, the legit sites - the ones with the means to make themselves known through marketing stunts such as Digital Download Day - will become the first and only port of call. It's simple and cheap enough to rationalise the spend. People handing out tasters in supermarkets aren't doing it because you look hungry or thirsty. People often don't know they need something until they've had it for a month.