Monday, December 05, 2005


Jane Siberry is carrying out an interesting experiment over at her website - she's offering downloads and inviting visitors to pay what they think they're worth:

They can pay their own "self-determined" amount immediately at the time of transaction -- or pay later after giving it some more thought. They can also pay the "standard" industry price of 99 cents a song.

But the fourth option -- and one that Siberry openly encourages -- is the most radical: Download freely as a "gift from Jane."

"I received a lot of requests for permission to burn copies of 'Calling All Angels' after the New Orleans floods -- and also after 9-11 and the tsunami -- and I always said yes," says Siberry, whose musical solicitation of heavenly help has become an inspirational anthem for relief workers. "Then I thought I'd just put it on my Web site so they could download it free without wasting the plastic from burning it onto a CD. But then I started feeling it was wrong to withhold my music for money -- as strange as that might sound! -- and if I need to find another way to make money, I will: I'm selling my house and living simply nowadays, so I don't really need that much. I just rented a room in Vancouver with just a table for writing my music on a laptop, and that's all I need."

From each, according to their abilities, to each, according to their needs. It'll be interesting to see how this Marxist approach to download pricing works out - if you believe the record labels, everyone will grab the freebies, and then break into her room, steal her computer, eat her pets and flog her clothes on Ebay. On the other hand, if Siberry is able to make a living from the provision of an honesty-box, the labels might find the moral force underpinning their prosecution of file-sharers weakened still further.