Consumers Unwilling to Pay for Music Downloads

More than 66 percent of 5,200 online music shoppers have not paid for (and would not expect to pay for) digital music downloads, according to a report by Greenfield Online.

According to the “e-Merging Music II” research report, consumers’ unwillingness to pay for digital music downloads underscores the issues surrounding the recording industry’s recent legal battles with online digital music distributors.

In total, 45 percent of Greenfield’s respondents have downloaded music from the Internet. The MP3.com site, for example, was visited by 20 percent of the online music shoppers in the study, up slightly from the first fielding of the survey in August 1999. Also of note, MP3 music files now have nearly the same penetration level (22 percent) as music videos (23 percent).

Price is considered a driving force for nearly 80 percent of online music shoppers, the survey found. If consumers can find the item for a lower price elsewhere, either online or offline, that’s where the transaction will occur. More than half of respondents (55 percent) shopped for music online and then purchased offline, while 53 percent shopped for and purchased music online in the past 90 days.

Top Music Sites
Site % Visited
(Feb. 2000)
% Visited
(Aug. 1999)
amazon.com 58% 44%
cdnow.com 51% 39%
barnesandnoble.com 33% 27%
Source: Greenfield Online

Because online music shoppers are price sensitive, they are generally not willing to spend more money to get additional features. For example, one-third of respondents think features such as sharing music with friends and/or music portability are important, but they are not willing to pay for this feature. However, more than a quarter of these online music shoppers would pay a premium for the ability to create custom mixes.

Along with a low price, good customer service is a significant factor when respondents make an online music purchase decision. Nearly 70 percent of respondents may not or will not make a purchase if customer service is not satisfactory. Customer service is most significant for online consumers aged 55 and older.

Despite news reports of cdnow.com’s struggle with profitability, this site remains the second most visited music retailer on the Web, according to the survey. In fact, the top three most visited sites remained unchanged since the last fielding, each with even higher penetration levels than six months ago.

The study is part of Greenfield Online’s ongoing Digital Consumer™ series that examines attitudes and usage of the online public. The e-Merging Music II study was conducted online between Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, 2000, with a sample of 5,200 people who have shopped for music online at some point in time. The data has been weighted to represent the Internet population in terms of age, gender and region. All survey findings report aggregate information about groups, not individuals.

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