The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


Matt Cutts (a Google employee whose blog I dip into for nerdy hints on how Google's search engine works) last week posted, as a diversion from his usual geeky stuff, a blog entry about a fledgling business idea he had that touches directly on music and how it is consumed today.

His idea (which BTW he has no intention to follow up on) was for a company to provide a service of making someone's illegal MP3s legal. Something along the lines of allowing the company to scan your music collection for illegal file-shared MP3s and to convert them to legal MP3s (with high quality bitrates and maybe cover art, lyrics, etc). (Obviously there are privacy & trust concerns with letting a company scan your computer in such a way. But for the sake of exploration let's assume that a company offering such a hypothetical service is a) considered trustworthy by its targeted consumers and b) addresses privacy concerns.)

Now with the CLUAS faithful being a law-abiding lot, you're not going to have such illegal MP3s scattered across your digital devices. But if you did, would you be prepared to pay to make them legal? If so what's the most you'd be prepared to pay per MP3? In his blog post Cutts floats scenarios where the cost to the consumer could be kept low (and potentially even free) by, for example:

  • anonymizing the data and licensing the anonymised data to various businesses;
  • Making ancillary revenues by getting people to sign up with other music services (Pandora,, or Rhapsody, etc);
  • Not even making money on it. Using such as service as a way to build brand recognition or positive karma.

An idea like this that was knocked up quickly is going to be full of holes, some of which could be plugged, others which perhaps can't. Leaving that aside for the moment, the truth is there is a pretty big potential market out there. I don't know if anyone has ever estimated the number of illegal MP3s that have been downloaded from the interweb, but we have to be talking multiple billions, and I hazard a guess that more people than you'd imagine would be keen to clear their conscience by "legalising" their illegal downloads.

So would you pony up to make illegal MP3s legal? And if so how much? Or maybe you couldn't care less. Answers on a postcard. Or, failing that, in the comments section below.

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Nuggets from our archive

2004 - The CLUAS Reviews of Erin McKeown's album 'Grand'. There was the positive review of the album (by Cormac Looney) and the entertainingly negative review (by Jules Jackson). These two reviews being the finest manifestations of what became affectionately known, around these parts at least, as the 'McKeown wars'.