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Music downloads can benefit labels

In response to the October 16 Perspectives column by Cary Sherman, "Honest talk about downloads":

This is a very well-written piece on a very difficult subject. Suffice it to say, it's difficult to object to Cary Sherman's arguments.

As a consumer who owns several hundred CDs and DVDs, as well as a variety of digital media assets, I have found it much more enjoyable to listen to music, watch movies, etc. on my PC or via my PC-to-TV/stereo.

However, in all my Internet surfing (which is six to eight hours a day) I have yet to come across a site which offers downloads of music in a capacity that I find appealing. From a consumer perspective, to spend $20 on an Eminem CD, get it home and find that there are only two good songs on the CD is frustrating, if not downright thievery. I would much rather have the opportunity to evaluate the CD, then choose which songs I would like to own.

To my point, I would like to share an observation I made of my own purchasing habits. I am an ex-Napster user, and I found that when I was able (before Napster shut down) to download and preview music, I was much more inclined to purchase the CD if I liked the majority of the songs on the CD. (And often, if I liked as few as three songs). I purchased more CDs during this time than I do now, post-Napster.

There are many benefits to this model, both for the consumer as well as for the recording industry--not the least of which is that it will encourage artists to produce and release high-quality music and forgo padding CDs with songs to fill out an album. How is the industry moving toward a model comparable to this? Where can I find music to download (and pay for) today? What are some of the models/ideas that are currently on the drawing board for future rollout?

George Mahan
San Francisco, Calif.