Perceived value is made of FAIL

I’m seeing the same suggestion start to pop up over and over–which means there’s probably something to it–along with the same ridiculous counterargument. The suggestion is, “Hey! If we priced digital goods low enough to be an impulse buy, they’d not only sell like crazy, but it also wouldn’t be worth the effort to pirate them!”

Last week the former head of UK Warner Music, Rob Dickens, [made just such a suggestion](http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2010/10/former-music-label-boss-beat-piracy-by-selling-albums-for-1.ars). He floated the idea that if they sold albums for just one pound, people would buy _way_ more albums. It’s just bits, right? The overhead is negligable.

And of course, pretentious old media immediately harumphed and coughed into their hands and explained why this would be a _horrible_ idea.

> “Right now if you buy a bottle of water it’s £1. A piece of music is a valuable form of art. If you want the person to respect it and value it, it’s got to cost them not a huge sum of money but a significant sum of money.” — [Jonathan Shalit](http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-11547279)

This is bone dead stupid.

But I see the same thing in publishing. Joe Konrath has gotten all kinds of hell from other writers who whine that his [pricing his books at $2.99 somehow devalues their art](http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/03/value-of-ebooks.html). Konrath, if you haven’t read him, writes horror and thriller novels. Entertainment. And given how many entertainment options I have in the 21st century, I’m a lot more willing to spend $2.99 to be entertained by a book for a few hours than I am to spend $9.99 or $14.99 for the same experience.

Moreover, Konrath has broken down the numbers and _proven_ that he sells considerably more than three times the books at one third the price. Meaning that by “devaluing” his work he is _simultaneously_ selling more books–and gaining more fans apt to buy his books in the future–_and_ making more money.

Think about that. Whether you’re selling a book, a movie or an album, you have the option to _both_ gain more fans/repeat customers _and_ make more dollars in total. And all you have to do is give up the outdated economics of scarcity that make you think a novel/movie/album is actually _worth_ $10. Quit worrying about whether or not people “value” your “art” and your art can actually reach more people (and make you more money).

This seems like a no-brainer to me, and I think it’s inevitable that it will become the “going rate” in the near future. The real question is how many artists are going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming to bigger audiences and more money, and how many will refuse to make the trip at all.