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Old 16th June 2004, 06:23   #1
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Default Delicious Downloads

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
June 15, 2004

Waiter, there's an MP3 in my soup.

That's the first thought that popped into my head when I got an email from Papa John's (Nasdaq: PZZA) offering me four free song downloads with a pizza purchase. The company is teaming up with Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) in offering up the tracks from privately held Musicmatch.

If a soda giant giving away music sounds familiar, it's because PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) teamed up with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) earlier this year to distribute 100 million free downloads from its iTunes store. Or maybe it's the fast-food connection throwing you off. After all, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and Sony (NYSE: SNE) were already being paired up as a musical duet.

Pop and pop music. Junk and punk. They go together. You can go back to nickel-fed jukeboxes at diners to see that food and music have always found a way to hook up. The deluge of music downloads is perfect on paper, too. There is no physical inventory to manage. The consumer has the ultimate choice among countless musical genres. While the artists and their labels still need to get paid, it's worthy publicity in this still unproven niche, and it comes without the transaction fees of micropayments.

But isn't it ironic? The music industry has spent years battling the wave of music piracy from peer-to-peer networks. It makes some headway on that front. Apple starts to vindicate the practice of paid downloads. Then what does the industry do? It starts giving it all away again.

Yes, I know. These are the free samples. Folks will get hooked by the convenience of legal music downloads and become enamored with the medium. Perhaps. But won't they perceive that digital downloads are essentially giveaways in the process? If so, the music industry is right back to where it started in its battle against piracy.

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