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Music for a Song: An Empirical Look at Uniform Song Pricing and its Alternatives

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  • Ben Shiller
  • Joel Waldfogel

Abstract

Economists have well-developed theories that challenge the wisdom of the common practice of uniform pricing. With digital music as its context, this paper explores the profit and welfare implications of various alternatives, including song-specific pricing, various forms of bundling, two-part tariffs, nonlinear pricing, and third-degree price discrimination. Using survey-based data on nearly 1000 students' valuations of 100 popular songs in early 2008 and early 2009. We find that various alternatives - including simple schemes such as pure bundling and two-part tariffs - can raise both producer and consumer surplus. Revenue could be raised by between a sixth and a third relative to profit-maximizing uniform pricing. While person-specific uniform pricing can raise revenue by over 50 percent, none of the non-discriminatory schemes raise revenue's share of surplus above 40 percent of total surplus. Even with sophisticated pricing, much of the area under the demand curve for this product cannot be appropriated as revenue.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Shiller & Joel Waldfogel, 2009. "Music for a Song: An Empirical Look at Uniform Song Pricing and its Alternatives," NBER Working Papers 15390, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15390
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jack L. Knetsch & J. A. Sinden, 1984. "Willingness to Pay and Compensation Demanded: Experimental Evidence of an Unexpected Disparity in Measures of Value," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(3), pages 507-521.
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    7. Long, John B, Jr, 1984. "Comments on "Gaussian Demand and Commodity Bundling."," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 235-246, January.
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    9. Phillip Leslie, 2004. "Price Discrimination in Broadway Theater," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(3), pages 520-541, Autumn.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Chenghuan Sean Chu & Phillip Leslie & Alan Sorensen, 2011. "Bundle-Size Pricing as an Approximation to Mixed Bundling," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(1), pages 263-303, February.
    2. Thomes, Tim Paul, 2011. "An economic analysis of online streaming: How the music industry can generate revenues from cloud computing," ZEW Discussion Papers 11-039 [rev.], ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    3. Benjamin Reed Shiller, 2013. "Digital distribution and the prohibition of resale markets for information goods," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 403-435, December.
    4. Jean-Pierre Dubé & Sanjog Misra, 2017. "Scalable Price Targeting," NBER Working Papers 23775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Leung, Tin Cheuk, 2015. "Music piracy: Bad for record sales but good for the iPod?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 1-12.
    6. Andrew Eckert & Douglas West, 2013. "Proliferation of Brewers’ Brands and Price Uniformity in Canadian Beer Markets," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 42(1), pages 63-83, February.
    7. Bellemare, Marc F. & Holmberg, Andrew M., 2010. "The Determinants of Music Piracy in a Sample of College Students," MPRA Paper 23641, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Michael Rushton, 2011. "Pricing the Arts," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Cultural Economics, Second Edition, chapter 49 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Joao Macieira & Pedro Pereira & Joao Vareda, 2013. "Bundling Incentives in Markets with Product Complementarities: The Case of Triple-Play," Working Papers 13-15, NET Institute.
    10. Crawford, Gregory S., 2015. "The Economics of Television and Online Video Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 10676, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L12 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Monopoly; Monopolization Strategies
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media

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