For Sale: Used mp3 files, as is…; Pitchfork Fest initial lineup announced (Where’s the headliner?)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:45 pm February 28, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

With nothing else going on today, I thought I’d pass along this new wrinkle on digital downloading that could quicken the already rapid erosion of the music industry…

ReDigi logo

A few weeks ago, a district court judge denied an injunction by Capitol Records against a company called ReDigi in an effort to keep that company from facilitating the sales of used mp3 files.

You read that right. ReDigi is a company/website that enables its users to sell their used digital music files to each other. USED digital music files. Let’s say, for example, you purchased the new Leonard Cohen album from iTunes. Whether you listened to the downloaded music files or not, the tracks are now considered “used files,” just like a used CD. And just as you can sell a used copy of the new Leonard Cohen CD, you can also sell your used Leonard Cohen digital files. Never mind that there is absolutely no wear from using a digital file.

The premise seems absurd until you begin to realize that what you’re really acquiring is someone’s license to listen to mp3 files on your personal computer or iPod. ReDigi is supposed to facilitate not only the transfer of the file from one person’s computer to the next — along with the associated fees that are split between the seller, ReDigi and the record label — but it also is supposed to delete the file from the seller’s hard drive or at least make it impossible for him or her to listen to the file again.

When you think about it strictly from a licensing standpoint, it kind of makes sense, but the more you think about it, the more the cracks appear on the concept’s surface. Who’s to say that you didn’t make a copy of the files and place them on a thumb drive or burn them onto a CDR? And does it really matter that you still own a copy of the file? Whenever you bring a box of used CDs to Homer’s to sell, do they ask you if you’ve destroyed all the copies of those CDs that you’ve ripped to your hard drive? Of course not.

The idea of reselling “used” mp3 files – if proven legal (and it still hasn’t been) – could screw up every digital entertainment business model that currently exists. If a court says we can sell used mp3s, then why can’t we just give them away? And if we can, what was that business with Napster all about a decade ago?

But let’s take it to the next level. I recently bought and read a digital copy of Game of Thrones for my Kindle reader on my Mac. I liked the book, but I’m never going to want to read it again. Shouldn’t I be able to sell my “used” digital version of Game of Thrones to someone else, just like I could sell a used copy of the book on eBay? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t the same concept hold true for digital video? If you can sell used DVDs, why shouldn’t you be able to sell “used” digital movie files stored on your “cloud server”?

This could get ugly…

Here’s a good summary of the recent court decision from

* * *

Pitchfork Music Festival, which is quickly becoming one of the largest festivals in the Midwest, announced its initial lineup for the event to be held July 13-15 in Chicago. Among the bands: Vampire Weekend, Feist, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Hot Chip, Araabmuzik, A$ap Rocky, The Field, Liturgy, Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, Cloud Nothings, Tim Hecker and Willis Earl Beal.

What, still no headliner? Of the bunch, the ones that pique my interest are Grimes and The Field, two bands that would have a hard time selling out a show at The Waiting Room let alone Chicago’s Union Park. Even Cloud Nothings would be a stretch at Slowdown. I suspect they’ll be adding even larger names to the lineup… eventually.

That said, I’d love to see any of these band play the MAHA Festival. Tix are $45; 3-day tix are $110. More info at (eventually, right now the site is merely a photo of a bunch of eyeglasses and link to an email address).

* * *Tomorrow: Cursive.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • I am really liking Grimes also.

    Comment by MarQ — February 28, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  • It’s common knowledge that any healthy “used” market adds greater value and supports the “new” market for that product. And most “used” markets don’t even compensate the copyright holder of the product.

    Since the artist (publisher, author, etc) is compensated for the sale in this used digital marketplace I really don’t see how this could be a bad thing.

    Especially considering the fact that so many people pirate their digital stuff — I would assume a common justification for piracy is that there hasn’t been a secondary market for it.

    I would have a very hard time buying the eBook version of Game of Thrones only to read it one time… and then what? You paid 9 bucks for the eBook and now it’s useless. Multiply that by the amount of books you read in a year.

    I just looked on, Game of Thrones in eBook form is 8.99. OR you can buy a new paperback version (which you can easily resell when you’re done reading it) for 4.39-7.49. Or you can buy it used for 1.99.

    Why the hell would anyone buy the most expensive option when they can’t even recoup 50 cents when they’re done. I think that’s absurd. Maybe if the digital market was a little more fair to consumers (and this used marketplace seems like an obvious start) people would actually use it properly — and the music, publishing, gaming, etc industries could thrive again.

    Comment by VoxTrot — February 28, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  • PS
    Sorry that my comment was as long as the article… Reading this clearly this sparked some consumer rage in me 🙂

    Comment by VoxTrot — February 28, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment