The music industry is struggling because so much of its product can be accessed for free, what with YouTube and “radio” sites such as Pandora (setting aside illegal downloads). But even when a person wants to buy music, it’s hard if you aren’t old enough for a credit card. And it’s even harder if you want to buy music your parents wouldn’t approve of. From Aaron Leitko:
The Internet has given kids boundless opportunities to hear music gratis, but few ways to pay for it.
To shop for mp3s on iTunes or Amazon, you need a credit card or debit card. If you’re a minor with an allowance, you probably don’t have either. . . .
If your tastes don’t align with Best Buy’s music buyer, you’ll have to turn to iTunes. And your folks, who control the purse strings.
“Right now, most kids are using parents’ iTunes accounts or otherwise relying on parental permission to make their purchases,” says Mary Madden, a researcher at the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The only hiccup: The songs that teenagers want to hear and the songs their parents let them hear are often very different. Leveraging chores in exchange for Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (uncensored version, of course), the Tool discography or anything Odd Future-related is for brazen teens with particularly liberal or oblivious parents. For the rest, an awkward conversation about the record’s content is inevitable — unless they get their hands on a gift card.
“This is kind of the untold genius of iTunes that’s not spoken about, when it comes to teenagers, is the gift card,” says Crupnick, who estimates that two-thirds of the money teens spend online is with such cards. . . .
“They only ever pay for music out of respect for the artist,” MTV researcher Mariana Agathoklis says. “They almost view that as a way to show off their fandom, where it used to be that you would follow an artist on tour, you would look like them and wear their T-shirts.” A record is no longer an impulse buy — it’s patronage.