The Value of Music, Beatles Edition

For sale on the Mexico City Metro: Two hundred and thirty-seven Beatles MP3s on one CD-ROM for 10 pesos (about 95 cents Canadian). As someone who understands the importance of The Beatles to pop music but wouldn’t cross the street to hear one of their songs, that sounds about right. Maybe a bit too high. (I passed.)

It did make me wonder whether the prospective set of customers for a bootleg CD of The Beatles back catalogue overlap with those for a Beatles box set. How about with those for authorized MP3s, if they ever get around to releasing them? Not being a Beatles fan, I can’t imagine purchasing any of them at any price, but given that unauthorized Beatles MP3s are surely available somewhere online already (not being a fan, I can’t be bothered to check), and that presumably anyone with an interest in The Bealtes would have already ripped their own CDs to their computer, what would motivate someone to wait years for the authorized MP3s?

Ten pesos is also an interesting price when you consider that those 10 pesos has to cover the costs of production (buying the blank CDs, and the computers to burn them) and distribution and labour costs (the network of hawkers selling the CDs) and still make a profit. Whoever sells these CDs must be making some money, since you can’t go five minutes on the subway without being interrupted by a hawker pitching The Beatles or the Greatest Hits of the 80s or whatever.

By the way, I just purchased an e-book version of Landes and Posner’s The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law from the Sony E-bookstore. For about $60. I leave the link between the Beatles and Landes and Posner as an exercise for the reader.

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