How much does a song cost?

Lukas and I were talking about a great video today, The Money Tree, in which a tree is carefully adorned with 100 one-dollar bills, each one containing a short note exemplifying the obvious serendipity of coming upon such a sight.  It's a wonderful video, and the music is great too.

It caused me to share a similar idea I've had related to music on the web.  One of the situations I run into a lot as I make various audio demos for the web is that I constantly have to find freely-licensed music.  There is some great stuff out there--the track we used in our most recent demo is a good example--but you have to know where to look.  Also, these wells are often shallow, and you have to constantly be on the lookout for more of them in order to get enough of what you need.  Then there are artists (Moby is one example) who have made it possible to use their stuff for free demos.  But it's not easy to find all this stuff, despite how great search is supposed to be these days.

So what about this.  What if you bought a song, and then released it to the web for free?  I don't mean "bought the right to download it from iTunes and uploaded to a p2p site."  No, I'm talking about buying the song outright.  Buying exclusive rights to it, and dumping it into the public domain. Crazy, right?

Well, what does a song cost?  Let's forget about Top 40 music for a minute, since I don't want that even if it were possible to afford it.  I'm thinking more of the kind of music people want for demos and videos and soundtracks.  $10K?  $100K?  The RIAA seems to think $750K is a reasonable amount for a song.  A cool $1 million?

The economics of this don't look good until you stop and realize that as you read this, millions of people are paying $0.99 for songs on iTunes, paying for the right to download them into their personal collection.  Now, what if instead of doing it that way, a bunch of fans got together and pooled their $0.99s, add them together until it comes to some insane amount that satisfies The Industry.  They exchange this huge sack of money for the right to walk away with this song they love, and then share it by putting it into the public domain.  Everyone wins.

It's possible to buy one-of-a-kind paintings, statues, and the like, and to then donate them to museums where the public can go and enjoy them.  Is it possible to buy a song?  'cause if it is, there are a lot of us already basically doing this.  We just need a way to do this transaction.

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