A model of key characteristics affecting consumer attitudes toward the usage of free legitimate ad-supported music download services.
Harris, Ainslie J.
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Digital music file sharing has had a significant negative financial impact on the recorded music industry, causing multi-billion dollar losses over the past decade. In a world where file sharing is now an activity that can be carried out with ease, industry stakeholders are continuously looking for ways to profit from changing consumer behaviour. To date, literature has looked at why people illicitly download (e.g. motivations, ethical considerations), the financial impact of file sharing (e.g. lost revenue), legal approaches to combatting file sharing (e.g. what approaches work, if any), and new business models for paid services (e.g. price sensitivity, value propositions). Academic literature has thus far largely focused on how to eliminate file sharing and convert illicit downloaders to paid platforms, but has not examined the potential for converting illicit downloaders to a free legitimate, platform. This thesis is the first piece of academic literature to consider free legitimate adsupported music download services as a way of monetizing downloaders’ free consumption behaviour, specifically by identifying key service characteristics that influence consumers' attitudes toward using such services, and providing a rich contextual understanding of the perceived importance and value of such characteristics. A sequential mixed methods approach was used to explore this topic and develop and validate a conceptual model. The primary research stages consisted of in-depth interviews, group interviews, and an online survey. This thesis shows there is potential for mainstream consumer adoption of free legitimate ad-supported music download services, with the caveat that the services be as good as or better than those (free services) already used. Several characteristics were found to be important influencers of attitudes in this regard. Some characteristics were found to be very important (perception of a large enough music catalogue, freedom of use of downloaded files, delays caused by advertising not being perceived as excessive), some were found to be less important (ease of navigation/use, perceived trustworthiness of the service), and some were found to be not at all important (ability of the service to recommend music, social networking facilitation via the service). While this thesis identifies what an ‘ideal’ service looks like for consumers, it also finds that tension exists in the economic relationship between consumer behaviour and ideals, and what industry is able to viably deliver in an adsupported service. The structure and conditions of today’s marketplace are such that the fundamental economic viability of free ad-supported music download services is brought into question, irrespective of whether such a service can meet consumers’ needs. While this thesis is specifically concerned with music download services, the model developed within it could be tested for other online content services such as streaming music or video, and video download services.