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June 17, 2021

Rebecca Black and the pay-for-music quandary, revisited

It’s Friday, and like millions confused about the path of the weekly calendar, you’ve probably mosied on over to YouTube to suss out a certain video.

Istockphoto_13524134-friday-pinned-on-bulletin-cork-board You’ve typed “R” and then you’ve typed “E” and you’ve realized that’s all you need to press. ENTER and one click, thanks to the video site’s suggested search option, should get you rocking out to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as fast as possible.

Only, wait a second. The video, like the Stanley Cup to Canada, is gone. Left us.

Turns out, the video’s removal is part of a nasty dispute over royalties and an attempt to institute a pay-per-listen model, yet the Rebecca Black vanishing has remarkably sparked the latest instalment of a classic (well, since about 2001) Internet debate: will anyone out there actually pay for music they get online?

In 2001, of course, Napster was shuttered and legions of downloaders were forced to look elsewhere for their tunes. Countless other programs popped up – Kazaa, BearShare, LimeWire, etc. – where downloading was free, but then this thing called iTunes came onto the scene and droves of consumers started heading over there.

It was baffling at the time. Wait, you’re going to pay 99 cents for a song when it’s free? Why?

Downloading is theft, you’d say, and you’re probably right. But there’s something about downloading music online that doesn’t register with humans the same way swiping a chocolate bar or box of cereal or CD or whatever does. It’s on the computer, so it’s not real. I’m not stealing anything.

Anyhow, that brings us back to Ms. Black, who is perhaps the most unwitting celebrity in the world right now. According to ABC News, her parents shelled out $4,000 to a company called Ark Music Factory to write a song for the teen and direct its video. If you’ve seen “Friday,” that’s Ark Music founder and CEO Patrice Wilson in the clip, rapping away in a car.

Last week, as “Friday” continue to soar well over 100 million views, Ark Music tried to start charging a whopping $2.99 for YouTube users to “rent” a listen of the song. Yesterday, Black’s family decided to just wipe the video off YouTube altogether.

In some circles, this has brought back the “pay for music” issue in full force. By numbers from a Pew Research survey last December, 33 per cent of web users pay to download music online, but would you ever pay just to listen to a song off YouTube?

What are your download-for-pay philosophies? What do you pay for, and what do you download for free, where available?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...