When my wife and I were first starting out in Seattle, we both got retail jobs, and she worked in the Eddie Bauer basement where everything was discounted due to overstocks, minor flaws, or seasonal obsolescence. Still, she had customers who approached her daily insisting that they were entitled to some further reduction from the marked price because, “See, this seam isn’t straight.” And my wife spent half her day saying things like, “Yes, Ma’am, that’s why it’s been marked down sixty percent and you’re finding it here in bargain basement.” I theorized then that there are few things more likely to ignite latent greed than a person of means who is already getting a deal. Charge an egomaniac a thousand dollars for something that’s really worth a few hundred, and he’ll think he’s getting something special; charge him fifty bucks, and he’ll see if he can’t also get your shoes and your watch.
So, it comes as no surprise to me to read Helienne Lindvall’s report on Digital Music News about a study which reveals music piracy to be more prevalent among the wealthy. The theory behind the numbers is that the wealthier segment of society can afford the technologies used to steal and consume media, thus giving lie to the “piracy makes culture available to the underprivileged” claims one hears all the time. It ought to be obvious to everyone that the “underprivileged” don’t have computers, iPods, and high-speed connections to the internet. And even though music is now readily accessible to people of means at bargain basement prices, they still want musicians’ shoes and watches.