An experiment in generosity

Magnatune” lets customers choose, within limits, how much they want to pay for music. But everyone knows that half goes to the artist. This seems to me good business and good psychology — surely people will pay more when they know that it is in a good cause? But the transaction is anonymous. There is no way for the artist in question to know to whom they should be (pathetically, snivellingly) grateful. How much do we value the gratitude of those we help? Well, an experiment was made. The front page was changed to say that the artist would be told who had given them how much. Immediately, the average price paid rose by 25%; but the number of people buying anything at all dropped by 35%. I think this shows that many of the customers believed that they were ripping off the artists at the old price, and were ashamed to have it known. they would rather rip them off entirely, by listening to the music stream, and not paying anything, than have it be known how little they were really prepared to pay. An interesting example of the internalisation of norms: we have just enough generosity to make us ashamed, but not enough to make us generous. This could be generalise dto other virtues.

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2 Responses to An experiment in generosity

  1. hmm says:

    …or the explicit lack of anonymity made people uncomfortable (it would me).

  2. m says:

    The Magnatune concept is one that I would hope succeed, but their pricing ranges from $5-18. These rates are not competitive.

    I can purchase used classical CDs in very good to excellent condition for $4-6. For that I get the case, artwork and music description without having to do a tedious download and the rest that goes with it. The Magnatune artists are great, but they are usually not the higher level performers that can be found on prerecorded CDs.

    So, what is the point in paying more than the minimum? The price should really be lower.

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