Why not use web technology to charge people very small bits for downloading songs, or reading blogs for that matter? An earlier note of mine discussed mental transactions costs — having to ponder the small charge each time — as a potential problem. An excellent post by Daniel Davies provides further, and better, ammunition against the micropayments idea. His key point: at some point micropayments have to clear through real financial institutions and the real shuffling of paper. Right now we don’t have the technology to do this more cheaply than credit card companies do, and they don’t find very small transactions to be worth their while.
Addendum: Here is a good response in defense of the practicality of micropayments.
It is a common economic puzzle why the prices for various events, such as Super Bowls and rock concerts, do not always clear the market. Why sell tickets cheaply, thereby allowing scalpers to buy them up and later resell them at higher prices, reaping the surplus for themselves?
Canadian Ticketmaster wondered the same, and now they are doing something about it. For many concerts they will auction off some tickets at market-clearing prices. Most groups, however, will auction off only a few of the best tickets, rather than all tickets.
One concert promoter had reservations about the scheme: “From a fan’s point of view, I don’t think this would be fair,” he said. “Obviously, everyone should have equal access to tickets, especially if you’re a fan that lines up overnight. It should be fair and equitable.” Comments of this kind show that either he or I, or perhaps both of us, do not understand this market very well.
Thanks for Eric Crampton for pointing the link out to me. And speaking of musical concerts, it is sad to report that Johnny Cash has died.