Coca-Cola and Apple recently announced they were again collaborating on a massive promotion offering free music downloads for Coca-Cola drinkers, involving two billion specially-marked Coke, Diet Coke and Coke Zero products. The promotion will cover Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK.

It still suprises me when I see these kinds of initiatives.

The music industry has repeatedly said they oppose peer-to-peer file exchanges and similar music exchange services, because they make music ‘free’, which devalues their content (an entirely valid argument).

Yet iTunes continues to announce music ‘promotions’ (read ‘give aways’) in which consumers receive ‘free’ digital music content.

I find it hard to understand why the music labels aren’t protesting. At a purely commercial level, they are undoubtedly receiving payment for their content (though probably only cents per download). But each time consumers are offered a promotion like this, it must impact their perception of the ‘value’ of music.

Digital distribution systems (legitimate and otherwise) have already empowered consumers to ‘break the container’, and purchase the individual songs that they like, rather than being forced to purchase a higher-priced ‘bundle’ (i.e. album) of liked and (let’s be generous here) ‘less liked’ songs.

In addition to breaking the traditional revenue model of music labels, the digital distribution model has also led many consumers to question the manner in which music is priced. Add to this the early irrational pricing competition among the digital music stores, and it is easy to see why consumers’ perceptions around the true value of music are in a state of flux.

Product giveaways like the one being launched by Coca-Cola are almost certainly further skewing consumers’ perception of the value of music content. At least most consumers feel a little guilty for ‘obtaining’ music via P2P networks. Promotions like this devalue music content because it trains consumers to view music as a freely offered ‘value add’ to some other purchase, rather than something they should purchase for its own value.

It will certainly persuade more consumers to drink Coke. I am not so sure it will convince consumers to purchase more music. It certainly won’t help persuade them to pay for digital music.