The price of free music

Here’s a couple of truisms in the digital age:

  • once you digitise your content, you have to wave your content goodbye
  • users are willing to pay for digital services that make their lives easier

Current attempts to help the music industry dig itself out of its hole seem to ignore the latter, relying on advertising to support the giveaway. This is the model offered or to be offered in various guises by,,,, and

Everyone knows users hate advertising, and a world where advertising is the only currency would be a terrible place indeed. By contrast, a bundled subscription service can give users a quality of service superior to what they can get for free whilst not requiring them to make lots of micro-decisions (a la iTunes) and not subjecting them to advert purgatory.

The paid subscription service for delivering music/video/voice has a long track record of success. Pre-digital we had licence fee-supported radio and TV; then we had the bundled TV packages offered by the satellite and cable TV companies; then the mobile network operators moved most of their business to the all-you-can-eat-within-your-budget model. Surely an all-you-can-eat music service is the way to go?

Working up to this, Nick Carr comments on a recent proposal on combatting music piracy:

Paul McGuinness, the influential manager of turgid rockers U2, told a conclave of record industry execs, “I suggest we shift the focus of moral pressure away from the individual P2P file thief and on to the multibillion dollar industries that benefit from these countless tiny crimes. The ISPs, the telcos, the device-makers.”

We should not throw up our hands in horror at the prospect of the telcos policing the web, looking rather at the positive role they should be playing:

I don’t think we should dismiss out of hand the scenario McGuinness sketches out: “For me the business model of the future is one where music is bundled into an ISP or other subscription service and the revenues are shared between the distributor and the content owners.” That may be anathema to the ideologues of the free ride, but it may well be the best way to ensure that both the creators and the consumers get a fair shake.

Like Nick, I’m prepared to bet that these “distributors” will offer the service we want.

One thought on “The price of free music”

  1. Ads is all well and good, but what about people who insist on using firefox, addblock plus and noscript? My dislike of advertising stretches to a campaign to eradicate it from my surfing activities wherever possible.

    Also, if that poxy hypocrite Bono get’s a bill through Parliament forcing my ISP to give a full print out of my every cyberfart I will personally go over to Dublin and crucify him. Then he’ll really have a shout for the title of ‘son-of-God’.

    I do however support the idea of a cyber ‘license fee’ which should be used to pay artists.A flat rate for internet usage so to speak. Will the ‘indie’s’ get a fair slice of this? I doubt it.

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