Free music in the 21st century?

Currently, every 10 year old kid with a computer and iPod is downloading and sharing unlicensed (i.e., illegal) music.

Because it is so easy to download and share music, the music industry is understandably concerned about lost revenue, and everybody with a single illegally obtained MP3 (i.e.,: most of us) is technically a criminal. This is clearly a loose-loose situation.

So, how can we turn it into a win-win situation. The only way that I can see involves two key points:

  1. the music industry make the revenue they require
  2. people can download as much music as they want – at no (or very little) cost

Here are two suggestions.

Free Music
How about getting the music industry to partner with some of the large social networking sites such as FaceBook or MySpace? Make the MP3′s available at no cost on these sites, but share the advertising revenue that is generated between the music and the websites.

The free MP3′s will drive huge traffic to the sites, and they will allow for highly-profiled advertising to be served to the users (aside from existing profile info they already have).

So, the users are happy- they are getting free music, the music industry is happy – they are getting (advertising) revenue due to the online music, and on top of it the websites are getting revenue due to the additional traffic.

Really Cheap Music
The second suggestion is to pay a monthly subscription for your music. So for example, you pay $29.99 per month, which gives you access to whatever music you wish to listen to. So, you are not actually paying for the music, you are paying for the right to listen to it.

This is similar to a mobile phone contract, in which you are paying for the right to make a telephone call, regardless of if you make any calls or not. You could possibly extend this analogy and say that you pay 10c for each song you listen to – equivalent to paying for each phone call that you actually make.

Whatever option happens, I am convinced that the “goto a retail store and buy a CD” model is on the way out.

Notes
The Global Advertising spend was worth $358 billion in 2004.
The global music industry spend was $12,4 billion in 2005.

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