As the likes of Sky, Virgin Media and BT prep their latest music streaming ventures in a bid to tackle piracy, is it a case of too little, too late? Neil Hawkins at ChooseISP asks if record labels, ISPs and consumers could ever work in harmony when it comes to online music…
The music industry has struggled to adjust to the 20th century let alone 21st century. Ever since Napster came onto the scene record labels have been chasing internet providers to fix the leaks in the system out of which their revenues spew.
The music industry has consistently stuck to its line over the years and broadband providers stick to theirs, that they’re blind to the raft of illegal activity occurring across their systems.
Now all broadband users could end up paying for the failure of the music industry to get its own digital house in order, as a number of UK ISPs look set to introduce their own streaming music services, initially for free but with a view to introducing subscriptions or even amalgamating them into existing broadband packages.
BT, Sky and Virgin Media are all looking to get the music industry off their backs by launching streaming music services but these efforts are their tokens in the fight against illegal downloads.
The logic of the labels seems to be that the biggest ISPs carry the most traffic and therefore the most illegal downloads. Therefore, if BT can reach 5.5 million users and they could all be persuaded to stump up a couple more quid each month that’s significant a new revenue stream.
It is more likely however to turn out to be another attempt by the music industry to dampen the flames of a raging inferno with thimbles of water.
While these services will appear to be run as loss-leading free services at first, a likely subscription of around £5 per month may become the norm. People who currently pay nothing for online music will be generating new revenue and it remains to be seen if those who spend significant amounts on CDs and downloads at present will also pay for streaming and, if they do, whether this will impact their spending elsewhere.
In another interesting twist Amazon has steamrollered into the cloud-based streaming market potentially destroying the need for any streaming services similar to those above. The surprise launch of its “music-locker” service enables anyone to upload all of their music to Amazon’s Cloud Drive service and stream it to their PC or Android phone.
The music industry is again put on the back foot by this move. Amazon has followed the Apple model, launching the service first and dealing with lawyers and copyright later. Sony is fuming saying: “we are keeping all our legal options open.”
Once your beloved tracks are in the Cloud, you can access them from anywhere and you don’t need to pay for any more copies. The labels of course want you to buy an MP3 for you PC, one for your phone and no doubt, soon enough, one for your car.
The only way the music industry can garner revenue from this is through licences from Amazon and beyond that possibly by taking a proportion of your monthly broadband subscription.
The toughest test yet for labels and ISPs will be to convince broadband users to stump up more cash, particularly if they fail to see any added value in ‘value-added’ services such as these.
This is a guest post from Choose. The site covers rights issues, research and debate into home broadband and more broadly home media and mobile markets.