Free music

I’m always reading about people being threatened with legal action by the record industry, particularly in America and it always annoys me. Fine, downloading music that you’re not supposed to be is illegal and it’s fair enough that the industry is trying to make a point but they never seem to be interested in offering a decent alternative. The question that is at the heart of the problem is why pay for something when you can get it for free?

There are plenty of reasons why I might pay for something even when I can get it for free. These include wanting to support the company/individual who produced the item, wanting to get guaranteed support when you need it (in the case of software) or because getting it for free is too much hassle. The last of these applies most in the case of stealing items or going to the effort to finding workarounds to protection.

But the deciding factor why I might download music rather than pay for it would be that the music I download is good quality, fast to get and I can play it anywhere. If I paid and downloaded a track from the market leader, iTunes, I would be restricted by the DRM and my MP3 player might not even play the track (although I do actually have an iPod). The record industry cites reasons for not downloading is viruses and poor quality, but that is not the case – everyone should have anti virus software and the music from places like Allofmp3 is at least encoded at 128kbps. I pay to use Allofmp3 but it is very quick, easy and they have a brilliant back catelogue of everything I could ever want.

What’s the solution then? The industry needs to offer a comparable free service that can make it worth me using for extra services with added value than P2P or Bit Torrent. Or they need to provide a paid service that provides those extras that I might want to buy – bonus tracks, videos, interviews i.e. content that I can’t get anywhere else.

The first option seems like a good one but how do they make money from providing tracks for free? What about advertising? How many websites do you pay to use? And by “use” I mean read content from…Very few, if any. So how do they make money? Advertising. But not just any advertising – very specific context sensistive advertising. I have clicked on adverts before that are relevant to the content I’m viewing. This is where Google have made their money with their search and website advert services.

Considering the number of (clever) people in the music industry, it has taken a long time for a service like this to appear. And even when it has, it is not from any of the major labels…although the BBC reports that it is now being backed by Universal. Great! A free service that I can download music from. I would be happy to use that and might even click the ads because they will be relevant.

Unfortunately Spiral Frog will be US & Canada only when it launches in December.

Until then I shall stick to Allofmp3 and buying the albums of a select few favourite bands.