Everyone is talking about the proposed £30 annual “licence fee” for internet users to mitigate illegal downloading of music (and possibly films). The money generated from this scheme – which would be charged via your ISP subscription – would then be distributed to labels and publishers to help fill the void in sales revenue. Users would then be free to download and P2P share as much music as they wanted.
There are several fundamental flaws in this “solution”:
1.) It does not tackle the behaviour change required by consumers of music. The message this sends to people that are illegally downloading is that it is now ok to do so – for the paltry sum of £30 a year.
2.) There will therefore be no reason for anyone to legitimately buy music – shops like iTunes and Beatport will inevitably be forced to close. These stores help artists to grow by profiling them, giving them editorial space and helping people to discover new music.
3.) Those that have never downloaded music before will have to pay what is essentially a tax. ISPs would have to administer the charge – why would anyone agree to pay this if they objected to what they saw as an unfair tax?
4.) The revenue will be distributed based on popularity. Therefore the labels with the most popular artists (presumably “most popular” will based on actual sales) will receive a larger slice of the pie, regardless of whether or not they should be due compensation for loss of sales.
Clearly the big labels will opt for this as it will be additional revenue in their pocket. But it will not address the cultural problem that we are creating in de-valuing music and the people that work very hard to create it. The music industry needs to consider behaviour change tactics for its customers and seriously reconsider the value it is providing to the consumer in its product. We need more innovation, and less intimidation!