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March 09, 2005

Pay 5 cents a song

KILKENNY -- I throw around 20 cents into the hats of buskers on the streets of Dublin and Kilkenny. I'd do the same for songs I hear online if I could download them to my iPod. Sandy Pearlman, an academic at McGill University, seems to agree. He has a simple plan-- and Apple are listening. Pearlman has road experience. He produced for the Clash. He has an inside track to the industry.

Pearlman proposes putting all recorded music on something like Google or iTunes. He would charge around five cents a song. In addition, he would levy a 1 per cent sales tax on Internet services and new computers.

This is logical, according to the Globe and Mail.

The assumption is that if songs cost only 5 cents, people would download exponentially more music. Daniel Levitin, a McGill professor also associated with the project, said that a simple computer program, such as those already in use on Internet retail sites, could track people's purchases and help them to dig through what would become a massive repository of music on the Web.

The extra windfall for musicians and those who own the publishing rights to the songs could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, Pearlman said his study predicts.

The music industry needs to stop being so precious about tracks. They have already been commodotised--look at the front of Sunday papers in Ireland for evidence of the same.

I teach students who work the file-sharing services. Their work is part of the 25 bn "unauthorized downloads" last year. They don't have the money for the CDs. They would probably give up a side order of chips for fresh music every week. Setting music at five cents a track is a pricing decision only. It totally guts the file sharing market and helps avoid the blight of spyware. It would help artists.

But I like Pearlman's other idea--Google and Yahoo to buy the music labels. Then fire the music industry lawyers.

Guy Dixon -- "Would you pay five cents a song?"


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