The Digital Music Debate

Originally this post started with the line, “I wonder why the music industry does not embrace online music”. Of course, I stopped because the answer’s kind of clear. But is it just greed? Is it just fear? Is it just protectionism?

Well, who knows. They are certainly worried:

In its harshest indictment yet of Internet piracy, a top official of the music industry said Sunday Europe’s 600,000 music professionals risk losing their jobs unless the industry fights back [source].

Of course the sounds from the music industry are often contradictory. Robbie Williams’ comments at the weekend (“music piracy is great“) may have been a publicity stunt but they seem to reflect a certain truth: there is not a great deal the music industry can do about music sharing and there seems little will to try to bring online music into the mainstream.

But why, I wonder, don’t they look to a way to embrace online/digital music? I listen to most of my CDs via my computer or my mp3 player. Randomised, sorted and with the dross removed I get to enjoy the music as I want to. I buy music but the CD is just the transport/delivery mechanism and its use as the medium of choice for people to listen to the material is long gone. I could list my recent purchases that have been bought thanks to the ability to preview the music online. But I won’t.

Our beloved government, with its finger on the pulse of electronic media, seems confused. Kim Howells (Minister for this sort of thing) “has since condemned Williams’ remarks, accusing him of supporting drug and prostitution rackets” [source]. This is, quite clearly, missing the point when reality is that nobody is making a penny from music sharing and it’s this lack of revenue that the music industry is upset about. Quite how Kim Howells can so obviously have missed this suggests he ought to look around for some new advisors. I would have thought digital copyright issues would have been on his agenda (somewhere).

In the light of all this, I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to read about digital download day (BBC News). It seems there is an element of the music industry that is trying to address the issues sensibly and that’s why I’ll be supporting it on 21 March.

On this day…