At yesterday’s Beyond The Soundbytes music biz conference I ran into Paul Sanders, a major blast from the past (like it says on his web site: “since 1994″) and the man behind State51 and all sorts of other music-related online thingies. Anyway, he was with Paul Hitchman, his partner in Playlouder, a clever broadband ‘Music Service Provider’ that really ought to be vast by now but has found progress difficult since their model depends on striking licensing deals with stupid record labels.
Playlouder‘s model is simple and persuasive. I’ve always liked it and will certainly sign up like a shot once they’ve got better coverage with the labels (Currently Sony/BMG and the indies are covered). You pay a monthly subscription for your broadband including an approximately £10 per month additional charge which entitles you to download all the music you want. Playlouder passes a sensible proportion of this levy onto the labels – and therefore to the artists – thus magically ‘decriminalising’ your hideous file sharing naughtiness. Additional benefit to you the shameless music thief: no DRM.
Benefit to the labels, artists, collection societies et al:
• a predictable annuity return on their investment in new music
• recognition for the value of the music that’s already circulating in the file sharing networks
• some measure of control over what appears there (they could start to seed the networks with good quality, properly marked-up copies of their music instead of the rubbish that’s out there now)
• a business model that’s actually in line with what their customers want
I could go on…
I guess the encouraging thing about the conference for the Playlouder boys ought to be that the various music biz types present enthusiastically backed the idea of a shift to a subscription model (or at least an experiment in that area). If the industry’s devotion to ‘unit sales’ is finally fading, then a business like Playlouder ought be well-positioned to help them make it happen.
Fly in ointment: as Jeremy Silver, another old-timer, pointed out in one of the panels, only one of the four majors is a UK-based company so the owners of the majority of the world’s recorded music couldn’t give a damn what happens here.