I want free music

Here’s my reply to Daniel Ayers‘ (Columbia Records Digital Marketing) post ‘Do you really want free music?
Copied here for posterity. FYI – GoodBooks is the band my friend Anna manages.

I want free music, but I’m happy to pay for it.. let me explain.
Someone recommended GoodBooks to me – I went to try and LISTEN to the track, The Illness, just to see if it was any good. A reasonable task, you’d surely agree?
I should say, I don’t have Flash Player. That makes this task so much harder.
MySpace? Nope. Flash required.
GoodBooks website? Nope. Flash required (for the player thing)
YouTube? Flash required here too, but because it’s a video, and the way that YouTube works, I am able to work out where the video file is on their servers, and download it manually.
Okay, so I’ve got the video. I can now extract the audio part of the YouTube video, and I’ve got a fairly low-quality MP3 file, that I can do anything I like with, really..
Now, based on this, I bought the record, instead of the CD. Records are way cooler, and even though I don’t have a record player, except at the club where I occasionally DJ, I’ve done my part for the band. Of course, I would have happily just-downloaded-it-from-eMusic, but it’s not there.
Why is this so difficult? I’d happily pay a few quid each month for a band I really liked where I could download all their releases, as high quality MP3 files, plus high quality copies of album artwork, but also, remixes (and let people upload their own!), separate tracks for the various tracks, so I could make my own remixes without them sounding like crap. I’d also like these remixes and samples to be licensed in a way that actually encourages people to make their own remixes.
I’d leave eMusic for such a service. I have my fill of Joanna Newsom and obscure punk-rock bands for a while. Their downloads don’t even roll over, which is just stupid.
Specifically, please should have the freedom to distribute their remixes, even commercially, but under a few conditions. First condition is that they must identify the original creators, and secondly, their remix must be available under the same conditions.
The commercial usage clause is likely to be the more difficult one, but it creates a revenue stream for the band themselves, and the record company. Because everyone would have the freedom to put out their own CDs of these remixes, it is fair to assume that an ‘official’ band release of remixes, perhaps even on CD/DVD combo that gives all the source material on the DVD-ROM, would sell extremely well, compared to, some dude selling his own CD via CD Baby or eBay, etc.
The solution to music piracy (yarr!) is not Digital Restrictions Management, the solution is value. If I download your latest single as a shitty MP3 from some P2P network, what do you really care? If I would have never bought it in the first place, then you’ve got exposure for nothing, and maybe I’ll buy the next release. With the system I propose, it is very unlikely that your casual pirate (yarr!) would be able to download all that stuff from a P2P network, let alone be bothered downloading it. Record labels should make reasonable quality downloads of the title track of a single, and a bunch of tracks from each album (at least) available as just MP3 files from their website. No Flash, just a link to an MP3. Here’s a little secret that most people seem to have forgotten.
A search engine can’t read Flash. If you offer up a straight link to an MP3, they will index that. Someone searching for your single gets a chance to listen before they buy the CD or join the club I propose.
Take the club to the next level. Charge me a fiver a month, and for that, I’ll get a signed copy of every GoodBooks release, the week they’re released. That’ll count towards your chart position, and you’re getting the records cheap enough, since you’re making them, and not having to pay HMV.. the rest of the 60 quid a year goes towards the cost of the service and profit.
What do you think?

2 thoughts on “I want free music

  1. Dan Ayers

    Hi Matt
    So, taking stuff roughly in order…
    I agree there’s a frustratingly finite amount of music to just listen to online. We’ve recently started running album listening pages just as a matter of course, pre- and post-release, on the basis that there’s actually very very few places where you can find this on the internet. And y’know, we might as well give users a bit of trust, rather than presuming everyone’s out to steal music.
    The Flash thing… that’s you putting yourself in a tiny minority of web users, and not our fault. And I’m sure you know where HypeMachine is. And seeing as Google picks up the latest GoodBooks news story on every sweep, that’s not a problem either.
    I kinda like e-music, in that it means I’ve taken a chance on a few records that I wouldn’t have paid for directly. More than half have been a bit rubbish, but the couple of gems have been worth it. Although it’s principally the mp3 thing that stops major label content being on there, it’s been interesting to see a couple of the indie labels pull their content (Domino for example), because eMusic are trying to change the deal from a royalty per download to a share of overall subscription revenue which, with their increasingly generous (to consumer) packages, makes the price per track around 34p. The Playlouder download store is arguably a better overall service for UK users.
    Subscribing to a band in a ‘singles club’ type of arrangement is definitely interesting, and something we’ve looked at a few times. One thing that’s often stood in its way is that such a service would be unlikely to be chart returnable, ie sales wouldn’t count towards chart positions (more because it takes forever to get registered with the Official Charts Company than anything else). Charts *shouldn’t* matter, but they still do to radio stations, press etc.
    The remix thing- keep an eye on the GoodBooks site, something very similar is coming soon.
    Overall, I’m trying to shift a lot of what we do towards making discovery of our bands’ music a lot easier.

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