Music industry ponders digital future

MUMBAI: Who wants free music? Well as a matter of fact everybody. The spiraling downward trend of global music sales for a seventh straight year was the topic of discussion at MIDEM, the IFPI annual industry meeting in Cannes, France.
Although the popularity of music is as strong as ever, global sales are expected to be down again for 2006 despite digital sales almost doubling to $2 billion.

The IFPI has met with criticism from some of the major players who insisted that they had been distracted by the fight against piracy which may have also hindered the growth of the legal business.

In a counter to this allegation IFPI head John Kennedy reportedly told Reuters in an interview that, "Many people around the world tell me that we‘ve handled our problems in an incorrect manner but no one tells me what we should have done.

The industry debated the concept of digital rights management or DRM which can restrict the use of music bought online and was introduced in a bid to contain piracy.
Its supporters say DRM also offers alternative methods such as subscription or advertising-supported services as the music cannot then be offered onto peer-to-peer networks.
One drawback of DRM is that tracks bought legally from Web sites such as Rhapsody cannot be used on the market-leading iPod as they are not compatible, potentially restricting the growth of legal sales.

"DRM is like polonium to some people," Kennedy said. "Digital rights management is exactly that, it‘s the management of digital rights and if we weren‘t managing it the headlines would be ‘irresponsible music industry ... creates anarchy.‘"

eMusic chief executive David Pakman is a major critic of DRM. His service is the delivers tracks in the MP3 format, meaning they can be played on any portable music player, including the iPod.However, none of the four major labels are ready to supply to this service.

"It‘s the same model that was used for the CD and DVD, universal compatibility, and we think it‘s the principal thing holding back the growth of digital today," he told Reuters.
EMI Music head of digital Barney Wragg talking to Reuters said that digital was revolutionizing the way they work.
"I was just talking to (British singer) Joss Stone who is very excited about the opportunities this offers," Wragg said. "We‘re not constrained to the plastic CD box any more. It offers the possibility to do things that could never be done before."


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