Music piracy not so bad, Sneaky Sound System say

Posted: March 1, 2009 in society
Tags: ,
Asher Moses, The Age

The Sneaky Sound System trio, from left, Daimon Downey, Connie Mitchell, and Angus McDonald.The Sneaky Sound System trio, from left, Daimon Downey, Connie Mitchell, and Angus McDonald.
Photo: Quentin Jones

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The chief songwriter and producer of Australian dance music group Sneaky Sound System says digital music piracy isn’t a major problem for popular artists because the vast majority of earnings come from playing live shows.

sneakysoundsystemAngus McDonald made the comments at a launch event for Nokia’s Comes With Music bundles. From next month the package will give people unlimited free music downloads from the Nokia Music Store for 12 or 18 months when they buy a Nokia phone.

Music industry figures attending the event hope the new all-you-can-eat subscription model will lead to a significant drop in music piracy. The wish is that people will have less need to go to illegal sources if they have an unlimited subscription to a legal service.

“This model certainly has the potential to be a significant new revenue stream for our members,” said Richard Mallet, director of recorded music services at APRA/AMCOS, which collects licence fees and royalties on behalf of the music industry.

The record labels and songwriters are the main losers from piracy and plummeting CD sales but the artists who perform the songs are not as badly affected as the lion’s share of their revenue comes from live shows and merchandise sales.

In fact, some groups have said piracy could be beneficial as it allowed more people to experience their music and hence created a larger fan base.

“From an artist’s perspective … the labels probably don’t want to hear this, but our main income stream, and certainly most of our pleasure, comes from playing to lots and lots of people,” McDonald said.

Piracy was an issue for Sneaky Sound System but they still sold 200,000 physical copies of their self-titled debut album. McDonald said people had a perception that music was “either very cheap or free” but initiatives such as Comes With Music should entice more people into legal channels, “fingers crossed”.

Comes With Music bundles will be in stores from March 20. Initially only one Nokia phone model will be available – the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, which is the handset maker’s first touch-screen device.

Those looking for a one-year subscription to the music store will pay $979 for the phone, while 18 months can be had for $1109. More than 4 million songs are available and Nokia said this would increase to 10 million in the coming months.

The subscription can be renewed only by buying a new Nokia phone that supports Comes With Music. New models will be launched this year including the Nokia 5130 XpressMusic, which debuts in April and is pitched at budget-conscious consumers.

Users can download as many songs as they like and tracks do not disappear once the subscription lapses. However, all tracks are protected by Windows Media piracy locks so they can only be played on the Nokia phone and one dedicated PC.

Songs can be downloaded directly to the phone or via a PC. Most people should use the latter method as downloading directly to the phone incurs data costs from the mobile carrier.

Gavin Parry, head of sales for Sony Music Australia, said digital music sales only represented 20 per cent of the market and most of those sales were generated by one dominant player, Apple’s iTunes.

With physical CD sales dropping at a faster rate than the growth in digital sales, Parry said he was hopeful the new Comes With Music all-you-can-eat model would arrest the shift towards illegal download sites.

“At the end of the day, we’re fighting free,” he said.

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