Would music albums for £1 reduce piracy problems?
Competition between supermarkets has seen some brand new CD albums appearing for under £10 in a bid to persuade modern consumers to buy music rather than pirate it. Amazon offer albums for as low as £3, well below historical music prices, however this has not yet seen any reduction in piracy levels.
Rob Dickins, who ran the Warner Music label for some 15 years until 1998, is calling for album pricing to be slashed to just £1 in an effort to make buying music so cheap that people will be a lot more willing to speculatively buy material they think they may like, and hopefully reduce the level of piracy that goes on. While the costs of transport, warehousing, stocking shelves may mean a physical CD for £1 might be a push, offering them for £1 online should be feasible. The key to a plan like this succeeding is that all the levels involved in getting an album onto the market need to accept that they are providing a commodity item, and accept reductions in their cut in return for large volumes of sales.
Both the music and film industry need to address making their material more accessible to Internet users, both in terms of price and availability. While Ofcom is shortly to announce the full code for the anti-piracy letter writing campaign, which after 12 months may transform into a system which includes penalties, it also expects rights holders to ensure alternative methods of obtaining material are available and accessible. As things stand now, it is far easier to find unlawful copies of many TV shows and films than to obtain a legitimate copy, often because of the traditional way of releasing content via different parties in different parts of the world.
Virgin Media for example is trying to make things easier for users, with a music subscription service in partnership with Spotify and some other ISPs offer similar services.
Through its strict new laws on unlawful file sharing, France is attempting to encourage young people to buy music now by subsidising pre-paid cards (where you buy a card for €25 and the government adds another €25 to card, allowing people to buy music to the value of €50). The danger is that it assumes that as users get older, they will be happy to pay twice as much as young people for their music, and it may encourage music labels to artificially keep their prices high. It also ignores the over-25 year olds who are most likely to be trying to format shift an existing music collection into digital formats, where people may feel that after having bought an album in numerous formats over the years, perhaps they are entitled to getting the next format at a lower price.