Wed, Aug 31, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Web users say music worth a fee

DOWNLOADS A survey showed that users would pay to subscribe to online music, but an industry group said the business model may not work here


Sixty-five percent of consumers would love to pay NT$100 or less per month for unlimited song downloads from the Internet, according to the results of an online poll released yesterday.

While 8 percent would opt for a monthly subscription costing NT$101 to NT$150, 17 percent said they would be willing to pay only NT$5 or less to download a single song, according to a survey by Taipei-based Secure Online Shopping Association (SOSA, 消費者電子商務協會).

However, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) in Taiwan, which represents major record labels, said that the mechanism might not be viable here.

"The business model of song downloads can't be decided by just one party, which is the consumer in this case," IFPI secretary general Robin Lee (李瑞斌) told the Taipei Times in a telephone interview.

According to Lee, as monthly subscription fees would offer users unlimited downloads of songs, it might not work for the music industry unless it comes with a comprehensive package detailing how to distribute royalties for record companies, composers and artists.

The business model used by Apple Computer's iTunes, a top online music store which charges US$0.99 per downloaded song, might serve as a good example to follow, he added.

As of June, iTunes users had purchased and downloaded over 500 million songs purchased globally, translating into an 82 percent market share, according to Apple's statistics.

The SOSA survey, which gathered 8,524 valid samples from MSN users last week, showed that 85 percent of consumers have used online song-download services.

It also revealed that while 66 percent of users are concerned about the legal issues of song downloads, 62 percent of those polled will download anyway.

Commenting on the survey, academics agreed that song downloading has become a global trend.

"The music industry will not be able to resist the evolving technology trends and consumer behavior," said Lu Hsi-Peng (盧希鵬), a professor of information management at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

He said that to survive, companies should think hard to come up with new methods of operation.

As MP3 players now offer more storage for song files, vendors might want to develop technologies to allow users to search, combine or even customize personal song lists, instead of just focusing on song or CD production, Lu said.

According to Jason Chou (周天), a law professor at National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, the government should be the agency tasked with ensuring that peer-to-peer (P2P) song-download platform providers, copyright groups and consumers are aware of the legal issues related to downloading music.

Moreover, copyright groups and P2P platform providers should work together to firm up pricing and royalty-sharing mechanisms, he said.

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