South by Southwest–or any occasion when industry types and hanger-ons get together–can be the source of a number of bad ideas, but the most buzzed idea to circulate post-Austin this year seems to be the flat fee to download whatever music you please legally. Like most completely implausible concepts, this one has its ups and downs, but no one actually believes this is ever going to happen, right? Well, Washington Post blogger Kim Hart actually sees some future in the idea.
The new idea on the table: Internet service providers would tack a small fee ($5 for example) onto monthly bills for broadband connections. The money would then go to the music industry to help compensate labels, performers, song-writers and other artists for music shared online.
It is aimed at the people who illegally download free songs through peer-to-peer file-sharing services, like BitTorrent and Kazaa. Similar ideas have been floating around for a couple of years now, but it seems the music industry may be starting to see it as a viable option.
I don’t think anyone actually associated with the “music industry” thinks this is likely, no matter how far down the sales totals for discs sink. Why on earth would Edgar Bronfman or Doug Morris trade in the possibility of selling music at full list price or even 99 cents a track in exchange for a paltry sixty bucks a year? For that matter, would the RIAA give up the potential lawsuit earnings from anyone who would purchase this imaginary download license created from pixie dust? It’s certainly a great idea for the consumer…like a Sizzler for music, minus the potential for food poisoning or civil trials. However, there’s no upside for anyone else. Internet service providers would be hit by the surge in torrent traffic, artists would be forced to bicker over who gets what share of the new limited revenue stream, and labels would have little to no incentive to actually release music. This entire scenario assumes that people would even pay the five bucks. With the entire recorded history of music closer to being available via Rapidshare everyday, it’s a difficult proposition to convince someone that $5 is a better deal than free.
But, hey, what’s more fun that discussing solutions to the industry’s problems that lack any viability whatsoever, right?
Would You Pay a Fee for Legal Music File Sharing? [Washington Post]