LONDON Whether at home, in the car or at his
desk, designer Ben Robinson is surrounded by his favorite music
-- via his iPod or a Web jukebox like Pandora. Like other fans
all over the world, Robinson, 26, is benefiting from the music
industry's drive to reinvent itself in the digital age.
Listeners now have many new ways to buy music online --
from subscription and set-your-own price to
And, of course, there is Apple's (AAPL.O) established
online giant -- iTunes.
Since it has become so easy to get music online, Robinson,
for one, said he is buying twice as much as he used to. And he
is also going to more gigs -- all good news for an industry
that has struggled with CD sales falling at an alarming rate.
Soon there may be an even wider array of choices. Ben
Cardew, chief reporter of Music Week magazine, sees the
industry sampling lots of new ways to sell tunes to meet
demand, which he says is stronger than ever.
"Wherever you go, people are listening to iPods, music is
on adverts and the live scene is doing incredibly well. The
demand is absolutely there," Cardew said. "(There are) so many
great new ideas -- from ad-funded to subscription and giving
away your album with a newspaper."
The subject of selling music made the headlines recently
after the acclaimed rock band Radiohead sold its new album as a
digital download at its Web site for as much or as little as
fans wanted to pay (www.inrainbows.com/Store/index3.htm).
Pop star Prince gave his latest album away free with a
newspaper in Britain, generating huge publicity for a tour.
FREE OR PAID -- TAKE YOUR PICK
These days there is such a variety of choice, consumers may
want to experiment to find the best option for their individual
One model is a subscription service that provides unlimited
music for a set amount each month. Those were expected to be
one of the most successful models when services like the
now-legal Napster NAPS.O and RealNetwork's (RNWK.O) Rhapsody
But some say the fact that you don't own the music, and can
lose it if you cancel the subscription, has resulted in turning
off consumers. Tracks sold by Napster and Rhapsody are also not
able to play on the mass-selling iPod due to their format.
One way to get around this problem is the subscription
service eMusic, which sells tracks in an MP3 format that can be
played on any digital device. But the lack of copyright
protection on the tracks means the major labels -- which sign
some of the biggest bands -- will not work with eMusic.
Other options to look into are smaller start-ups SpiralFrog
and Qtrax, which offer music downloads for free to consumers
who will watch adverts.
SpiralFrog has recently launched its service and Qtrax is
due to launch in December, while Ruckus Network Inc. already
offers a similar service to U.S. colleges.
Another spot to look for music is online radio services
Pandora and Last.fm, which work as social networks recommending
tracks between fans. Those looking for new music, particularly
from unsigned bands, may want to browse through MySpace.
And, if you're willing to pay for downloads, there is Amie
Street, which prices songs according to their popularity.
"It's definitely easier to get the music that you want now,
there's always a way," said Mark Sutherland, global editor of
trade publication Billboard. "The days of having to sift
through second-hand shops (are) pretty much long gone."
(Reporting by Kate Holton)