Trends in "Free" Music

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Manitoba Music hosted a session last night with Mark Meharry from MusicGlue. Mark is based in London and is a pioneer of the "free" music approach to building a fan base and building careers for independent artists. Mark helps artists give away music, as a way to track and interact with fans, and build other revenue streams from concert tickets and merchandise. In the face of declining CD sales, artists and music industry companies are looking for new buisiness models and business structures.

One of the trends that we talked about last night was the move from downloading and storing music, to streaming music. Broadband speeds and access to online file storage are increasing and becoming cheaper, moving towards zero cost. This is leading to increased ease of access to music through legal channels like mobile phone delivery and streaming online services. Rather than building libraries of music, the user can simply plug into vast existing catalogues.

Illegal file sharing has been as much about ease of access as is about cost - labels weren't quick enough at making music available and transportable so mega music fans and tech savvy kids looked elsewhere. Now that music is becoming more easily accessible through streaming and catalogue services like, Spotify, Nokia Music, file sharing may well be on the decrease. Some investigative work on google search trends seems to support this idea.

Meanwhile, the Songwriter's Association of Canada has updated its file sharing proposal with clauses that include opt out options and involving the Copyright Board in setting the tariff amounts. The updated proposal seems to be getting cautious support from other music creator groups, and even from "fair copyright" advocate Michael Geist.

With more music being created than ever before, and music consumption at an all time high, finding ways for songwriters and musicians to be compensated is still the central goal for many looking at these issues. The only thing that seems certain, is that everything we know is probably wrong, or will be soon.

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