As millions of tracks continue to be shared online every day without permission from copyright holders, it is clear that the ‘free music’ genie is well and truly out of the bottle. In the hope of returning revenue from these sources, a brave new system is aiming to legalize illicit music – even if it came from a torrent site, cyberlocker or friend’s hard drive.
What if someone came up with a revolutionary new product to turn piracy into profit that didn’t hurt consumers and actually embraced pirates? What if that system thrived on the very existence of illicit music being made available from torrent, cyberlocker and other sites? What if it could monetize the illicit music already available online and elsewhere?
Bo Schønemann and René Nygaard of Danish company 7 Sky Media say that they have developed a system which could turn these crazy dreams into reality.
“Our software is designed to play all digital files and locate the copyright holders regardless of where the file came from,” Schønemann told Comon.dk.
“This means that we are the only company in the world that can offer the industry earnings from these vast quantities of [illicit] music, from which they currently do not receive a single penny.”
The company’s product is embedded into both a hardware digital music player and a software based solution. When a user plays their music through either an advertisement is displayed, the revenues from which 7 Sky Media pass to the copyright holders.
While users can pay a small free to obtain completely ad-free players, the free service will route ad money to rightsholders each time a track is played.
René Nygaard says that users of the software system retain their freedom to use whatever player they like (Windows Media Player, iTunes, WinAmp etc) since the 7 Sky Media product works as a plug-in. Integration with social media apps is also promised.
“My partner is from the music business and we will also use 7 Sky to help the ‘small’ musicians, partly by diffusion, so they can monetize their music without a record label,” Nygaard said in a comment. “We’ve spent 3 years so far on agreements and contracts, this is not just an idea we have, but a real product.”
Schønemann said that his company is currently negotiating with companies and investment firms in preparation for both domestic and international launches, adding that they could offer as many as 12 million tracks through their system. We’ve heard these kinds of numbers before and they should be taken with a whole heap of salt.
While 7 Sky are to be applauded for having the strength to have a go at tackling something like this, one can’t help but feel pessimistic. With the majors controlling 85% plus of the market, they really need to be on board to make something like this work on a decent scale. And to be frank, what are the chances of that?
Even the mighty Google are reported to be “sick of dealing with labels”.
But it’s not just label cooperation that’s required here. While there is undoubtedly a desire on behalf of consumers to ‘go legal’ when obtaining music from the Internet, will they buy a custom player to replace their iPods and cellphones, will they voluntarily install plug-ins that amount to adware?
While some will shout ‘no’ emphatically, the system itself could get off the ground with the right backing. Yes, we’re back to getting the labels on board again and yes, that seems massively unlikely. But if Qtrax can get licensed….
Update: Looks like even Spotify are having to restrict their ‘free’ ad-supported service. If they can’t make it pay, who can?