Money Expert: Industry Should Compete With Music Piracy

While warning that consumers could get ripped off if they don't shop around when buying music, an expert on saving money says that if it's serious about winning over pirates, the music industry must wake up and embrace price competition.

Journalist, TV presenter and Internet entrepreneur Martin Lewis is a pretty popular guy in the UK. Known to millions as the “Money Saving Expert,” he has regular slots on TV and radio where he shares tips on how people can make the most of their cash and fight back against corporate and retail might, by reversing bank charges, getting tax refunds and slashing credit card bills.

His first website, Moneysavingexpert.com, was founded in 2003 for around £100 but has since grown to receive around 7.5 million users each month. Lewis’s new venture, Tunechecker, is designed to help music fans get the best deal from online music stores.

Recent research by the site has revealed some alarming differences in prices for exactly the same products. Downloading all of 2009’s top 40 albums from the cheapest retailers would cost £864 less than if they were all bought from iTunes. That’s a lot of money.

When looking at singles, specifically last week’s number 1 record in the UK, the cheapest retailer offers the track for 29p, while iTunes wants 99p – nearly two and a half times more. The cheapest retailer sells Michael Bublé’s number 1 album at £5, while the iTunes price is £7.99.

Not surprisingly, recent research by TorrentFreak and millions of users worldwide reveals that the biggest savings are to be made on file-sharing networks, where all tracks by all artists, big and small, on any label, in any country, are to be found for free.

These are savings that Lewis can only dream about, but being realistic, most people recognize that the labels, musicians and the companies behind them have to earn a living. Lewis notes, as we did yesterday, twice, that the solution lies with competing with piracy.

“The music industry needs to wake up and embrace price competition. it’s facing annihilation from illegally download tracks, yet there are still remnants of an attitude that price doesn’t make a difference.

“If it promoted cheaper, legit music it’d mean fewer illegal downloads.”

Yet while millions flock to file-sharing networks and the knowledge on how to use them continues to spread, there is still a huge and largely untapped market out there, eager to funnel money through the official channels.

“Since we launched the TuneChecker.com a month ago we’ve had 400,000 users, an indication there’s a real appetite to download music at the lowest price,” concludes Lewis.

We get the feeling it’s is going to be a recurring theme in 2010. Pressurizing ISPs, monitoring Internet users and throwing around meaningless warnings is going to do little to bring customers back to the music industry.

The solution, the only solution, is good product, available now – right now, at a fair price. But that’s not going to happen, not for a long time yet.

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