Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch? 01/05/2008

Those who keep their ‘finger on the pulse’ regarding music industry news will have no doubt noticed the ‘big news’ regarding We7 recently; the news that Sony has signed up its catalogue to the service becoming the first major to do so.


Firstly; just what is We7?


We7 is yet another ‘will this save the industry?’ idea set up by Peter Gabriel (of Genesis/fox head in red dress fame) and Steve Purdham (rather clever technological entrepreneur). It offers users the opportunity to download/stream music for free with the ‘catch’ that they have to listen to an advert at the start of the song. A percentage of the money generated from this advert is then paid to the artist as a royalty.


Its ethos (and tagline) is “Don’t steal it! We7 it!” – Which is a fair enough point: Why illegally download something if you can download it for free from We7 knowing that the artist is going to see some remuneration as a result? Even if you find the adverts really annoying you could go and illegally download it to listen to and then legally download it at the same time just to delete it afterwards to ensure that Bob Catley gets some booze money for his hard work.


And if you’re technically savvy enough you could just cut the advert off with a bit of editing software (although you’ll probably end up listening to the advert more during the editing process thus making the whole thing a tad pointless).


I was made aware of We7 just under a year ago and I thought the idea behind it was fantastic but when I went to the website the content was simply dire (besides the fact that I managed to get ‘Out Of Time’ by Chris Farlowe’ which I was quite chuffed about). Since then they’ve added a hell of a lot more to their roster and now with Sony signing up it will be interesting to see if any of the other majors follow suit.


I was on a panel with Steve Purdham this week and it was interesting to hear that he appeared to have quite a blasé attitude towards the future of the company. Although he obviously wants it to succeed (especially as he’s ploughed plenty of his own cash into it), he said on several occasions that he’d rather the company ‘Fly or Die’ and that he wouldn’t want it ‘just to survive’. He also stated that currently the more successful the company becomes, the more money it loses due to the nature of the model: The users want content, the content wants to be paid and the advertisers want enough users to justify their spend. So We7 are currently using their own cash to supplement the shortage in advertising revenue that is needed to pay the artist royalties!


Who’d even bother to start a business in this industry anymore eh?


So are advertising led downloads the way forward? Well they could be in theory, but the thing that is letting We7 down (as well as pretty much all of iTunes competitors) is that it is too fiddly to use when downloading content from the site. If you were to download an album it comes in a .zip file and things like .zip files confuse people who like the Hoosiers.


Until someone, somewhere creates a piece of software that is so good it has the ability to ‘dupe’ the consumer then iTunes will no doubt continue to have the advantage (I say ‘dupe’ as a percentage of iTunes users have no idea that there are restrictions on the music they buy from the store).


I do beseech all to go and sign up to We7 though and have a gander about. You’ll no doubt find something that you’ll want to listen to and the adverts aren’t as annoying as I thought they initially would be; after a while it just felt like I was listening to a local radio station. Also, the more of us who sign up the more chance the company will have of signing up the other 3 majors and then we’ll really discover if the model has legs or not.


It’s a tad strange why the other majors haven’t signed up yet if you think about; we all know they’re all so hell bent on this 50p rule (that they receive 50p for every track sold digitally) so although it’s understandable that they become so supercilious when they only get offered 5p per download/stream, isn’t that 5p better then sod all? I suppose there are 2 ways of looking at it; will the inclusion of Sony’s catalogue on We7 stop people who’d normally purchase a song on iTunes to get it for free instead? Or will it attract the users who’d usually steal it?


Quick math;


It’s +5p for the optimist and -45p for the pessimist.


So you’d need 9 converted thieves to download the track from We7 for every 1 iTunes convert. 9/1 seems like a pretty gash ratio, but it’s been reported that for every track legally downloaded 200 are illegally obtained. So if advertising led download stores could convert 10% of law breakers to judicial conformists then the majors would actually be looking at a +50p per track increase. Realistic vision? Or pipe dream ramblings?


What do you lot think?


Just a quick note regarding the gigs I went to this week:


After seeing some pickled corpses and having potentially the finest curry in Manchester I wandered on down to see Grammatics support their DTTR label mates Forward Russia!. They were ace as expected and I recommend you for the umpteenth time to go check these guys out.

The day after I witnessed Sentric’s very own Envy and Other Sins for the first time and I was rather impressed. Professional bias aside; they were a genuinely strong live act with a set list full of radio friendly dittys. Well worth checking out…


Off to see Dan Le Sac VS Scroobious Pip tonight as well! Whoop!


What I’m listening to this week; old school Ash and Kick Box Riot (and the Adam and Joe Podcast).


What I’m reading this week; CSA’s ramblings


Stay tuned



~ by Sentric on May 1, 2008.

3 Responses to “Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch? 01/05/2008”

  1. Yeah, I was there, listening to the We7 philosophy. I certainly want it to work and was impressed by Steve Purdham’s sell, but one thing niggled me – reliance on the moral angle of ‘do you want to steal it or buy it’? It is not purely about morals, as if we have all turned in to petty thieves. There is a cultural shift (er…called the internet) that has changed the entire landscape. Everything (not just audio music) is accessible now, so trying to fight that cultural shift with a guilt thing may not be a powerful enough barrier.
    I found dizzler recently (dizzler.com). Simple but effective. It searches all (?) streamed music and video, and aggregates it. I use that to check out tracks now, though I still download from iTunes.
    I’ve tried the We7 site (and will again) and found it a bit confusing (but I could say the same of myspace first time in), so I will persevere. The widget player is important to me (being a dizzler kind of guy) and I got that working too (in a wiki but not Ning) though only with those bloody 30″ segments.
    Hey Simon – I enjoyed your panel contributions last week at Future Networks! Good luck with Sentric.

  2. Hi Redstrings,

    The moral angle explains only one of the target groups. The other is people who are committed to paying for music. They all have budget and We7 allows them to try a lot of music before they buy. The legal market is large and growing quickly. We believe the We7 model will make it larger and grow more quickly through the incremental advertising revenue generated by the ads and increased conversion to paid for downloads after users have heard music they like.

  3. I like The Hoosiers, I’m insulted. I’d have thought a girl / boy band reference would have been more appropriate, especially since you mentioned in another blog that musicians need to ‘get along’. There, I have vented, I’m OK again.

    As for the idea of free downloads, I do feel that independent, lesser known artists could benefit more from this service as they’re a lot less likely to be replicated on illegal download sites. A direct link to the We7 sales page from the artist website emphasizing the fact that it’s free might encourage a few more listeners / downloads. I’m certainly going to give it a go and see what happens, although I’ll still give the option of paying for the track too.

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