The blogstorm created by NPR intern Emily White's post last week, "I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With," continues to foster great commentary. In this one, Jim Donio -- president of NARM/digitalmusic.org, a trade organization whose membership consists of both physical and digital retail companies, as well as labels and other types of suppliers -- says White's post points out the fact that "the future of the music business will depend on our ability to meet consumer demand with services and business models that appeal to everyone - artists, rights holders and fans."
The ethical debate that has been triggered by the Emily White NPR blog post continues to rage, but I feel that an important point of her article has been overlooked. As a trade organization whose membership consists of both physical and digital retail companies, as well as labels and other types of suppliers, we of course do not support uncompensated downloading or sharing of music. We believe that creators and content owners should be fairly compensated, as should legitimate retailers. While we believe that ripping/sharing of files is wrong, I don't believe that Emily White or those like her have anything against the artist or commerce. They've simply gravitated towards where they perceive value: simple, easy access to the music they want.
Without making further judgments on one individual, it's the duty and obligation of business people to not scold or reprimand, but to use this as a lesson to continue to provide value to the only person in the value chain that truly matters - the fan (a.k.a. the customer), and offer them the products and experiences they seek. This is not the time to lock down on options for consumers to obtain music through legitimate means - we must make sure that people can find the music they want from the outlets they prefer.
For some, that experience may be visiting their local retail store when new music comes out every Tuesday. For others, it might be streaming access with either a monthly subscription fee or bundled with another service. And for yet others, it might be digital downloads and/or streaming from a shared digital music locker. This is why NARM and digitalmusic.org's Subscription Work Group members discourage "windowing" to a particular retailer or channel of commerce: it is unfair to the consumer, and for a determined, digitally-savvy customer, will drive them straight to illegal channels.
Earlier this year, the Work Group posted "myth vs. facts" on the digitalmusic.org website to address some of these misconceptions about subscription services. We know that digital music sales are increasing with the rise in adoption of on-demand streaming and subscription services. Studies are showing their use is reducing piracy, and most importantly, that withholding music alienates fans.
Today's consumers live in an on-demand culture: they know what they want and how to get it. Now is the only timeframe they are interested in. Emily White did not say she will never pay for music per se. She said she will pay for convenient access to a universal database of songs. The future of the music business will depend on our ability to meet consumer demand with services and business models that appeal to everyone - artists, rights holders and fans. That's not too much to ask.