Youth Want a Music Subscription Service

Survey says they want a simple way to pay for music they can own, transport, and swap.


Maybe the music labels are on to something. As they struggle to embrace a digital world, their execs have a keen interest in subscription services, in which they would sell access to all their tunes for a monthly or even one-time fee. Yet it seems consumers haven't bought into the idea. Subscription services like Rhapsody struggle to gain a foothold.

But young listeners like the idea, according to a new British survey. The poll of young people ages 14 to 22 was conducted on behalf of British Music Rights, a group that represents music writers and publishers. The authors conclude that young music lovers want a simple system in which they pay a monthly fee to access, enjoy, and swap music with others.

Digital trading has helped fan interest in music of all kinds, the survey points out. So the question is how the industry can get paid for making the music without stifling the fervor fanned by file sharing, CD burning, and other forms of swapping.

Young listeners are willing to pay. But they'd like it to be a simple, flat fee to, say, Internet providers or cellphone carriers. Then they want full rights to move the music to other devices, including those of friends.

No file-sharing service like that exists now, notes Nate Anderson at Ars Technica. And it would be a major effort to develop a universal system to equitably collect and distribute subscription fees. But execs at several U.S. labels say they think some sort of subscription is the answer. And some are taking steps in that direction, with services like that announced on Nokia phones.

The survey also showed that illegal swapping is rampant. But it's refreshing that a music industry group didn't announce it with anger and teeth gnashing, says Don Reisinger on his Digital Home blog.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised it's the British group leading the way with progressive thinking; its CEO kinda suggested he'd be swapping files if he were a teen today. "I was one of those people who went around the back of the bike shed with songs I had taped off the radio the night before," said Feargal Sharkey, former lead singer of the punk band the Undertones.