Cheaper legal download sites will shake up the online music industry, according to Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
Last month Haji-Ioannou launched his easyMusic.com download site, in collaboration with online music service Wippit, and predicts that cost-efficient digital downloads will take over from CDs.
He told the BBC World Service’s The Music Biz programme: “There were people who said when I started Easyjet that £29 ($54, €42) would ruin the airline industry. Far from it – it has made some companies less profitable, but it has forced them to compete, and therefore become leaner and more competitive.”
The easyMusic.com site includes tracks from more than 200 labels, including Universal, Warner, BMG, Sony and EMI, with single downloads starting at 25p, ($0.47, €0.36) and UK users can also pay by SMS.
It also plans to includes downloads on a ‘copyleft’ – the opposite of copyright – basis, giving downloaders access to new music for free.
But easyMusic.com is just one of number of new legal download sites launched in the last 12 months to take on market leaders such as iTunes.com.
According to figures from recording industry association IFPI, legal music sites quadrupled to over 230 in 2004, and the available music catalogue has doubled in 12 months to 1 million songs.
And while IFPI chairman and chief executive John Kennedy may say it is now the “priority” of the record industry to licence music “to as many services, for as many consumers, on as many formats and devices for use in as many places and countries as it can”, music sites may struggle to cut the cost of downloads unless they can persuade the record companies to cut back on their margins.
And of course many consumers still prefer to get their music for free – IFPI calculates there are 870 million pirate tracks on the Internet.