Where do we go from here? The words are coming out all weird…

Kevin O’Neill

Music Editor

I didn’t intend on beginning this piece with a sampling of Thom Yorke’s finest, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. But, the quote is very apt with regard to the future of the music industry.

Unless you have your head buried under a rock, you are likely to have come across some form of advert for Eircom’s new project, Music Hub. The Music Hub has been doomed since the off – it is a streaming and downloading service aimed at battling illegal downloading.

The project is free for Eircom customers (and even then, it is only the most basic package that is free), yet only offers limited downloads. For example, if you go for the “fanatic” package (the highest level), you will be permitted to stream unlimited tracks, and download a whipping forty tracks.

Forty? Four-Zero? Excuse me while I crack open the champagne.

Eircom nailed their colours to the mast early on in the war against downloads, and must be admired for sticking to this. Hands up who has gotten a warning letter to cease downloading? I haven’t, but that’s because I jumped ship and get my service from O2 (do not, I repeat, do not go near Meteor). That, and I still have some sort of inane desire to buy music. I know – madness.

What makes Eircom think that they have a hope with this less than original initiative, though? Look at Virgin and Sky. Virgin abandoned their plans to launch a rival stream and download tool (á la Hub) to team up with Spotify instead, while Sky, ironically, announced the closure of their own similar service on the same day that Hub launched.

So far this year, We7 and Qriocity have launched in Ireland, while the day that Spotify finally becomes available to Irish customers is surely coming. These are already well-established, while We7 has the added bonus of being free for all customers. Worried about someone cutting off your service, but still reluctant to to pay? Take yourself over to We7 and listen to all the music you like…

However, it is inevitable that these too will not end the illegal downloading craze. The big players have been cut down: Limewire, Pirate Bay, Frostwire, Napster… Yet people are still finding ways around the boundaries.

The major flaw in the streaming aspect is that I also enjoy listening to music away from my laptop – what do I do here? Take out the tapes and start recording off the radio again?

ITunes still rules the download market, and always will. It has a mind-bogglingly large library at the click of a button, though until they drop the prices it is unreasonable to think that the end of the illegal trade is in sight. €0.99 for a song? €10 for an album that I can’t even hold in my hand? Forgive me if I don’t think this is as good a deal as Steve Jobs tells me.

Bands have already realised that the money in music is not there to be made from recordings. Radiohead gave away In Rainbows for whatever you wanted to pay (c’mon – own up who downloaded it illegally anyway?), while dozens of bands just dish out songs for nothing now. Their money is to be made in performances.

The sooner the rest of the industry realises this, the better! Pay Apple €1 for a track, or get it from REM for nothing? I wonder which I’ll do…

And, luckily for you, we’re hear to point you in the direction of what is worth shelling out (or not) for. We talk to the Gorgeous Colours, Sean Kangataran and Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters, run the rule over James Blake’s debut and Rihanna’s latest, as well as the potential big releases later in the year. Dr. Jason Harris is the second in our lecturer sponsored series of entries, while we also take a look at the wonders of busking. Contributions, criticisms and queries are welcomed at music@uccexpress.ie

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