AP business writer Simon Avery writes:
- Free music-swapping services continue to attract millions of new users despite the recording industry’s legal efforts to shutter them, and few consumers are even aware of the handful of pay sites that have emerged over the last year.
That’s unlikely to change – unless the new sites begin to offer compelling, innovative features that set them apart from the free networks, consumers and analysts say.
Sean Withrow, a music lover and Silicon Valley executive, said he would consider using a subscription service if it could improve his shopping experience and offer more than WinMX, the site on which he spends about two hours a week sampling and downloading music for free.
“I’m music-savvy, but stores can be overwhelming. You can get frustrated,” said the 33-year-old Withrow. “It’s really not about the money.”
None of the leading pay sites, which include Listen.com, pressplay, MusicNet and FullAudio, have done much to employ clever technologies to spice up the experience of discovering and purchasing music. Instead, they offer limited downloads that actually expire when a customer ends a subscription.
“Every day they are not offering widely compelling music across the board money is going out the window,” said P.J. McNealy, research director at GartnerG2 in San Jose.
Analysts estimate that less than 100,000 people have bought pay subscriptions.
….McNealy, the Gartner analyst, says people are willing to pay for convenience and the music industry should address what consumers really want.
“The demand is there. There’s a huge chunk of people waiting for legitimate services,” he said.
New York-based Jupiter Research forecasts that consumers will spend $27 million on digital subscription services like pressplay and MusicNet this year, just a sliver compared with the roughly $13.7 billion in sales the recording industry posted in 2001.
But by 2005, online subscribers will spend $495 million, rising to nearly $1.2 billion in 2007, Jupiter said.
“The bulk of consumers are not purposely stealing,” said Stacey Herron, Jupiter’s media and entertainment analyst.