As the music industry continues to search for an answer to dwindling sales and the continual proliferation of illegal file-sharing, an old idea looks to have resurfaced.
Digital Music News reports that Universl Music Group (UMG) is exploring the possibility of introducing an ISP music file-sharing tax. Called “TotalMusic”, the idea is to charge the customers of ISPs and cellphone carriers a flat-rate fee as part of their data service plan, in exchange for the right to download and share the label’s music over the ISP’s network.
As Wired notes, for such a plan to be implemented would not only require buy-in from ISPs who would have to pass on the costs to their customers — the “tax” would be compulsory — but it would also need the other major labels to join the scheme.
… a forced opt-in organization like SoundExchange would have to administer the system for all artists and labels; otherwise rights holders and ISPs would need to negotiate a near infinite number of deals in order to offer the 100% catalog coverage consumers would demand for their monthly fee.
Although it seems unlikely that any such arrangement could be put in place, the idea of a file-sharing tax supplementing revenues generated through selling music, either physically or digital downloads, is an intriguing one. Unlike traditional music subscription services such as Rhapsody or Napster, music downloaded and shared — paid-for through an additional ISP charge — won’t stop playing if you cancel your broadband service. Additionally, if an ISP file-sharing tax makes up the majority of the music industry’s revenue, it’s hard to see what incentive there would be for the major labels, with their huge back-catalogs, to continue to invest in new artists.