Music analyst's view 'baseless': online music stores

Australia's online music stores have responded to music analyst Phil Tripp's criticism of the market, with one of the nation's largest players saying he "ought to catch up with the reality of online music downloads."BigPond corporate affairs manager, Craig Middleton, said Tripp's claim that the major online music stores have "failed miserably" in attracting the public to buy legal music online was "baseless".

Australia's online music stores have responded to music analyst Phil Tripp's criticism of the market, with one of the nation's largest players saying he "ought to catch up with the reality of online music downloads."

BigPond corporate affairs manager, Craig Middleton, said Tripp's claim that the major online music stores have "failed miserably" in attracting the public to buy legal music online was "baseless".

"We would reject, in the strongest terms, the quite baseless claims Phil Tripp has made about the legal music download industry. We are very proud of the industry lead that BigPond Music has taken in its first year. Any business which grows so strongly in its first year can only be viewed as a success. And it is just the first year of a business of the future. Phil ought to catch up with the reality of legal music downloads," Middleton said.

He added that BigPond Music currently is "heading towards having 500,000 tracks available. He said that they just added more than 30,000 tracks to their music catalogue last week and had, in total, 100,000 songs available from independent artists.

"The compelling reasons to buy music from stores are abundant. It's cheap, it's legal, it's easy, you support your favourite artists instead of ripping them off, it's convenient and it saves time. And our customers seem to agree with us, because repeat sales are very strong," Middleton emphasised.

However, Domenic Carosa, the chief executive officer of online music company Destra, took a more measured tack, saying there was still a number of years before digital music in Australia reached mass market status.

"We are currently looking at a 5 to 10 year music strategy. There is still a long way to go. The record companies have realised that they are sitting on a gold mine. They have warehouse of catalogues full of tracks to be made into online music. We are expecting an increase of revenues in the next couple of years," Carosa said.

He added that Destra currently has access to half a million tracks for download and is looking at 2 to 3 years before it reaches one million songs.

Carosa said the company's music retail partners would be gearing up their marketing strategy in the next couple of weeks.

"We work behind the scenes, we work with partners like Sanity, JB Hi Fi etc and they are just starting to gear up. Sanity will be releasing a promo in the next couple of weeks and Harvey Norman as well. A lot of our partners have become a lot more aggressive in terms of marketing the music," Carosa said.

As for Tripp's comment regarding the incompatibility of personal computer-only music downloads with iPod users, both Carosa and Middleton said it is not the online music stores' fault.

"It is quite disingenuous to claim that because Apple chooses to make the iPod incompatible with other music download services, that it is somehow the fault of the Windows-based music stores. We would love to sell our music to iPod owners, but Apple won't let us," Middleton said.

Carosa echoed Middleton, saying that Apple is not making its Fairplay Digital Rights Management system open to other digital music services. "We would love to make legal music downloads available on AAC [Advanced Audio Coding -- an alternative to MP3 as an audio standard], but Apple are not making their technology available to anyone in the market place," he said.

Carosa believes that the entry of iTunes in Australia will help expand the marketplace. "More people will become aware that you can purchase music legally online especially since our biggest threat right now are the free services like Kazaa," he said.

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