Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Friday, 27 January 2006

Digital music: Ask the industry

The digital age is transforming entertainment - and this is your chance to question key figures at the top of the industry.

The BBC News website recently asked you what the most important issues in the entertainment world were - and the hottest topic was how companies are handling digital technology.

The BBC News website has assembled a virtual panel of music industry executives to respond to your questions and comments.

Send your questions below. Your points can relate to the music industry's current practices or the future direction of digital music.

Do you think the industry is meeting demand for digital music? Is it successfully safeguarding the future of music? Are the restrictions on the use of digital material justified?

We will post a range of questions here and pick the eight most common and important ones to be answered by the panel. Their responses will be published on 24 January.

Similar panels will be assembled from the film and broadcasting industries in the coming weeks.

The music panel comprises:

  • Brad Duea, president of Napster, once the scourge of the music industry and now one of the largest legal music download retailers.

  • Peter Jamieson, executive chairman of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which represents the UK music industry and has been leading the anti-piracy campaign in Britain.

  • John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the trade body representing record labels worldwide, which has been instrumental in the global fight against piracy.

  • Steve Knott, managing director of HMV UK & Ireland, a leading high street chain that has recently opened its own online download store.

This debate has now closed.

It is often said that the singles charts has suffered from illegal downloads. This is no doubt true, but 15 years ago a single wasn't promoted for 3 months before being released. By the time it is officially released people are bored with the song and it's considered 'old' not 'new'. The longer promotional copies are made available, the quicker they are distributed on file sharing computer programmes. Surely it's time to cut back on the promotional period? (and enjoy watching a song climb the charts for once!).
Paul Nicholls, Slade Green, Kent

Please could the panel confirm exactly what is legal when it comes to ripping music off a CD. For instance, once I have ripped a CD to mp3 format, can I keep a copy at home on my PC and at work and also on my mp3 player, can my girlfriend listen to the same mp3 at home while I listen on my mp3 player? It is very unclear whether multiple people can listen to the same songs and where restrictions start and end.
Julian Burgess, London, UK

DRM is used, we are told, to protect artists from copyright theft. Yet so far, no existing DRM scheme has been successful in keeping music from being pirated on P2P networks. Given this failure, why do record companies continue to push DRM schemes that do nothing to protect artists, and do everything to discourage consumers from buying their works?
James Reeves, Chippenham, UK

This was the first year I specifically asked family & friends not to buy me any CDs for Christmas. Why? Because of the increase in CD DRM making it difficult to rip legally purchased music to my MP3 player. Hence I can safely say that I would not ever buy DRM protected music online, as it is too intangible/inflexible to be worth the money.

Why does the music industry not understand that it is alienating its customers by treating us like criminals?
Graeme Douglas, Aberdeen

Playlists and the sharing of samples has been proven to be a major draw for music fans online, what will the services, BPI and IFPI do to help make this a higher profile part of the digital music experience.
Mike Hales, Horley, UK

Back-catalogue should be available at a much reduced rate. Cost for these productions have already been acquired so why not offer such tracks at say 10p/15ct per track (possible minimum downloads of 10 tracks from an extensive list)?
Robin Bennett, Velbert, Germany

Why do adverts for music download services such as Napster usually fail to explain what MP3 players they will work with? I have tried to use a couple of services only to find out at the end that they do not work with the iPod. A bit of honesty would be a step forward. Selling music in MP3 format so it works everywhere would be a giant leap for mankind.
Tony Gosling, London

I have an iPod so must either use iTunes or rip from CD. But that's not going to be the case forever. My next player may be a different make. But if I buy from iTunes I can't transfer the music to a non AAC player, and I can't buy WMA as it won't play on my machine.

Are you trying to turn me into a criminal to get music? Or just rip me off blind to get it?
Russ, High Wycombe, UK

How can the industry expect more people to favour legal downloads when they work out as more expensive then buying the CD, have restrictions for playing and often come in a lower quality? It's not exactly value for money.
Michael Ocker, Brighton, UK

What's the point in DRM, when I can simply copy from one CD to another using an analogue cable from my Hi-Fi? On a good hi-fi, there's only negligible loss of quality, especially as most downloads are lower bitrate MP3s anyway!
Alex Knibb, Bristol, UK

I recently opened up a nice old vinyl to see a picture of a tape and crossbones, claiming that home taping would kill music. Is the industry going to learn from history and recognise that when we can copy music we still buy it, we just make it convenient when we have bought it?
John, Cambridge, UK

I'd like to know the future of CDs. I have not and will not ever buy a digital download and I know I'm not alone on this. I firstly don't like the DRM system in use and secondly I really don't like buying something I cannot hold. Vinyl is still kicking around, so I see no reason why there isn't a future for the CD.
Kieren Bloomfield, Leamington Spa, UK

Regardless of (il)legality, revenue share and other discussions, a significant proportion of key 14-34 age groups in world markets are still growing up used to making their budgets go further with "free" MP3s and "free" Internet voice calls. This is enough to tip many traditional Music companies into loss and also a big threat to future Mobile company revenues. What can they each/both offer of value to these age groups beyond E-Mule/Kazaa/EBay/Skype?
Bryn Williams, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

Did the global record companies (or key managers) get shares/options from Apple Computer when they licensed their catalogues to iTunes? (Like they did in 2000 from
Dieter Krist, Frankfurt, Germany

What is it about the music industry that leads many executives to continue to believe that DRM schemes are anything other than a thorn in the side of honest, paying customers who want to make legal fair use of the music? Is it ignorance of the technology, is it greed? Is, perhaps, annoying your paying customers considered a good thing?
Simon Clift, Waterloo, Ontario

Copyright was intended to provide a limited period of protection to the authors of content to market their creations in exchange for their creative works becoming public domain. Extending copyrights past 25 years or even the lifespan of the author not only removes the incentive for people to keep creating but also makes the world a poorer place.

When are the media industries going to stop stealing content from the public by lobbying governments to extend copyright lengths?
Andrew, Leeds

Most people in my age group (~15) still download all of their music illegally. What action would you take to try persuade this particular group to buy music?
Cole Beler, Bruton, England

The price of a single track download typically reflects no benefit (on a price per track equivalent) over the purchase of an entire album from the local supermarket. Furthermore, with a download you get reduced audio quality, DRM concerns and zero packaging. The technology already exists to offer higher quality audio than provided by basic audio CDs. Why can the record companies of today not offer audio downloads at a quality commensurate with the fee charged? A distribution standard nearly 20 years old (CD audio) that now is trying to be superseded by an inferior audio standard suggests something fundamentally wrong.
Dave Lewis, Taunton, UK

How do you feel about your success in keeping the focus on the means of distribution, rather than the merit of the content? No one on this list so far has mentioned the increasing gap between production values and compositional originality. The only interesting pop music happening is coming from talent outside the UK and USA. It would seem that originality and marketing clout are inversely proportional. How will you reverse this trend?
Kenneth Hymes, Charlottesville, USA

An artist can set up their own website, make their music available to download and market themselves to their fan base for free with open-source software (i know, I'm doing it myself right now) - so where does that leave the recording industry who are still offering artists advances (that need repaying) for the privilege of handing over the rights to their music? What steps are the record companies taking to ensure they're not left out of the loop in the next couple of years?
Trevor Burton, London, UK

Are we finally going to get worldwide realises at once? I reckon that will reduce piracy because most people from the UK download music released in America before it reaches the UK.
John, London

Do we actually need record companies releasing CDs anymore? I can hear a track from England and wait ages for it to arrive in Gib. Why can I not just download it?
Ian Bonham, Gibraltar

DRM on CDs has put us in the position where a customer can't be confident that a CD will even play when they get it home from the shops. I find this such a concern that I haven't bought a new CD for the last 6 months or so, making do with my existing collection and the occasional one-off (legal) chart download. What is the industry doing to rectify this?
Rob, Derby, uk

What steps are being taken to warn customers that a downloaded track will contain offensive language?
S Launchbury, Camberley, Surrey

With recent no 1 hits like The JCB song and I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor gaining recognition almost entirely from internet downloads, and with production/distribution costs being so low, do you predict a rise in unsigned artists in the charts? Can an artist obtain a chart position from free downloads if they choose not to receive royalties?
Paul Pizzey, Maidstone, Kent

When do you think that MP3 will become the most common way of distributing music? Also how to do you see the rise in podcasting impacting the large music companies?
Julian Procter, Banbury

I have not brought any MP3s online yet. Neither do I intend to. It is still cheaper to buy CDs second hand online than to pay to download MP3s. I know there is great demand for music but considering MP3s are immaterial and therefore have no cost in manufacturing and virtually no cost in distribution, should their market price not be far less than what it currently is?
Jonathan Wells, Leicester, UK

There is a wealth of material previously available on vinyl, that has been overlooked in recent times - the earlier revolution when we were expected to migrate our buying preference from vinyl to CD is a case in point. If digital music is the way forward then it needs to encompass not just what is popular, but all that was previously available. It should not be restricted by commercial criteria or what record companies consider to be most profitable.
G T Swain, Edgware, Middlesex

I'm disappointed with the lack of Indian music that is available (bhangra, Bollywood, etc). What is being done to allow users from ethnic minorities to get access to such music?
Arminder Dahul, Gravesend

Does the music industry accept that, by charging artificially high prices for music in the UK, compared to other countries, that they are playing a strong part in driving piracy?
Michelle Knight, Haywards Heath, U.K.

Assuming that the industry gets its act together and comes up with a non-draconian form of DRM that works in a way that both users and the industry can live with, will this mark the end of the "deleted" library of unprofitable-to-distribute media? This would be quite a good carrot to dangle for changing user-behaviour, rather than the current litigation stick.
Richard, Harrogate, UK

Having already purchased music online for a period, I came to a grinding halt because my computer died. On using the backed-up licenses in my new computer, playback gets rejected and I am stuck with tracks I legally own, but cannot play. I still have the actual tracks and license files as the hard drive was saved. So, where do I stand ? It's a mess.
G.Oxford, Southampton

Why were guys in there basement able to get Peer to Peer up and running with limited time and money, and the music biz - with an abundance of both - took five years or more.
Ben Gregory, Rugby

The creators of the music upon which this industry is based are very poorly treated with regard to revenue share, and it is getting worse. Writers/performers only get 9% of CD sales and currently receive even less from downloads, typically around 8%. Record company share of download revenue increases to 68% as opposed to 46% share of revenue from a CD. What share of revenue do the panel think the creators of music should receive?
Dean Whitbread, London, UK

Often less commercial records from the dance\rave\house\trance genres that were quite well known when released are simply not available from legal download sites, meaning you have to resort to an illegal download site, buying the CD album or vinyl to get the one track you want. I would happily rather pay for an MP3 if available.
Tristan Gillard, Worthing, West Sussex

I think there is fundamentally something wrong in asking people to pay for music they have already bought. You can move a CD from one player to another, and you should be able to do the same with downloaded music as long as it is still for your use. What plans do this industry have to ensure customers are not ripped off?
Anthony Davies, Crawley, UK

What is the outlook for CDs? Are they likely to go the way of the vinyl record soon?
Tim Harding, Melbourne, Australia

On the subject of encoding quality, I refuse to pay for any downloadable MP3 with a bitrate of less than 320 kbps. Why does the entire industry seem complicit in maintaining this sham? And why stop us sharing as we have always done? Copying for commercial reproduction clearly comprises an offence, but did "home taping" really kill music?
Corin Luug, London

We have recently seen a rise in the number of former Eastern Bloc countries providing digital downloads targeted at a Western market. Downloads are as little as 10c (US dollars) per track. In the UK we have historically paid more than other countries to access music. Do Western-based download services expect to compete with these offerings, and will steps be taken by the music industry to prevent EU citizens accessing sites outside our borders in the future?
Mickey Kavanagh, London

Many providers of file-sharing technology have been legally forced to change the way they operate (or in some cases, cease operating) because their product enables users to illegally copy copyright protected material. Why hasn't this same route been pursued as regards the providers of hardware and software that enables the same actions when installed on a PC?
Rob Cross, Liverpool

With more than half of the UK now using broadband connections, why aren't digital music downloads offered at a higher quality than 128kbps (even for a premium price)? Though convenience and choice have improved, sound quality has suffered in comparison to ripping from CD.
Paul Watkins, Marlborough, UK

How do you respond to the suggestion that your industry's music distribution strategy and pricing levels are purely driven by greed and short-sightedness, rather than any other motive?
Jeremy, London

Why does the industry insist that DRM is directed against piracy when it is abundantly clear that the only one affected are the normal customers? There is no evidence whatsoever that pirates are deterred in any way by DRM. Isn't the DRM drive solely about changing the public perception from "buying" to "renting" the content?
Vladimir Plouzhnikov, London, UK

A search for any popular band on a P2P site reveals lots of music available for download that is just not available legally - live recordings for instance. The music industry flatly condemns all illegal downloading, but does not offer all the products consumers want for legal download. What alternative do I have if I want to hear my favourite band recorded live, and the music industry won't offer it to me legally?
Ben Frost, London, UK

Why do the record companies say it is illegal to download music from another country if you pay for it, but you are allowed to purchase CDs from another country? What's the difference? Are they not just trying to make the UK pay more for the same thing? Should they not adjust like other industries and face up to the world market?
Mike, West Sussex, UK

It would appear that the prices for MP3 downloads are increasing steadily across the board. Why is this?
Tim Davison, London, UK

I recently was "lent" an album on MP3 by a friend. I was so impressed with that I went out and bought it on CD. I discovered to my annoyance that the CD had "copy protection" so was unable to even play it on a non-windows PC let alone rip the album so that I could play the MP3s on my portable MP3 player. Ridiculously, despite my having bought the album, the only way I can play it (as I don't have a HiFi) is to use the original illegal copy of MP3s I was lent. Is there any way that copy protection could be got rid of for this reason?
Kevin Piotrowicz, Southsea, UK

When a piece of music goes out of copyright, how will the DRM reflect the change in permissions ?
Mike Whittaker, Midlands UK

Do you see the current model of Digital Rights Management as punishing people who have legally purchased music or video by restricting their usage, while illegally downloaded material can be enjoyed much more freely?
Stuart Downes, Birmingham, West Midlands

What is my incentive to buy music online when it is an inferior product to pirated music? I am referring to the huge constraints placed on normal usage by the digital rights management systems. I am also referring to the fact that most music stores offer low bitrate recordings, whereas High bitrate and loss free recordings are readily available from a highly dubious Russian site and on most p2p applications.
Karl, London uk

I wonder if the music industry realizes how many customers they lose by limiting the use of their downloads. I am a 36 year old man who never would buy a full record of any artist, however there must be 5,000 songs that I really would like to buy, and I started to do this when track downloads became available. However, the stupid licensing practice made it impossible for me to listen to the songs as I want.. I bought a car stereo and home stereo with a memory card reader but for what purpose!? Crazy..
Mikael Holmberg, Boras/Sweden

As someone who still loves vinyl and remembers with fondness the days of album sleeves and the associated artwork, notes and lyrics I still prefer to buy an album rather than download it. Will you consider making the CD insert available as a free download to those who have purchased the album via download ?
Gary Warren, Hoddesdon, UK

I cannot transfer songs I have legally purchased on CD to my iPod to listen to. Why do you not have a more effective method that allows owners of Compact Discs to transfer the material to their MP Player whilst restricting copying of it elsewhere? If you must penalise the legitimate consumer by making CDs that aren't compliant, why don't you ensure that the music on each CD can only be played on an iPod or MP3 Player that sources the files from the PC or Mac that encoded the original CD? Your legitimate, law-abiding customers are fed up with being treated like criminals and fed up of buying CDs they can't listen to on their iPods.
Mark Reed, London, England

When I buy a CD, fair use laws allow me to copy that CD for personal use and to put the "real" one somewhere safe. What right does the music industry have to firstly, stop me doing that and secondly tell me that I am a criminal for doing so. I own over 300 albums and there is no way that I am going to pay again for a licence I already own. Why does the BPI not censure it's members when they are caught for price fixing, or in the Sony case, illegally installing viruses on customers machines?
Vish, UK

The year is 2025. I'm 44. Are my kids listening to music in a completely free-access environment, akin to lending at a free library, or is there still a battlefield between the industry and the users?
Brendon Hooper, Liverpool, UK

I am confused about which sites are legal for downloading and which are not. Additionally, how can we know if a site is secure regarding credit card transactions? How can we tell which sites are legal and secure?
Robert Alcock, Greece

Why does the industry persist in thinking that one instance of a copyright infringement (eg download a track/album) means one lost sale? In general, if a track is good, it will get bought - or the downloader might be obtaining a song already owned on another media (e.g. vinyl/cassette).
Pete, Swindon, UK

I have heard that artists make a significant proportion of there money from touring therefore would it not be better to give the music away in a free digital format and have the artist make money only from touring and music videos?
Edward Farnell, Cambridge UK

The big problem facing everybody with regard to digital music is DRM. You, the record industry, want it to protect your income whilst we, the consumers, don't as it restricts our use of a product we have bought.

As the people who want and pay for your products, why do you think we would want DRM, and what benefits do you feel we get from your format wars? Why don't you like your customers to spend money on your products?
Mick Ayling, Reading, UK

Big business can't stand in the way of progress. Music is being stripped of it's baggage and reduced back to a pure art form where only talent and drive will make you popular. Anyone can record and release music onto the internet or sell it via their website. Who needs the corporates?
Xaven Taner, London England

Why do many digital music suppliers operate a 'subscription' service? Why can't we just pay music by the track / album when we download it?
Chris Handy, Bordon, UK

Why are the music industry so hesitant in accepting the digital media format as a new way of distributing music? So far, most of their efforts in this area appear to be focused on stopping people using it rather than embracing it, the classic example being Sony's disastrous attempts to stop CDs being copied with invasive root-kits.
Christian Finden-Crofts, London

What happens if I download tunes from Napster and then Napster goes bust? What if I need my tunes on my desktop PC, my laptop, my girlfriend's PC and her daughter's PC, my work PC as well as the home entertainment PC in the lounge? That's 6 machines. With CDs this isn't a problem.
Jim Coleman, Basingstoke, England

Is the High Street still relevant to new bands?
Derek Mitchell, Bristol, UK

Superlative audio fidelity is now easily affordable and widely available, yet companies that own CD labels also manufacture MP3 devices. Surely they realise that MP3s provide inferior sound quality and greatly diminish revenue for recording artists, CD labels and music retailers. MP3s and file sharing are causing the same continuing decline in CD sales about which they regularly complain. Does one hand not know what the other is doing?
Vincent F. Evans, Victoria, BC, Canada

What steps will you be taking towards DRM in the future? At the minute, I purchase music from Napster (and in the past I've used OD2's MSN Music Services) and I'm very wary about what will happen when I purchase some new computers next year. Surely, at some point, the music industry has to trust its customers with their collection - after all they have made an effort to buy the music and not download it from a P2P network, so surely they should be treated with more respect as to how many times they can burn to CD, copy to a portable device and how many of their own computers they can listen to their music on.
Alastair Maggs, United Kingdom

I regularly use my home network to send audio or video files to my Hi-fi/TV. I have only successfully managed to get this working with files ripped from CD or home movies as DRM gets in the way with any downloaded content. I would like to download more but the fact that where I listen and watch is not the same as where I download causes me problems. Are there plans to get around this?
Julian Bridges, Yateley, Hampshire

As an indie recording artist, are my prospects for financial success enhanced or diminished by the advent of downloads, rather than by disc music delivery?
Adam B, Phoenix, USA

Will the price of tracks or albums be reduced with the more cost-effective digital distribution method? I mean, you don't have to manufacture the CD, package it, send it to the distributor/wholesaler, and finally the shops. With digitally distributed music, the cost must be less. Why are we not seeing a massive cut in the prices of music?
Rowan Smith, Exmouth

People could and should be able to swap (digital) content and cut it to different media just as we have done for decades with tapes and records. If the price point is right, we will still buy content. Why does the industry alienate us by trying to restrict this right as you will never prevent it? The problem is with those who copy for profit and all the effort and publicity should go in this direction.
Stewart MacDuff, Belfast

Digital technology and the internet have de-materialised music, making it endlessly reproducible, weightless and completely transportable. The industry itself seems reluctant to change.

Bearing in mind the benefits they might have - not just to the industry but wider mankind - should the music industry accept that by pushing 'formats' of music and keeping release windows they are perpetuating an outdated business model and move with the times and find a new way of charging?
Paul Valentine, Brentwood, Essex

In the near future, music files will be sent between mobile phone handsets as easily as texts are currently. How will the industry respond to this new type of file-sharing to ensure that users still view music as having money value and artists receive some kind of income?
Greg Marshall, London England

I would be much more likely to pay for digital media if the quality was on par with CD - ie MP3 format at least 192kbps quality or AAC at at least 160kbps. will this ever happen?
Graham McDonald, Addlestone, Surrey

The biggest issue I have with current music distribution are the licence limitations. It prevent or inhibits me from making the music available on multiple formats, backing it up and maintaining it.

What about providing a fee-based certificate that enables me to get a copy if I lose my hard disk, get upgraded albums (like when a special edition is released I don't have to re-buy the original I already own)?
Marcus Pol, Wellington, New Zealand

What role will music video, as a source of revenue, play in the future? And to what extent will the use of music video as marketing tool play?
Chris Bridgman, Southsea, UK

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