Online adults won't pay for music downloads

Most don't use their PCs as hi-fi kit, that's why

If the music industry thinks it can make money charging for digital music downloads, it can think again - punters just aren't interested in paying for music online.

So concludes G2, yet another subsidiary of research colossus Gartner Group, after surveying the purchasing plans and habits of 4000 online adults.

Tellingly, only half of them use their PCs to listen to CDs. Only a quarter listen to downloaded music. So 50 per cent of the sample don't play music at all on their computers.

That would seem to clash with the widely-held perception that PC owners use their machines to listen to music. Certainly plenty of kids and college students do so, but it's interesting that the demographic with the higher disposable income don't.

We can't say we're surprised. Older, wealthier folk tend to be happy to buy hi-fi kit and would generally rather listen to music from the comfort of the armchair than hunched up in front of a PC. Digital music is more likely to have a future if it's accessible from the living room through the usual kit, than from the PC in the spare room.

Equally essential to that future, we reckon, is a universal pay, download and play system. Who wants to load up a different client every time they want to download and listen to something?

G2 concurs. "Digital distribution needs to be brain-dead simple for consumers, and any digital rights management solution deployed should work with all music software and hardware," said analyst P J McNealy.

"The percentage of Internet music buyers is not likely to increase with new Internet services being developed by the big five music companies unless they make their copyright protection systems more flexible to entice consumers."

Absolutely. But don't expect it any time soon. Sony has come together with Vivendi Universal to form Pressplay; BMG, EMI and AOL Time Warner have MusicNet; but the two aren't the truly compatible. All will work in Windows, but it's not clear to what extent Mac and Linux clients will be supported. ®

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