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UK Music secret data: 'Young people will pay for downloads'

Response to government may have legal undertones

A music trade body has kept secret the results of asking 1,800 young people how much they would pay for a limitless download service. UK Music chief executive Feargal Sharkey told OUT-LAW Radio the information was commercially sensitive.

UK Music carried out a survey of 1,800 British people between the ages of 14 and 24 and published many of the results two weeks ago. But Sharkey revealed in an interview with technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio that it asked the young people what they would pay for an unlimited legal downloads service.

The young people revealed in the survey that they enjoyed using streaming services but still participated in illegal downloading because they liked to own material. Many illegal downloaders said they would use a legal service if it was cheap enough.

"We did ask the question, which we've not made public simply because it is commercial information, as to what young people felt they would pay on a monthly basis for a service like that," he said. "I'm not sure I would personally use the word cheap. They quite clearly place a very high value on music."

Sharkey's hints that users are prepared to pay more than expected for such a service could provide a boost to an industry trying to find services attractive enough to entice users away from illegal downloading.

The emerging popularity of streaming services such as Spotify has given the industry some hope, but the participants in UK Music's survey made it clear that they felt streaming services were useful but no substitute for download services.

Sharkey would not be drawn on the stance of UK Music – which represents record labels, managers, writers and musicians – on this week's Government U-turn on disconnecting alleged file sharers. The Government extended its Digital Britain consultation period this week to allow time for responses on its plan, which does not involve court oversight.

Sharkey said that UK Music would be having a board meeting in September to decide its stance, but did say that something had to be done.

"Let's say you develop a graduated response that has got 95 steps. So you've now asked somebody 95 times very nicely and very politely can you please stop doing that and 95 times they've refused to," he said. "What do you do?"

UK Music has ruled out backing civil court actions against individuals, saying they are "unproductive".

The OUT-LAW Radio report and interview with Feargal Sharkey, wittily entitled 'Teenage Clicks', can be accessed here.

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