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The European Commission has approved a French scheme to subsidise music downloads for 15-25 year olds. The taxpayer will contribute €25 per user per year to every "Carte Musique" cardholder, which entitles the user to €50 worth of downloads. The cardholder will stump up the other half of the cost of the card.

The proposal had been pending EC approval, which has now been granted in the name of "preserving pluralism and cultural diversity".

Good news for downloaders, no doubt, and a delight for record companies and publishers. But is it good for the music business in the long run?

A lack of business innovation plagues the music biz, where supply side reform is long overdue. Licensing music is tedious and territorial, and the mentality is stuck on unit shifting rather than licensing. So instead of trying to create new markets, with new and innovative products and services that we can't even imagine yet - the industry may be tempted to view the taxpayer-funded boondoggle as a permanent handout. From Mystery Train to Gravy Train, if you like.

You also may feel a shudder when a cultural industry starts to rely on bureaucrats and politicians for its income. That's not very rock and roll - nor is it very healthy for its independence in the long run.

But then this is France. ®

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