• Irish music download site launched (SBP – 17th September 2006)

    I’m a week late; this article was published in the Media & Marketing section of the Sunday Business Post last Sunday:

    With the digital download market providing companies like Apple with huge financial gains in recent years, it’s no surprise to see other companies attempt to mimic their success. However, while most online music start-ups tend to follow the same format as big players, a new Irish site, Downloadmusic.ie, is hoping to use the internet to promote independent local artists instead of mega-stars.

    ‘‘There has always been a high level of support for independent music in Ireland,” said Sean Beirne, head of the website.

    ‘‘We’re offering people decent music that may not be chart-topping, mainstream stuff but that is as good in quality as anything else.”

    While starting a music download site is nothing new, Beirne says that until now many Irish artists found it difficult to get involved with the bigger services: ‘‘We’ve found that while places like iTunes don’t stop independent artists from joining it can be very difficult to get music on the service.

    “Some people I’ve spoken to have been waiting months.”

    Launched in late August, the site already boasts over 100 artists.

    Visitors can listen to 30-second previews of each song available and customers who have downloaded tracks are able to leave a review. The site also features a gig guide.

    The main focus of the site, however, is the Top 30 singles chart, which is updated every Friday to reflect the most popular artists and songs of the week before. ‘‘The chart introduces some healthy competition between bands. It will also benefit the artists at the top because of the curiosity factor many viewers will have – they’ll want to see what made the song sell so well,” says Beirne.

    Each download costs 99 cent, the same as a track on services such as iTunes.

    One of the more important selling points of the service is that none of the tracks features DRM (Digital Rights Management), which is software built into a file that can limit its use.

    Some music-file DRMs limit the type of portable music player the device can be used on, or how many times the track can be copied to CD.

    ‘‘We don’t encourage piracy, obviously, but artists have said to me they’d rather have 100,000 listeners than 10,000 sales. This way makes it easier for the music to get heard,” said Beirne.

    At present, the site only accepts PayPal for purchases.

    However, there are plans to introduce an SMS-purchase scheme eventually that will allow users to text the name of a song and have it downloaded to their account; there is even the possibility of it being sent directly to their mobile phone.

    While the Irish charts were recently updated to include digital downloads, artists featured on Downloadmusic.ie are unlikely to enjoy the benefits just yet.

    ‘‘We’ve spoken to IRMA and there are a number of issues, one main one being that artists need a physical CD in a shop in order to be considered,” said Beirne.

    ‘‘We’re hoping to show that there are many Irish artists who cannot put out CDs nationwide but who have a following.

    ‘‘From the artists’ point of view, it’s unfortunate. It would be a pity to see someone selling hundreds of tracks a week without getting a chart spot for that. We hope IRMA will eventually change their policy.”