Survey Says: Give Those Kids a Blanket Buffet

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Does the future of the recording industry depend on an ISP-level, buffet-style access model?

According to a recent, UK-based survey conducted by British Music Rights (BMR), the answer might be yes.

The study, shared last week at industry get-together London Calling, indicated that music fans – and younger fans especially – would be receptive to an all-access payment model that mirrors current, P2P-based experiences.  “These findings suggest that the typical music consumer would prefer to pay a monthly tariff at a level sufficient to compensate rights owners through their broadband or mobile network provider,” the report indicated.

The service would allow users to “fill their MP3 players and mobile phones with a wide range of digital music,” “rate, recommend and share this music liberally with family, friends, and on social networking sites,” and transfer content between different environments, all characteristics currently offered by free services like LimeWire.

The survey, a collaborative effort with the University of Hertfordshire, found that three-out-of-four respondents favored a legal file-sharing service, with few strings (DRM, tethered access) attached.  The survey also found that participating users would still purchase tangible goods like CDs and merchandise, but only for favorite artists.

Unsurprisingly, the BMR report found that younger people placed immense value upon their music collections.  Presented with the classic desert island question, respondents chose their music collections above all other options, including mobile devices.

But when the discussion turned to actual pounds and pence, those valuations suddenly vanished.  “Despite the huge amount of time that respondents commit to listening to music, and the very high emotional attachment they place on their music collection, there is a gaping disconnect between the monetary value that respondents place on music, and the proportion of their income that they spend on music,” the report asserted.

The report comes alongside stepped-up negotiations between various music industry factions and access providers in Britain.  According to insiders, negotiations are being spurred by increased governmental pressure, and the possibility of a legislative solution to massive music piracy.

Meanwhile, British label organization BPI has been advancing a more punitive approach, including a three-strikes enforcement policy, though ISPs have traditionally resisted interventionist approaches.

Story by publisher Paul Resnikoff in London.