The musician Peter Gabriel has told the BBC about his ambitions for a new website that will distribute free music – legitimately.
The former singer with prog rock group Genesis has established the We7 website as a place that will benefit both music fans and musicians. Users will be able to download music for free, but adverts that are “grafted” onto each track will provide a source of income for artists.
We7 aims to be one of the major music download destinations within months.
“If you have really good focus, if you have a database of fans – however small – you have the potential for an economy that will allow artists to survive,” he told the BBC World Service’s Digital Planet programme.
I do think it’s fair that the people who generate content get something for it
“The other thing you have to look at is if music is all out there and available for free, are there any ways of still deriving an income from that music?”
We7 is not Peter Gabriel’s first foray into digital music.
In 1999, he set up OD2, a music download service selling individual tracks. He built it up to a database of approximately 350,000 tracks before selling it on to US digital music distributor Loudeye in 2004.
Gabriel has long been a pioneer of music distribution over the internet
We7, which has the slogan “Don’t steal it – We7 it”, works using MediaGraft technology, a service that puts adverts onto music and video downloads.
Mr Gabriel said he hoped the ad-embedded approach would not put people off, because it would be geared towards advertising “useful stuff”.
But he said that more important was the change in attitude from record industry executives, who had previously baulked at the idea of legitimate free music downloads.
He told Digital Planet: “A lot of people under the age of 30 do not buy music anymore, and I think record executives are noticing their kids doing what every other kid is doing, and they, and artists, have to say, ‘how do we deal with this?'”
“Established artists like me are going to find all sorts of ways, and you shouldn’t worry about us. But you should worry about young artists coming through, and, in our field, world music – a lot of those artists have had 50-60% of their income from record sales.
“So if that’s gone, that’s a huge thing.”
Mr Gabriel added that the site was setting up a completely new model of providing a “real source of income” for artists who do not benefit from pirate downloads.
He hoped that by doing this, the site could occupy a “new territory” that sits between sites that sell music downloads and file-sharing sites.
“All this stuff is moving around freely, and I think that’s really important – it’s a great leveller for the world,” he said.
“At the same time, I do think it’s fair that the people who generate content get something for it. “And we’ve seen time and time again, where there are flat-rate payments, that artists are right at the bottom of the feeding chain.”