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Pay for free lunch

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-31 17:55
Pay for free lunch

The search for resurrection in the recording business is never-ending. But unlike movies, recorded music is easier to download and few mind the loss in sound quality. Worse, people are accustomed to getting it for free.

There have been rumblings in recent months that July 1 is to be the magical day that music distribution in China swerves from rampant piracy to law-abiding, fee-collecting happily-ever-after.

Pay for free lunch

According to Gao Xiaosong, a noted musician, several forces are converging toward legal distribution of music in China. For one thing, many of the big record labels have reached an agreement to offer for-fee downloading, and to make it palatable they have lowered their asking price.

You cannot blame Gao for being a Pollyanna. The composer of many of the most popular tunes over the past two decades has been making a comfortable living - not from writing new hit songs, but from serving as a guest on TV talent shows and hosting an online talk show. Media reports mentioned he had tears in his eyes when he announced the date that musicians like him will be able to earn real money doing what they are supposed to do. "The day will finally come before I reach my retirement," he said.

I sincerely hope those tears of happiness do not turn into tears of bitterness.

I do not believe for a minute that July 1 will be the day of reckoning for digital pirates. There is simply no silver bullet for the quagmire that the recording industry is in - or has been in for close to two decades. When the US was talking about the decline of the business, it had long been dead in China - so dead that calling it a business carries a whiff of irony.

The demise of the music business, or more accurately the recording business, started with new technology. When a disc containing a collection of songs can be easily copied, without losing anything in quality, you know the legal operators are doomed.

When I first returned to China from the US in the late 1990s, I calculated that what I shelled out for one album in the States could get me as many as 28 in China. And the variety was bigger than that of a city library in the States. If you insist on buying legit, you have an extremely limited selection and the price is often higher than in the States.

Pay for free lunch

Pay for free lunch

 Hip is a 'smart' start  Translation misery

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