The big four music labels – EMI, Warner, Sony and Universal – have agreed to a deal with Bigpond Music, which promises to make life a whole lot easier for those of us that are willing to pay for the music we obtain online.

The deal involves the four companies teaming up with independent labels and Bigpond for a new, less restrictive music service. The service will:

“...sell music in an MP3 format that can be played on iPods as well as Sony Walkmans and other digital music players.

Users will also be able to burn the songs to CD and share the files an unlimited number of times, unlike WMA and AAC downloads from BigPond Music and other sites, including Apple’s iTunes Store.

This certainly is a relief to me – or would have been a few years ago when I was first investigating music on the web. I would buy songs on iTunes and then find I was unable to send them to my friends, unable to burn them to CD, unable to do anything with them but play them on my Ipod.

Concerned about the ethics (and obviously unlikely but still possible – lawsuits) I didn’t download music illegally off the web.

Instead I got my friends who illegally downloaded to send me their libraries (still unethical but slightly more appeasing to my guilty conscience).

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Is it a case of too little, too late, for companies trying to sell music online? Perhaps the fearful and guilty (such as myself) might be lured back to paying for their songs. However, I doubt the prolific downloaders of Napster and Kazaa will be so easily won over.

I think it boils down to the now well entrenched idea that the internet, and all it brings, is free. Now that this ethos has been adopted by Generation Y, it will be hard to change for some years yet. You can read a blog on that subject here.  A similar problem exists, I speculate, with paying for online news.

Photo: Brian Lane Winfield Moore

Generation Y

Generation Y are now used to free content on the Internet