Steve Purdham is the CEO and founder investor in ads-supported free music play, We7.
We7 is an innovative music service, offering music for free on an ad-supported model. The service gives users lots of control – they can choose specific tracks, stream them, share them with others, and can buy them if they wish.
The service offers free music by dynamically grafting short audios ads. “This way, you can enjoy downloading and streaming music for free, safe in the knowledge that the artists, composers and rights owners will still get paid for their creative work,” the company website says. And if you don’t want the ads, you can buy the track to get rid of them.
The former DJ turned technology entrepreneur is still passionate about music – he’s always happy to talk about how he thinks it’s going to evolve. We caught up with him for a reality check on what’s happening to the future of music.
Q: Who are you, how did you get here
Purdham: Basically I build companies from scratch to hopefully something meaningful, primarily technology based companies, the last couple were Internet Security. I initially invested in the We7 idea along with Peter Gabriel but the idea is so irrationally seductive I also opted to run the business and became CEO.
Q: What is We7 – what is it doing now, what does it aim to do?
Purdham: We7 is a bridge between the paid-for music world and the world of music piracy, by providing a legal alternative to stealing. The idea is to use ads to pay for the fact that music is being consumed, discovered and shared so that fans get free music, advertisers gets audiences and the best thing – rights owners get paid.
We go a little further by giving the fans the choice: they can discover listen and share music for free with ads and then buy the music they love for download
Q: Is file-sharing the music industry demon, or a change agent to shake up a business in stasis?
Purdham: File-sharing is just technology, like electric light. It cannot be a demon, it has become a change agent because of the industries reluctance to change in the face of consumer’s demanding access to more music that they could discover, share and consume. The problem is that with no formal economic infrastructure in place [Editor Note: I think Steve means this was becausethe labels didn’t respond to demand fast enough] ‘free’ became the default.
Q: What’s your vision for music industry change?
Purdham: The top line is that music is valuable for many reasons – not least for just getting the hairs to stand up on your neck. That value has to be recognized, but what is that value?
– To a extreme fan music is priceless; to an interested but not fussed individual it may be worth a listen if there is no cost (at least to them). In that context the Internet is just a delivery van which can get music to the ears of an audience as big or small, as generic or niche as required. There’s no longer one economic model where one size fits all but we have to allow a wide spectrum of different models…premium products, a la carte downloads, subscription based services, ads-funded services – whatever can be imagined.
Consumers will decide what works for them, we just have to give them the choices.
Q: Apple, iTunes, iPod – friend of foe..
Purdham: Friend, they made it happen without them the 4 billion tracks that have been bought would have still been downloaded in some matter, so they show what can be done.
Q: Should all music have the same price?
Purdham: No – infinite pricing rules , we are surrounded by examples of different pricing.
Think about a can of Coke: Free at a promotion based gig, 30-p from Macro, £1 at the supermarket; £1.50 in the pub; £2 at a nightclub; £5 in a posh hotel mini-bar and priceless to a man dying of thirst
Music is the same – that is why the more digital models that come life the more we can ‘mine’ the value.
Q: Should we put everything online, a cultural melting pot, and see what happens?
Purdham: You ask this as if it is a choice, everything is or will be online – that is why we have to find the way to track (not block) and monetize and be part of making it happen rather than watch (and moan) about it happening.
This is why as a technologist I keep putting up the warning that the difference between streaming and downloading will be undetectable within the next iteration of technological change, yet the music industry is hell bent on producing models based on these fading technological differences. That will cause another crisis.
The celestial jukebox is very practical, we are closer to the point where any track can be played at anytime from anywhere.
At the moment it’s messy and you need to know what you are doing but that is becoming easier almost every day, so the future is simple you want music, you select the song and it plays. The hard bit is deciding whether you are going to pay for that or if somebody else – an advertiser perhaps – pays on your behalf.