After years of attacking networks such as Napster and Kazaa as havens where young punks circumvent copyright laws and download illegal music files that they then share with their friends, killing an artist’s ability to make a decent living, music industry veterans have started to actually support downloading music online.

Why the about face? Why the flip-flop? It’s simple economics – it could help the dwindling music industry’s bottom line. The main theme at this weekend’s Midem Conference in France – one of the music industry’s largest – was how to make paying for downloads more appealing to music listeners.

This move shows the true nature of the music industry. The crackdowns on online downloading wasn’t to help struggling artists or to protect the jobs of those who work in music but don’t see the big pay checks – sound technicians, etc.

It has always been to fatten the already heavy wallets of a few company bigwigs and their artists. It was to ensure that Lars Ulrich would get that gold plated swimming pool in his backyard or Britney Spears that larger private jet – thank you “South Park.”

Affordable music downloads can actually be the godsend the music industry has been waiting for. Sure, when compared to something that’s free, music listeners are going to seek the free downloads, but it’s not necessarily due to price – it’s also due to quality.

Most of the Web sites, when first launched, offered pricey yet low quality libraries of about three songs from three artists nobody ever heard of.

If industry executives still feel that consumers will not pay for online downloads, they need look no further than Apple’s iPod and iTunes, which have contributed to the tenfold increase in legally downloaded music. While this amount does not outweigh the number of free music downloads, it is a start.

Listeners are also introduced to many new artists by downloading music. I know that not everyone that hears a song goes to buy the album, but many do, and many more go to the concerts or buy the merchandise of their newly discovered favorites.

It’s time for the music industry to realize that Internet downloading is here to stay and could be a groundbreaker in the industry if they can provide more songs by a greater number of artists at a higher quality than the peer-to-peer sharing sites that still dominate. Sadly, it took the industry years and pure profit motive to begin this realization. And it’s time for the music industry to realize one other thing – it wasn’t music downloads that caused the recent decline in past years – it was crappy music at high prices.

Allard can be reached at

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