ISPs take lead in poll of music providers

Top source of tracks for nearly half surveyed

CANNES -- A majority of music fans polled in the U.S., the U.K. and France say they go to internet service providers for their music, according to a survey published at the annual MidemNet, the digital-music forum that precedes music industry gathering Midem.

The survey said that 46% of those polled identified ISPs as their top source of tracks, with 10% preferring cable/satellite TV providers, 5% using mobile operators and just 3% depended on handset manufacturers.

The poll, provided by researchers Leading Question and strategy company Music Ally, was presented as major players including Google, MySpace Music, Nokia, Blackberry and traditional music suppliers gathered to discuss the way forward for what used to be called the recording industry.

Indications of the economic downturn were everywhere as seats were plentiful at MidemNet sessions, high-profile executives were spotted sitting in economy on flights to Nice, and complaints were many about the price of food and drink given the strength of the Euro.

One of the liveliest sessions involved former EMI CEO Eric Nicoli, now chairman of movie chain Vue Entertainment and R&R Music in the U.K.; Ian Rogers, CEO of Topspin in the U.S.; and Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3Tunes in the U.S. Since Robertson is currently being sued by EMI, he was on a video link from the States and said it was a mistake for the majors to be suing technologies. Nicoli responded, "We were not suing technologies, but people who use technology and knowingly break the law shouldn't be shocked or offended if somebody brings them up on it."

Nicoli agreed that ISPs have a role to play in minimizing illegal traffic, but Rogers said, "I don't see ISPs as needing to be the police or gatekeeper."

Robertson suggested that pirate sites were "the beacon" for the future. "I think innovation is out there, but you have to look underground, and the industry would be well-served by spending some time on pirate sites, seeing what they're doing and then giving commercial options that mirror what consumers are saying they want," Robertson said.

Meanwhile, the Isle of Man -- a self-governing British Crown Dependency situated in the Irish Sea that has made a success of providing international financial services -- announced a plan for licensing telecom companies and ISPs on the island. The scheme is proposed as a model to see if operations using a blanket monthly fee for legal digital music would prove commercial. EMI is said to be in talks on the project.