Thursday, 10 July 2014

Music industry gearing up for digital future

Despite the scourge of pirated CDs and illegal music downloads seriously threatening local digital music sales, Myanmar artist are tapping into digital music in anticipation of the country’s first digital revolution.

Given its shoddy digital infrastructure, snail-paced internet speed and low digital quotient, it would be quite a while before that revolution comes knocking on Myanmar’s doors. However, the music industry, arguably the most progressive of all sectors, is charging ahead into a digital future by undergoing a slow-motion digital transformation with CDs, VCDs and DVDs still being the order of the day.

What really constitutes a quantum leap forward in Myanmar’s pursuit of the digital age is the launch of the country’s first “à la carte” online music store last October.

The store charges Ks 1,800 (US$ 1.86) for a new album and Ks 1,500 (US$1.55) for an older one. Singles are available for Ks 300 (31 cents) apiece. Local buyers can download purchased tracks on their mobile phones through an SMS service or prepaid cards. For overseas buyers, payment is only accepted through PayPal, Visa, and Master cards. To mark the launch, the store released “Diary”, a new single by the rocker Lay Phyu, with 4,000 downloads in three days.

“Actually, online stores have come too early given the state of Myanmar’s technological infrastructure. However, the Myanmar Music Store is a decade behind the iTunes store. It would be a short while before the new phone lines and high speed internet become available following the government’s granting of licences to telecoms companies. So the online market might become a big one. That’s why online stores are important. Down the line they will solve the piracy problem in the music industry,” said Ko Lwin, the founder of Myanmar Music Store.

Ko envisions a future in which digital music spending is greater than sales of CDs in Myanmar. Indeed statistics have shown the world is moving in that direction.

Global online music sales nearly doubled in 2006 to about $2 billion, or 10 percent of all sales, but failed to compensate for an overall decline in sales of CDs, according to a report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). But six years later, digital downloads overtook physical music sales in the US for first time with digital album sales passing the 100m mark and physical sales falling 5% to 228m.

While taking the global trends seriously, Myanmar artists have embraced digital music in a big way. Hot on the heels of Lay Phyu’s commercial success, other artists look set to follow suit.

“It takes some time to release an album as we have to go through many processes. Sometimes, artists don’t want to release a full album. They may want to release just a mini-album with a selection of songs of their choice. The online music store is very convenient to us as we can release our latest songs to the audience right away,” said Myo Kyawt Myaing, adding that his new release, “Ta Phat Soon Gita”, was released last May.

Yet music fans here can’t resist the temptation to buy cheap pirated CDs that cost Ks300 per album, or download one for free from the internet. Until Myanmar comes up with proper measures to protect intellectual property rights and close the existing legal loopholes, the digital music industry won’t make much progress.

source: Eleven Myanmar
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