Fairsharemusic: Legal and ethical musical downloading

Fairsharemusic opened its doors this week, offering a music download service with a difference - because if you use fairsharemusic, you'll not only have access to download over 8.5 million tracks from many of the major labels, you'll also be raising money for charity at the same time too.

We spoke to fairsharemusic co-founders Lee Cannon and Jonny Woolf, veterans of the music biz and guys who have worked with charity organisations such as Live Aid and The Secret Policeman's Ball, to find out exactly what it's all about.

“The music download market is growing at a rapid rate," said Cannon. "And what we wanted to do was try and inspire people to, not only download music legally, but to also help a bunch of really worth causes too.”

They do this by offering up a MP3 download service (DRM free, 320kbps) that is powered by 7digital. Prices are on a par with the likes of Amazon and iTunes, although you will make significant savings if you download a whole album rather than going track-by-track.

When you use the service you also get access to a digital locker where your downloads are stored. This way you can download the same track you've paid for up to five times. Handy if you're at work for example and you want to listen to a track you've paid for but only loaded onto your iPod that you've left at home.

The key difference with fairsharemusic's service though, is it states it will give at least 50 per cent of its net profit to its charity partners, which include Amnesty International, British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, Centrepoint, Friends of the Earth, Great Ormond Street Hospital, NSPCC, Oxfam, Sue Ryder Care, Teenage Cancer Trust and WWF.

The way it works is quite simple. For example, if a tune cost 79p the 57p goes to the record label, 12p goes to tax, 3p goes to the banks authorising the payments and the remaining 3p goes to charity. For a £7.99 album, 32p would go to charity. Doesn't sound much? Well, it all adds up as Cannon explains:

“We're trying to get people to buy albums. If you got 100,000 active users and they download one album a month for the next year, we'll raise over half a million pounds for charity.”

That's a big sum of money that would otherwise be gobbled up by businesses. Cannon is keen to stress though, that it isn't all about the charities, it's also about giving people, who might not usually pay for music, the opportunity to get music legally and put something back into the industry.

“Piracy is one of our industries toughest challenges," he said. "We wanted to find a way of doing our bit to help fight that too. And we felt that by embedding generosity into music we could help to inspire and motivate, and particularly, educate a younger audience into supporting their favourite artists and at the same time do a whole heap of good for some good causes.”

“The great thing about the younger audience is they tend to be huge fans of the bands they support. Money is the life blood of the industry in terms of investment into new music. I'm really keen to get that message across that if we want to see great, new British artists coming through then there needs to be money being pumped back into the system.”

So there you have it, fairsharemusic is not only a charity do-gooder, it might also be a viable solution for getting money back into the music industry. An industry that has got to adapt to the digital revolution, rather than constantly berating it.

Is a charity sweetener going to make people more willing to pay for music? Maybe, only time will tell. What is obvious is that you may as well use fairsharemusic now if the tracks you want are on there and they're not more expensive than where you usually buy from.

After all you may as well be giving some money to some worthwhile causes, rather than putting it in Steve Jobs' back pocket. He's doing okay already as it is.

Check out, and sign up for fairsharemusic here.



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