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UAE’s online music sales just can’t hit the high note

UAE’s online music sales just can’t hit the high note

Get your act together, music industry! The more you delay offering us legit music, the more you force us to go bootleg.

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September 21, 2011 3:01 by



Most of us have smartphones, have a desire to acquire tablets and lament about the sorry state of prices and speed of the internet. Add to the numerous research of how the UAE is one of the tech-savvy countries in the region, averaging about two phones a person.

So why is it that we can’t seem to get a decent platform for digitizing the purchase of music?

Last week when Virgin Megastore launched its third UAE flagship store in Dubai Mall, Nisreen Shocair said that the company has plans to launch an online service to sell music. She said they had been planning months, if not years, before but that that the region “just wasn’t ready for it yet.”

Having been in the region for more years than Kipp wants the count, it WAS true that most people questioned the security of online purchasing. But over the years, it’s evident that this has just become an excuse for banks to not have to create the proper online payment systems.

In the early days of GoNabit, for example, the payment system was one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) hurdles the company faced. The company, in fact, has had to develop its own system for the bank to implement to make the online group-buying payment method work.

Speak to GoNabit CEO Dan Stuart and he’ll tell you that it wasn’t that nobody in the region buys online, it’s that there are no local online shopping options. Indeed, shops like Amazon, net-a-porter and eBay are making bank from this region because they have no local competition.

Now focus that weak online commercial infrastructure on the music business and what we’ve got is a fat zero. EMI has even pulled the plug on its Souq.com store. Get this: It was closed not because nobody was buying their products but because it was a ‘logistics nightmare for delivering CDs’.

Really? There must be a juicier reason than this. A partnership fallout?  Plans to open your own online store? A new partnership? Anything. Just don’t tell me delivery is the reason. Yes, logistics of delivering goods door-to-door can be a pain but fastfood chains, courier services and even dry cleaners do it ALL THE TIME. What is the big hubbub?

What irks me as well is that the product in question doesn’t necessarily have to be a tangible, physical product. It’s music. We carry it in our iPods, MP3s and phones every day. It’s on our laptops and tablets.

We can go through the excuse of the tedious nature of getting copyright for each country and each music label for each song. And while that’s important, music producers and companies like EMI and Virgin Megastore need to understand that every minute they hold out on this service, means another minute of pushing customers to go bootleg. Sure CD sales are still there. But the reality is peer-to-peer sharing has made it so easy for people to get the songs illegally. The absence of a proper legal way to purchase music digitally is just aiding the rise of illegal peer downloads, regardless of how many physical stores are open.

And Virgin Megastore knows it too, why else would they branch out into creating ‘zones’ to offer ‘different experiences’ for users instead of just bare bones selling of music CDs? Because music can be sourced from so many other outlets and Virgin has to offer something beyond that.

Kipp can only imagine how many people are just waiting with wallets open for the time when they can easily purchase a song (ala iTunes style) and start playing it on their MP3s and tablets within seconds of buying the product. What a missed opportunity.

Get your act together, music industry! The more you delay offering us legit music, the more you force us to go bootleg.

So do something already. Don’t make me sound like a broken record.



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