The Internet has made a huge number of things easier to do. The processes of disintermediation, whereby a supply chain is shortened by ‘cutting out the middle man’ and simplification, whereby complex transactions are reduced to a ‘one click’ action have meant that we can now conduct transactions across a vast range of products, services and geographies. For the past few years, for example, we have bought gifts from friends and family online rather than buying stuff locally, packing it up and posting it. So a customer from Dubai can review, select and buy a product from Latin America from a French website and have it shipped to Scotland – and do it in a few minutes. If you stop to think about that, it’s pretty mad.
But one area where the Internet has actually complicated things is in music. You see, I can’t buy music online, unless I buy and ship a CD to myself. Apple’s iTunes service doesn’t support the Middle East and neither does Amazon.com or Napster – if anyone out there knows of a company that will sell music to the Middle East, please do tell me. In the meantime, I’ve used my UK credit card and a UK address, so now I’m buying music from America using a fake British identity and sending it to Dubai. Which is also mad, albeit a different mad.
And don’t even get me started on the brilliant online music streaming service Pandora. That’s closed to us and I’d have bought a huge amount more music if it wasn’t.
What’s amazing about this is that the music industry is complaining about online piracy and the like – it’s hardly any wonder that people unable to get the legal product will buy the illegal one. And in the Middle East they are doing so in remarkable numbers. In fact, one Lebanese colleague was famously surprised to be told that you could actually buy music online rather than downloading it from a sharing site.
So I was delighted to read in that rather natty newspaper The National that GETMO Arabia has been launched – a download site that offers access to online music, movies and the like. Over 800,000 titles, apparently. It’s nice and easy, you just go to www.getmo.com and sign up. The site looks smart enough, the log-in process is simple and effective. It’s great all the way up to actually buying some music. For a start the selection is extremely limited – you’ll find way more choice at the airport duty free. And when you actually do find something you want to buy (it did take me a while. I’m not your average R&B buying Dubai punter) you discover that you’re expected to subscribe – at a hefty €5 per month if you want unlimited downloads – the next plan down at €2 per month supports a whole three downloads. And that before you even get told what price each download is!
So that’s where I stopped. Because I’m not paying €5 per month for unlimited access to a highly limited choice of music at an unknown price. Nope, I’ll stick with my daft iTunes account – and feel sorry for anyone that doesn’t have a UK address and credit card up their sleeves, because the region’s music fans – and music industry – still doesn’t have a decent download site that can be accessed from here.
And that ensures the online music piracy in the Middle East will go on. You have to admire the music industry – a bunch of yo-yo toting cretins if ever there were one.