By Kim Tong-hyung
The digital era has revolutionized how music is distributed, but not as much how songs are priced nearly-uniformly, as if they were milk.
As they did with CDs, record labels settled on a price they thought was the magic spot between popularity and profitability, which happened to be 600 won (53 cents) per download, and applied it to the works of most artists they have under contract.
It now appears this business model is facing challenges, both from music companies that are more willing to experiment and singers who want greater control over how their music is distributed and consumed.
Cho Yong-pil, a 63-year-old pop musician who enjoys iconic status here, has recorded his new songs in premium quality and expects listeners to pay more for them.
According to his management agency, songs from his new album, Hello, will be downloadable on music site Groovers (www.groovers.com) at around 1,800 to 2,400 won.
At the other end of the spectrum is Jang Kiha and The Faces, one of the countrys most popular indie rock bands, which is going the Thom Yorke route in experimenting with the pay what you want model.
The band released its new single, It Was Good When It Lasted, through the website of Hyundai Card Music, the credit-card firms entertainment unit, on March 29.
As of Thursday, the song had been downloaded by 1,108 customers who paid a combined 1.87 million won, which translates to about 1,694 won per download.
G-Dragon, the leader of popular K-pop band Big Bang, is selling his new song, MichiGo, through smartphone chat programs. Subscribers to the Naver Line instant messaging service can listen to the song for $2.99.
Female vocalist Siwa is distributing her four new songs via e-mail for 6,000 won.
While its premature to declare the 600-won-for-every-song model is dead, some industry officials believe this could be the beginning of more meaningful changes in the music industry and its content value chain.
Right now the experiments are led by musicians who are established and can afford to try different things.
While they represent the minority, they seem to be successfully developing new ways to approach their customers and move their products, and this could sow the seeds for bigger changes, said an official from the music business division of NHN, which operates Naver Line.