McGill University academic and ex-Clash producer Sandy Pearlman has met with Apple to discuss new ways to save the recording industry from illegal downloads.

His plans, revealed at the Canadian Music Week conference in Toronto last week, involve putting all recorded music on a search engine such as iTunes, and charging just five cents a song.

The assumption is that if songs cost only 5 cents, people would download more music. Even the head of the British recording industry, speaking at the same conference, suggested that music companies need to get used to the idea of selling more music to more people more often, but for less money.

Pearlman intends to get the additional money for the recording industry by placing a 1 per cent sales tax on Internet services and new computers, two industries that many argue have profited enormously from rampant file-sharing, but haven't had to compensate artists, writes The Globe and Mail.

Pearlman predicts that the extra windfall for musicians and those who own the publishing rights to the songs could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Users of file-sharing services made roughly 25 billion unauthorized downloads last year, dwarfing the legitimate music industry.

Cents makes sense

Pearlman added that nothing concrete is in the works with Apple beyond talks but he believes Apple should simply be charging 5 cents instead of 99 cents a song. "This would bring in millions upon millions of more customers," he predicted.

Pearlman even suggested that companies like Apple and Yahoo should simply buy up the world's four major recording labels.

However, the recording industry argues that Pearlman's plan would "violate every international intellectual property law that Canada has signed in the last 100 years."

Richard Pfohl, general council for the Canadian Recording Industry Association said it would also obliterate musicians' choices on how their music could be sold by conscripting them into a 5-cents-a-song system. And it would destroy record companies' incentive to invest in new acts.