BitDepth 663 - January 20

An annual report on and their Free + Legal campaign to popularise legal music downloads.
Local downloads, 13 months later

Roses Hezekiah and Lorraine O'Connor of at their Woodbrook office. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

The evidence of Trinidad and Tobago's romance with stolen property is on every corner of our major towns and cities, stacked on the rolling carts and wooden shelves that offer stolen copies of movies and music.
If the police don't really care that much about the problem, Roses Hezekiah, Lorraine O'Connor and Jean Michel Gibert did. Thirteen months ago, they did something about it. was launched to offer a way for musicians and performers to sell their product online. One month ago, the music download company launched their partnership with Flow, dubbed "Free + Legal," an awareness campaign designed to encourage music lovers to get their favourite local songs online.

To kickstart the campaign, local rapso performers 3 Canal offered the first single from their 2009 album, Joy & Fire on TrinidadTunes for free. Well, not exactly. Flow paid 3 Canal for every click that a customer made to get the song.
On Sunday, 3 Canal launched the album and offered it for free on TrinidadTunes for a limited time, the cost of the downloads also being underwritten by Flow.
Until the group begins their annual show at Queen's Hall and begins selling the CD, it's also the only way that 3 Canal's fans will be able to own the CD legally.
The free song, Boom Up History, was downloaded more than 1,000 times since it was made available, even though anyone on the trail of "freeness" would have had to sign up with TrinidadTunes to create an account, a process that O'Connor admits was challenging for a few users.

Learning online sales
"Getting people to use the site has been an educational experience," Hezekiah said.
"We've made quite a few changes to the way things are organised," O'Connor added (the two tend to carry on conversations in tandem), "particularly after trying to explain to users how to get to the music. We're not techy people, but we're learning."
Some sales patterns have become clear.
"Our demographic tends to be older people," O'Connor said. "Young people are happy to get their music for free and don't think about payment to the artist.

"Those older listeners have their favourites, and David Rudder is one of them. Rudder's new album, Trinidad Stories, was released on Christmas day and to date has been downloaded 300 times, compared with 200 units of sales in Trinidad Music Store, the partners' outlet for boxed product.
"David's sales are overwhelmingly entire albums," O'Connor said, "most other artistes will get good sales for their hits."

"On Ash Wednesday," Hezekiah added, referring to sales at their Piarco outlet, "the sales are pan music, compilations, Machel and David."
The first challenge for TrinidadTunes was getting artistes to believe in online distribution, there were fears that online distribution would affect CD sales, but the real challenge now is getting artistes to get involved in marketing their work.

Selling the artists
"Paul Keens Douglas was a hard nut to crack," said Hezekiah. "He was worried about losing CD sales, but when he saw the money coming in with no change to his CD income, he brought four more CDs for us."
"When Soca Elvis released his music on the store," O'Connor noted, "he told his people and for two weeks, it was the number one seller on the site. When artists promote their work, it makes a big difference."

But there have been disappointments. I've long encouraged the team to go after board recordings of Panorama, but O'Connor, who wrote to Pan Trinbago in April 2008 and has called every month since then, holds out little hope of making online, next day sales of Panorama performances available online this year.
The partnership with Flow has created something of a love fest at TrinidadTunes.
"It's a blessing," O'Connor said.
"They are one of the first companies we've talked that has such a grand vision," added Hezekiah, "It's very refreshing."

The company behind flow, Columbus Communications, has its own stigma of piracy to eliminate, after buying an operation that made dubious use of copyrighted material for years. After righting most of those issues, the company is clearly keen to be seen as creator and rights friendly.
Another reason for the romance between the two companies is Flow's announcement on Monday that new subscribers signing up for their broadband service between January 19 and February 28 will get ten free songs of their choice from the online MP3 retailer's catalog. It's an opportunity, Flow notes, to compile your Carnival CD the "Free + Legal" way.

More blog notes from the interview
First story on,
Crazy's decision to put his music on,
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