Saturday, October 13, 2007

Total Music, Uh-Huh

★ Total Music, Uh-Huh: BusinessWeek has a story — “Universal Music Takes on iTunes1 — regarding a supposed proposal from Universal Music chief Doug Morris to create a music-industry-owned subscription service called Total Music. BusinessWeek twists the story into pretzel-like contortions to present this scheme as clever and reasonable.

While the details are in flux, insiders say Morris & Co. have an intriguing business model: get hardware makers or cell carriers to absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with all-you-can-eat music that’s essentially free.
[...] In and of itself, Total Music is not a ridiculous notion, just like regular pay-by-the-month subscription services aren’t ridiculous notions. But we all know that device makers aren’t going to eat the cost — they’re going to pass it along to consumers. A Total Music music player is going to cost somewhere around $100 more than a similar player without Total Music. And it’s not like subscription services haven’t been tried before. (Via Daring Fireball.)

This model might make sense when players have effectively infinite storage — $90 is not an absurd premium for a device preloaded with all the music ever recorded — but for the time being, it makes no sense. Subscription services have not worked so far, so why would they work now? Also, "Total" is not likely to be that total. Why pay $90 to the major labels when you care most about independent artists and labels who are unlikely to buy into a system that dilutes their brand for a trivial fraction of the shared pot?

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