Will Music Be Free, A Service Or Something You Own?

Oct 12th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Music, iPhone, iPods & Portable Media Players

The music industry is questioning its relationship with Apple and is looking for alternative business models. According to a Businessweek report, a strong contender in their vision for the future of commercial music is the idea of turning music into an all-you-can-eat service, Total Music, that would cost about $5.00/month, but would be rolled into your mobile phone service plan.

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. Music companies would collect the subscription fee, while hardware makers theoretically would move many more players. “Doug is doing the right thing taking on Steve Jobs,” says ex-MCA Records Chairman Irving Azoff, whose Azoff Music Management Group represents the Eagles, Journey, Christina Aguilera, and others. “The artists are behind him.”

With the Total Music service, Morris and his allies are trying to hit reset on how digital music is consumed. In essence, Morris & Co. are telling consumers that music is a utility to which they are entitled, like water or gas. Buy one of the Total Music devices, and you’ve got it all. Ironically, the plan takes Jobs’ basic strategy– getting people to pay a few hundred bucks for a music player but a measly 99 cents for the music that gives it value–and pushes it to its extreme. After all, the Total Music subscriber pays only for the device–and never shells out a penny for the music. “You know that it’s there, and it costs something,” says one tech company executive who has seen Morris’ presentation. “But you never write a check for it.”

Music services have come and gone, with none leaving much of an impression. One of the reasons, though, is that the industry was asking music fans to pay a relatively high cost for the service, make them think about managing it, and then leaving them with nothing if they cancel the service. Total Music hides the cost of the service, which could make it more appealing to users. It remains to be seen whether or not the service will get rid of usability problems and turn users on to the idea of renting music.

No Responses to “Will Music Be Free, A Service Or Something You Own?”

  1. Murphy says:

    Rent music? Never!

    I’m a huge music fan, and I’m sorry, clueless major music megacorps, but I am NOT going to rent music, and pay a monthly fee like I pay my gas or electric bills.

    This cockamamie plan is just more proof that the record labels are run by greedheads who view music as nothing more than a commodity – like detergent or toothpaste.

  2. What if you cancel your service? What happens to your music? Can I burn it and play it on my car stereo?

    I too like to own my music so I can consume it how and where I want.

  3. dave says:

    Except NO manufacturer can afford to sell a device for a fixed amount, yet pay someone else a monthly fee to enable use of the device. And of course, mass music rentals [and rentals on a per-device basis] is the current wet-dream of music execs, because it means:

    a) monthly fees for a device [I guess, even after the device is broken or thrown away]
    b) makes royalty payments to artists more vague [which equals smaller/no payments to artists]
    c) reduces costs for labels. No need to advertise/push an artist, because they get the money no matter what. If anything, they promote themselves [EMI has the best music], as the monthly rental will probably be split between the labels based on overall marketshare.

  4. AngryBob says:

    I’d think that you would still need to buy the songs if you want to burn it – but lets face it everytime you want to hear a song doesn’t mean you want to burn it. I’d have a feeling this would work in a similar fashion as rhapsody, napster and the other subscription services function – with the exception being that the cost of the subscription is embedded in the price of the device and that the user will upgrade their device every 18 months.

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