Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure

Oct 12th, 2007 | By | Category: Digital Music

The music industry is working on an all-you-can-eat music model, Total Music, that is generating a lot of interest. The idea behind¬†Total Music¬†is that you’ll buy a portable music player or mobile phone¬†and either pay an inexpensive monthly fee¬†for access to unlimited music, or the cost will be hidden in either the purchase price for your music player¬†or in your monthly phone bill.

Some are hyped about this new plan, calling it revolutionary and suggesting that it could be an iTunes-killer.

In many ways, though, it looks like Total Music will be a total failure. Here’s why:

  • Subscription music has failed already. The idea of subscription-based music isn’t new, and it hasn’t proven to be appealing to the public. Two earlier music industry initiatives, PressPlay and MusicNow came and went without leaving much of an impression.
  • The music industry wants to trick you. What makes Total Music new is the idea that the cost of the subscription will be hidden in the price of the portable music player or rolled into your monthly phone bill. In other words, they want you to pay to rent music, but they don’t want you to think that you’re paying to rent music.
  • Total Music will be totally DRM’d.¬†If the music industry is going to offer you unlimited downloads, they are going to give you double-dog DRM’d downloads. Songs will be licensed for your device and DRM will prevent you from doing things that you’re used to doing, like burning the songs to CDs or using them on other devices.
  • You’ll have to pay and keep paying with Total Music. The music industry doesn’t want you to download all the music that you want to listen to, fill up your device, and then stop using their service. Because of this, they’ll make the songs expire when you stop the service. Instead of paying once to get the songs that you want, you’ll have to pay and keep paying as long as you want to listen to them.
  • Total Music will cost you more. On the average, iPod owners spend about twenty bucks on digital downloads. Most of the music on portable media players comes from ripping CDs. Total Music is expected to cost about $5-10 per month. In just a few months of use, renting DRM’d, limited tracks using Total Music will become more expensive than buying the music and using it however you like.

Total Music doesn’t look like it will be an iTunes-killer, or even offer significant competition to Apple’s dominant digital music platform. In fact, Total Music is¬†likely to be a total failure, unless the music industry can find a way to use the service to introduce new users – people that aren’t familiar with the ease of ripping and handling digital music files – to the world of digital music.

No Responses to “Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure”

  1. […] Podcasting News ¬ª Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure “Total Music is likely to be a total failure, unless the music industry can find a way to use the service to introduce new users – people that aren‚Äôt familiar with the ease of ripping and handling digital music files – to the world of digital music.” (tags: Music Business iTunes) […]

  2. Marc Cohen says:

    I agree 100%. The headline of my blog post was Total Music is a Total Losss.

    Check out the Ad-Supported Music Central blog at

  3. Pixoolo » says:

    […] En ALT1040 traducen desde Podcasting News las Cinco razones por las cuales Total Music ser√° un fracaso total. Cinco razones que son cinco pruebas de que las discogr√°ficas no entienden lo que es Internet. En el suplemento Vulture, con la destreza para la s√≠ntesis que les caracteriza, resumen los cinco motivos en una sola sentencia: “Universal Music desaf√≠a a iTunes con un cat√°logo m√°s peque√±o y cuatro a√±os demasiado tarde.” […]

  4. […] For a different view, read Podcasting News’ “Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure.” […]

  5. Kevin says:

    You’re missing the point of this launch. It’s not that it’s a subscription service, it’s a subscription service you can take with you and streams via your phone. It’s a world of difference. The main reason subscription services have not taken off is that you have to be sitting at your computer to use them. Subscription-to-go services have failed because consumers would have to purchase a new MP3 player to use them when they already own an iPod, plus the monthly fee. If Total Music can figure out a way to over come that hurdle, than it may work. I’m skeptical that they will, but that is the crux, not the subscription idea in general.

    Your numbers regarding music purchasing are way off base. Consumers may purchase $20 worth of downloads from iTunes, but the CD’s they are ripping were paid for too (at least by someone).

    Also, DRM is not really an issue if you can take your music everywhere you want to go. The problem with DRM is that you can’t play tracks bought from other services on your ipod. You also can’t play them on other computers. If a virtual database contains every song you could possibly listen to that is accessible via your cell phone or MP3 player anywhere you are (on the street, in the car, at home, etc) than what does DRM matter?

  6. info says:


    I disagree with you about why subscription services haven’t taken off – they simply haven’t been a good value for consumers. People want to listen to their music on a variety of different devices, make mixes, burn CDs for friends – all of which are possible with iTunes/iPods, but generally are impossible with subscription services.

    Most music fans already have huge libraries of digital music, either ripped or as CDs. The biggest value of current portable media players are that they make your existing investment in digital music much more useful.

    When you introduce subscriptions with music that is very limited in what you can do with it, you make things confusing for users. Lets say you pay an extra $100 and have unlimited music on your phone – you still have to manage all that.

    You’ve got a library of music on your PC that you want on your phone, and it’s the music that you really like, because you’ve paid for it. How do you manage that along with the subscription music? How do you keep it straight? How do you find the songs that you want to listen to out of the million songs that the subscription provides? Are you going to want to organize this using a phone interface?

    The bottom line is that people aren’t spending much on digital music, because they don’t have much of a reason to. If the music industry wants people to try out another limited use subscription service, it’s going to have to do more than try to hide the subscription cost.

  7. […] JupiterResearch’s Mark Mulligan believes “the idea of working with device manufacturers to get revenue directly for music is not actually that crazy an idea”, while podcasting news provides us with Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure. […]

  8. bizzle says:

    Yeah, this is off-base. You’ve got to give them props for getting closer to he “celetial jukebox” idea!If you can stream everything that you want, then you can build playlists, you can do whatever it is that you normally do on an iPod. ALSO, I thought they were trying to get it rolled into the cost of the music player. Even if they added $100 to the player, a conceivable player could cost about $200-250. That’s less than an iPod. Other branded mp3 players costs so much less than iPods …

  9. bueno says:


    What have you been smoking, and can I get me some?

    This isn’t going to be all the music in the world! It’ll be whatever the record companies want to put out there.

    Unless you want to listen to Britney all the time, you’ll want your own music on these things.

    I don’t want the record industry deciding what I can listen to.

  10. AngryBob says:

    The recording industry already decides what you listen to – the same people that put out Britney also put out the majority of stuff people listen to (90% of all sales come from the big 4 labels).

    If a device was to come to you and say that for $180 you can download and play any music out of a catalog of 4 million why wouldn’t you do it? There are 4GB devices that cost 90 dollars now – or do you feel its a priviledge to buy from itunes?

Leave a Reply