Space Ramblings

Music Sold for a Song?

UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP’S DECISION ON Friday to test selling digital music tracks online without copy-protection technology is seen by some as a step toward providing ad-supported digital music for free.

So claims Media Post anyway. The only problem, there’s no actual basis for this claim. Universal Music Group does appear to be experimenting by jettisoning DRM from its non-iTunes markets, much as eBay challenged Google by jettisoning its reliance on AdSense to drive traffic and sales. Except of course eBay has a vicious streak a mile long while Google turned tail in that case. By contrast the big music labels are vicious but have proven to be clueless in the online business arena, unlike eBay.

Either way non-DRM sales a long way from the mythical ad supported giveaways, an idea that has been kicking around forever without ever maturing.

Early next year, UMG will reevaluate the service and determine whether to continue selling music available in a file format not protected by standard anti-copying software, known as digital rights management (DRM), which puts restrictions on how songs are downloaded, played and shared. “We are running this trial for six months to test consumer demand and the effects of piracy,” says UMG spokesman Peter Lofrumento.

Which is an honest position anyway. More honest than anything the other major music labels are doing. I have no doubt some of the DRM free music will wind up on Limewire. But I also don’t doubt that it will be no more than what other labels with DRM music are experiencing.

DRM-free music content will open doors for ad-supported free music models, too. Nakao believes it will lead more brands like Heineken and Neutrogena to purchase music downloads in bulk and give to consumers as incentives or promotions because DRM-free music files can play on any MP3 player.

If anything DRM free is more likely to close the doors for ad supported music, than the other way around. DRM music is more reliable as an ad supported giveaway. And while brands may occasionally give away music the way they once gave away CD’s. They can just as easily give away DRM music. Nor is music giveaways an ad supported model.

Martin Lafferty, CEO at the peer-to-peer trade group Distributed Computing Industry Association, and James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester Research, believe releasing music files from copyright restrictions will eventually lead more music download sites to offer both pay and ad-supported free music.

Again there’s no logical connection being made here. Way too much of the internet is ad supported already. How are you going to amortize the cost of developing and producing CD’s with ads? Yes it works for TV but that requires a huge and exploitable audience.

“Most music labels will begin to support sites that gradually incorporate purchase-this-track, ad-supported and subscription options,” McQuivey says.

Tried it with the new Napster. It was an abysmal failure. People don’t want to subscribe to music. They can do that on the radio, hear music they don’t own. People pay to buy music. And as the Google Video disaster demonstrates, if you don’t own the music, it’s not yours.

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