Tag Archive: digital music services

Classic advantage

Ludvig Van BGood piece from the LA Times on digital music subscription services and a notable success story from the classical world, Naxos. More here …

KitchenerIt could be that finally the promise of digital music subscription is about to be fulfilled. Virgin Media has announced a deal with Universal Music (UMG) that will mean Virgin broadband subscribers will be offered an all-you-can-eat, MP3 music subscription package to sit alongside their broadband package. Virgin has promised UMG that filtering (just how is tbc) and education for subscribers will be in place for launch, which should be later this year.

Virgin could well be beaten to the launch punch by Sky, which is getting very close to having everything in place for its launch (more on that later). Virgin will, of course, need to get everyone on board before launch but with UMG in the bag, a little wheeling and dealing with upfront money for the labels should soon ensure that Virgin has a full house for launch.

With Napster, Spotify, eMusic, 7Digital and more all offering subscriptions and a pretty full set of content (though eMusic only has indies and Sony so far), and that group being joined by the bigger hitters of Sky and Virgin, the key differentials will be pricing, ease of use, selling the subscription story and what streaming services are in place. Ad-funded services such as We7 could face a pretty tough time with ad money evaporating.

Of course, a few big exclusives (perhaps tied into TV and radio as well) would help draw the public’s attention to the offerings but it will be about who offers the best combination of effective marketing and ease of use (including being pan-platform) that will draw the big numbers. iTunes won’t be worried about its dominance of the UK digital music market in ’09 but the New Year could be very interesting indeed as the UK starts to get used to music as a subscription service, especially when bundled with Net access.

Last post for Last.FM?

music-t-shirts-i-ve-always-wanted-the-smiths-there-is-a-light-that-never-goes-out-lyricsAs a journalist, I’m always interested in stories that are there for no apparent reason other than they can be. It usually means that a journalist finally gets access to a company or company big wig that they’ve been chasing unsuccessfully for a while, perhaps long after the reason for the original contact, or the company realises that it’s in danger of disappearing from folks’ radar and so the PR machine slips into gear.

When The Guardian takes time to profile a company like Last.FM, it’s a round-up after a period of intense activity, or the prelude to a period of intense activity. However, this piece, while interesting, is neither. Sure, there the whole did they/didn’t they give user data to the RIAA but that was a pretty flimsy excuse for such an article.

I’ve sat on this post for a few days as I pondered whether I was reading too much into the whole thing but then this afternoon came the news that the three founders are to leave the company. And, I’m not surprised, it felt like they had been treading, or been forced to tread water in a classic “small start-up is bought by big company and innovation is stifled by business planning etc”.

It’s a shame as the three – Martin Stiksel, Felix Miller and Richard Jones – have built one of my favourite digital music tools (I’ve been a member for 5 years) but it’s quite clear that their original vision is being sidelined by the corporate desires of CBS, which hopefully realises what a gem it has and will now begin to develop it further and integrate it into its range of products and services more fully.

The writing had been on the wall for a while with quite a few staff changes during the course of late ’08 and early ’09 but as I said, I hope Last.FM keeps going and growing as it is a damn fine thing.

Music subscriptions still…

The music labels keep selling the same tunes and they keep playing the same tunes as well. As the label big wigs gather, there’s still a believe that subscriptions will save the labels’ asses but when the models being touted are the same and the control the labels want remains the same, the results will remain the same. Ask RealNetworks or Yahoo about subscriptions…

Bye bye Napster

For $121 million, Best Buy in the US has snapped up Napster, which is considerably less than the money spent on it to cover legal cases, running costs and so on. While talking a good fight Napster has been sinking fast and even opening up to the iPod market has not turned things around yet. Napster follows Wippit as the digital music casualties start to mount, though Wippit just shut up shop after failing to find a buyer.

Subscription is a long sell and no player has yet made that story short and snappy enough to convince consumers in really big numbers. Yahoo has bailed, Wippit gone and there are almost no music subscription successes to be found. Downloads – not a problem.

What’s required is for a company already offering subscriptions for other digital services to tie music into it, really market it and make it easy and open – no DRM, match iTunes pricing (or better it) and ideally integrate social tools such as Last.FM/Pandora etc.


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