Tag Archive: DRM


ashTwo stories that have caught the eye this week in the music world.

Firstly, Ash’s plan to release a single every two weeks. I was lucky enough to do a live session with the band for AOL Music, and at the time they talked about embracing the potential of digital music and possibly abandoning the whole format of albums and instead release music as and when they felt it was finished. Maybe occasionally grouping the singles together as an ‘album’ but otherwise step out of the usual cycle of album, tour, rest, album, tour etc.

And, fair play to them, that’s exactly pretty much what they’re doing with an A-Z series of track releases, though with a sensible nod to the physical by issuing the singles as vinyl 7-inches as well. I hope other bands follow in these steps. It makes so much sense, and frees the band from the same old same old. I used to love when singles were events in their own right and then the whole thing got swamped by albums, which in turn became pointless and filled to the max 72 minutes just because it was there.

Cracking band Ash, and really top blokes to boot.

The second story is the reinvention (again) of Napster as the business now focuses on a lower rate subscription and streaming model. With more than 7 million tracks available, the $5 a month rate could well be the tipping point for the subscription model – well I’m sure they’re hoping that. However, at £3 a month for all the music you could listen to plus 5 downloads, it all comes down to the marketing and once again trying to crack the method of telling the story of subscriptions to the general public. As long as Napster sticks to saying what it is and not repeating their previous mistakes of comparing themselves to iTunes and trying to make a vague point about the cost of filling an iPod (it was stupid the first time so are Microsoft making the same mistake – oh wait, it’s Microsoft…), then surely with their brand, they can crack it this time?

I’m a big fan of music subscription but I was always pushed away by platform, DRM and price point, with those issues resolved, maybe music subscription’s time has come at last? Could be an interesting battle between the Spotify free+ads and downloads and the Napster sub+downloads models. Once again, the wheel has come full circle but no one’s really nailed it yet…

Digital hits 20%

Digital downloads now account for 20% of all music sold, or $3.7 billion, according to IFPI figures for 2008. However, that is only 5% of music moving around online with the IFPI claiming that roughly 40 billion files were downloaded and were not paid for. That’s the downside but the upside is that digital downloads grew by 25% year on year. 

What will be interesting is how the removal of DRM in 2009 (Nokia’s Comes With Music, iTunes dropping DRM, eMusic staying healthy and emerging services such as 7Digital etc) will impact or enhance the growth of digital downloads. The most important step remains the ease of use for the customer from the point of purchase to the point of consumption – that’s still being driven by technology or industry designs/desires.

Why are 95% (allegedly) of music files being downloaded illegally because it’s easy. Legal downloading has to match that or get as close as is possible.

Zune sunset

Zune II

Zune II

Not entirely surprising but Microsoft Zune team is already making more of the store and the experience and less of the player which frankly has been a dud, despite the millions and millions spent on marketing. Always very much a ‘me too’ product, the Zune experience has been a catalogue of seemingly obvious mistakes. Now it looks like the Zune is doomed.
Why try to be iTunes? There’s already an iTunes, it’s massively popular and no there isn’t a latent audience of MS lovers just waiting for the company to launch its own product.
Limited compatibility and stifled sharing? Why, what’s in it for the user? Way too much like hard work.
DRM? – nuff said.
The design was good and the radio integration was neat but what was really required for MS was an external company to develop the proposition hardware and store separate from the mothership and its influence rather than be born out of Redmond and then try and become independent.
It won’t be missed…

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