Universal Music Kicks Off Digital Download Plan

from the and-so-it-goes dept

Wouldn’t it have been easier if the music industry just faced facts earliers and started offering digital downloads years ago? Universal Music is taking one step closer, as they’re going to offer up a large portion of their catalog for download – at a dollar a pop. Buyers will be able to move the songs to digital devices and burn them to CDs. However, the pricing is still too high and it seems there are some restrictions. They’re still missing the point of exactly why a music sharing service makes sense as opposed to a top-down, music selling service. Despite the analyst quote in the article, I really doubt this is a “direct blow” to any of the file sharing systems.

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Comments on “Universal Music Kicks Off Digital Download Plan”

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Michael M (user link) says:

Selling vs sharing

I’d take a music selling service over a music sharing service any day. It would ideally give me pristine tracks, with all current releases available rather than a piecemeal assortment. I wouldn’t have to worry about sound quality, mislabeled tracks, or anything else. Every download would be from the same high-bandwidth server. And I could choose to download an entire album in one step.

This probably isn’t what I was hoping for, though. The price is way out of line, and nobody wants to visit different labels’ sites to download different tracks. But give it a year and some heavy competition and I’ll find it far more useful than any file sharing service…

Oliver Wendell Jones (profile) says:

Price is too high?

Considering the average album has between 8 and 10 songs on it and sells for $16-$18, I don’t think $1 a song is too much. Especially for those albums that only have one or two decent tracks.
If you want just one song, you pay just $1 and save $15-17.
If you want the whole album, you pay $8-10 and still save $8.
Not only do you save money, but you get quality rips right away instead of having to sort through thousands of different copies in a file-sharing service hoping to find one that wasn’t recorded by someone with a microphone next to the 2″ speaker on a transistor radio.
Most importantly, there is some slim chance that some of the money is going to the artist, instead of the artist being ‘cheated’ by people using a file-sharing service.

I own 450+ CDs that I’ve bought, mostly used. Paying $1 per track for just the songs that I wanted could have saved me a couple of thousand dollars over the past 15 years, so I don’t think $1 per is too much.

Tatum says:

Singles are always going to be priced higher

Maybe I’m showing my age, but I remember buying 45’s for $1. Grant it, you got 2 songs for your buck, but the second song was usually a throw away track off the album or an unreleased track.

The point is that I remember albums costing from $7.99 to $10.99, and that being a pretty good deal if you wanted more than one song from the artist. Once the CD came along and killed the cassette, LP and singles business, it was easier for the record industry to jack up the album prices as it was the only avenue for owning the music- which in turn rejuvenated the record industry which was facing some tough times in the mid-80’s. The gray hairs at the labels remember this all too well, and have been the ones holding back on aggressive single pricing for digital downloads because it DESTROYS the economics they have enjoyed for the last 20 years. In private, the label execs will tell you they aren’t technophobs, and they ultimately don’t care how their product gets distributed. Currently, digital distribution is not more cost effective than hard product distribution- so there is a “double whammy” cost to digital distribution in that the cost of delivery is the same or higher and it destroys the healthy margin they have on the product now.

If digital distribution of singles takes off because of improved delivery efficiencies and erosion of the current product revenue, the prices of singles will continue to rise based on demand. The new hot track of the week will cost upwards of $2, while back catalog titles will stay sub-$1. Once distribution is figured out, someone is going to make a killing in creating efficient markets for digital singles.

Don’t be surprised if you see a resurgence in P2P models for distribution of digital products if digital products start producing significant revenue. It’s still the most cost-efficient method of distribution, and could make digital distribution economics attractive enough for a full embrace from the labels. Maybe Roxio just got a deal on Napster at $5MM….

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