Universal Music's Plan To Take On iTunes: Bring Back PressPlay And MusicNow!

from the wait,-that-sounds-familiar... dept

Business Week has the story that Universal Music’s Doug Morris is planning to take on iTunes by bringing together the major record labels and having them set up their own music subscription service, and then having ISPs and mobile operators force customers to opt in. First of all, it should be pointed out that this same story broke a month ago about Universal Music’s plans for a subscription service by the site Digital Music News. It just that this is from a more established publication. When the initial report came out a month ago, we detailed why it wouldn’t work, and there’s no indication that anything’s changed. Doug Morris has shown repeatedly that he doesn’t understand the economics at play, and is simply looking to squeeze as much money as possible in the short term, without any kind of long term strategy.

However, what’s most amusing about this is that it looks like it’s going to merely be an update of the last time the record labels tried and failed to do something similar. The big labels all teamed up to create the services MusicNow and PressPlay, which became better known as MusicNot and PressPause. That’s because they were created by companies who were too scared of cannibalizing their existing business. It took Apple to come along and show them how a music service could be done. While you can hope that they’ve learned something, Morris’s repeated statements on the economics of music suggest he still hasn’t figured it out. He might want to talk to his bosses at Vivendi, who seem to understand that selling music isn’t the business model the company should be in. In the meantime, as was noted a month ago, there’s still not the slightest shred of evidence that ISPs or mobile phone operators are willing to force all their customers to opt into a $5/month charge for music subscriptions.

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Companies: apple, riaa, sony bmg, universal music, warner music group

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Comments on “Universal Music's Plan To Take On iTunes: Bring Back PressPlay And MusicNow!”

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Nick (profile) says:

expect more of the same

It is going to be funny to see what the big labels and RIAA are going to do to try to stay relevant in the next couple years. I hate to say it, but I expect more of the same bad ideas, outrageous claims, dumb rhetoric and failing strategies from them in the near future given the evens of the last two weeks. Soon there will be nothing left for them until all of the senior executives get old and retire or die off.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

From what I understand (Please tell me I’m wrong) they will force your ISP and cell phone provider to tack on a $5 fee for their service, even if you don’t use it.

I’m going to stop using the Internet if this happens.

If they get this started, douse that mean that they won’t license the music to iTunes/napster?

HeavyDev says:

Am I the only one this doesn't make sense to?

From the article:

Starts off with:

…..get hardware makers or cell carriers to absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with all-you-can-eat music that’s essentially free.

Continues with:

After all, the Total Music subscriber pays only for the device–and never shells out a penny for the music. “You know that it’s there, and it costs something,” says one tech company executive who has seen Morris’ presentation. “But you never write a check for it.”

And wraps up with:

Under one scenario industry insiders figure the cost per player would amount to about $90. They arrived at that number by assuming people hang on to a music player or phone for 18 months before upgrading. Eighteen times a $5 subscription fee equals $90.

So am I to assume that this “player” that currently costs $249 would now sell for $339 and come with all the music you would want to listen to?!? Sounds like a great deal in theory–except that I held on to my first iPod Photo for 2 yrs and then sold it to someone 9mos ago that I assume is still listening to it. So does the player “brick” after 18 months and you have to buy a new one? And if it doesn’t, that would mean that you’d have diminishing returns the longer someone held on to a player (i.e. if someone held on to a player for 3 years the monthly subscription would be $4.50). Can you put other music on the player–meaning the 25% they don’t cover or new, emerging bands? There’s a dozen other ways to poke holes in this plan.

You have to hand it to Morris, this IS thinking outside the box. It has to be one of the most cockamamie ideas I’ve ever heard.

John (profile) says:

Where can I protest this idea?

Where I can protest the idea that ISP’s will force me to pay $5 for a service that I don’t and won’t use?

If the “music industry” (or whatever they call themselves) actually gets $5 per user per ISP, how many millions (or billions) of dollars is that? And if they’re getting $5 for every person from every ISP and getting thousands of dollars from suing people, will they give up selling CD’s? After all, with all this money coming in, why even spend the money to create and market a CD?

dave (profile) says:

Except NO manufacturer can afford to sell a device for a fixed amount, yet pay someone else a monthly fee to enable use of the device. And of course, mass music rentals [and rentals on a per-device basis] is the current wet-dream of music execs, because it means:
a) monthly fees for a device [I guess, even after the device is broken or thrown away]
b) makes royalty payments to artists more vague [which equals smaller/no payments to artists]
c) reduces costs for labels. No need to advertise/push an artist, because they get the money no matter what. If anything, they promote themselves [EMI has the best music], as the monthly rental will probably be split between the labels based on overall marketshare.

Paul` says:

Arrogent pricks

So, they’re assuming everyone that uses the internet would be interested in listening to their shit music and that they can justly charge everyone $5/mo regardless because they just might, heaven forbid, download a track or two?

I used to buy CD’s, now i download discographies out of spite. What would have been one or two songs from a CD I liked, possibly meaning I would then go buy the album because I like having the physical object and the album art and whatnot is now me trying to burn up bandwidth which i never use all of. And any money i save usually gets donated to Isohunt.

minoru yokoo (user link) says:


the problem with a lot of the upcoming music business models is that they are often fixated to previously tried models.

a. dependence on hardware manufacturers.
b. advertising models.

i’m not denying the possibilities of both, but i think a lot of us often forget the possible fact that via social networking, blogs and other available tools. the roles in sources of information is getting reversed, from the “supplier” to the “consumer”.

put it this way. 5 years ago, you would of not have imagined that the hidden secrets of pop stars would be revealed at such lightning speed. and those hidden secrets have been going on for years. information is spreading at very rapid speeds and trying to control it may be the wrong persepctive.

in terms of advertising, the main question i have is what happens when the user starts ignoring the ads. ok, you may have to wait 30 secs, even a minute to tolerate an ad you have no interest in, but what if that doe snot lead to a purchase and those negative numbers increase? i personally find that i have a filter inside my brain that manages to wipe out ads and smell it from a mile away.

David says:

Dumb and dumber

Doug Morris and crew are all out to lunch, (and should probably stay there). In less than 3 years they (UMG and other majors) won’t have any credible frontline product, they are paying bills (overhead) and highhly overpaid execs on catalog as it is.

This ‘play’ was inevitable and is just another nail in ‘their’ coffins. So all the music download sites that sent months negotiating licenses from the majors might as well close down now, because there is no way in hell that the majors are going to extend said licenses when they expire.

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