Why Sony-BMG's Music Subscription Idea Won't Work

from the wrong-way-to-go-about-things dept

With the recording industry’s latest infatuation with “subscription” music systems, you would think that maybe they would look at why none of the existing subscription services have done all that well. Of course, that would take a bit of foresight, which some of the industry’s top execs proudly admit isn’t something they’re big on. However, following hot on the heels of stories of the industry bundling a subscription service with iPhones and iPods, Sony BMG has announced that it is working on its own damn subscription plan, with details that scream “failure in waiting.” Similar to the Apple rumors, you would lose songs if you ended the subscription, though you might be able to keep 30 or 40 songs (again, same as the Apple rumor). That would mean some kind of DRM. Yet, the story also claims that it will work on iPods, which means either that it’s DRM-free (which disagrees with the earlier statement) or that Apple is licensing its FairPlay DRM (something the company has refused to do to date).

But the bigger problem is simply the fact that this would fragment the market. No one wants to shop at one store for Sony BMG musicians, another one for Warner Bros musicians, another for EMI musicians, another one for Universal Music musicians and yet another for indie musicians. And, at the price point Sony BMG is talking about ($9 to $12/month) if you want subscriptions to all the fragmented stores, you end up pay $75 to $100/month for DRM-encrusted subscription plans. That’s not going to work. Time to go back to the drawing board and not come up with ideas that were discarded five years ago.

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Companies: sony bmg

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Comments on “Why Sony-BMG's Music Subscription Idea Won't Work”

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Steve R. (profile) says:

Obsolete thinking of How to Compete

This music subscription issue points to the “bigger” issue of how all business seek to compete. Businesses seek to compete with proprietary niche approaches rather than selling the “best” product or service in an “open economy”.

To phrase this differently companies seem choose to compete in the following proprietary manner: iTunes versus Zune OR HDDVD versus BlueRay. Competition should be based on the competitors agreeing to one type of MP3 Payer or one type of HD DVD player, THEN competing on who makes the best product and provides the best customer service.

To reiterate, those in charge of marketing are addicted like drug addicts in a self-destructive death spiral. The only fix (solution) they see is even greater marketing efforts to push propriety niche products of limited viability.

Haywood says:

Re: +1

That is hardly how to compete with free. Right now I can get pretty much any artist / song I want in a few minutes, DRM free, 4 free. I seldom do, because I have most of the old stuff, and haven’t seen anything new I’d want, even 4 free.
They would have to win the international game of whack a mole to make that plan feasible, & even then, people could go back to just handing off physical copies, like the old days. There is no DRM that can’t be beaten, there won’t be, ever. If you can see it or hear it you can capture it. Computers are here to stay, they are digital manipulation devices.

SteveD says:

An endless cycle

I’m beginning to suspect that these companies will never be able to keep up; the more they change the faster the world will change around them.

Rather then trying to teach an old dinosaur new tricks, wouldn’t it be better for these groups to license their music to third parties? These third parties could aggregate all the music into one place, and compete with each other directly on how music is delivered to the customer to help drive innovation of service.

NotBob says:


This thought just occurred to me. If I subscribe to a magazine and let that subscription run out, I don’t have to mail all those magazines back to the publisher, or burn them, or anything. I get to read them (access them) for as long as they last. Even with the old Columbia House “music club” the same thing was true. Why is it different with non-physical goods? If I have obtained something by whatever (legal) means, I really do think I should be able to retain access to it even when I stop subscribing. Otherwise it’s just a rental and that’s not what “subscribing” means.

Don says:

I stopped buying music from the major labels years ago. I buy cds directly from bands themselves, or if I buy digital music I buy from eMusic. Why would anyone waste good money on some “subscription” where you only get to keep the music as long as you continue to pay, when I can get 1080 tracks a year (at an average of 12 songs an album that’s about 90 albums) for about $200 a year(about $2.20 an album) and get to use my music when I want, how I want with no DRM? Not to mention much of the independent music I buy, the actual artists themselves get a fair cut of the profits and not some mega corps who are the true theives of arists music.

Jeff says:

Why subscription prices are all wrong

Setting aside the “consumers want to own music argument” the pricing for subscriptions is all wrong.

An appropriate subscription price is not how much a consumer would pay for access to the entire catalog, but instead how much would a consumer pay for access to the entire catalog that they don’t already own.

For most people this would amount to how much is it worth to get access to new music released in a month, plus some amount for the right to explore a back catalog in the hopes of discovering something they like but don’t have.

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