Apple's Music Match: Innovation By (Record Label) Committee

from the is-this-really-so-special? dept

Well, pretty much everything in the announcement of Apple's iCloud "Music Match" music service was leaked or predicted prior to the announcement today, so there's not much that seems particularly surprising. Basically, for $25/year, you can have Apple scan your music and anything that it already has in the iTunes store will automatically be available to you on all your other (Apple?) devices. A lot of people noted that this appears to focus more on syncing rather than streaming. That is, almost all of the talk was how all of the music would be available to download to whatever device you had synced to the system, rather than any sort of streaming player. Still, none of this seems particularly revolutionary. The music match functionality seems identical to what Apple bought from LaLa nearly two years ago. The syncing features are nice, but plenty of other services have allowed file sync between devices. It sounds nice, but nothing all that amazing.

The real story may be in the terms of the deal. While the labels allegedly turned down $100 million from Google to offer the same functionality, they took $150 million from Apple for this deal -- as an advance on approximately 58% of all of those $25 fees. Depending on how much music you actually have, the $25/year might be a decent deal compared to other cloud storage offerings, but Apple isn't going to make much money on it. Between the storage/bandwidth fees and having to fork over so much to the labels, this has to be a loss leader type of deal, with hopes that it sells more hardware (probably not a bad bet for Apple). Of course, that explains why the Google deal may have been "unsustainable" in the eyes of Google. It doesn't really have the hardware revenue to fall back on.

Still, it makes you wonder what, exactly, Apple is paying the labels for here. What's really being licensed? Effectively it's the ability to match the songs and put copies in a locker, which basically means that the labels are getting paid -- yet again -- for songs that they already sold to people.

That said, the other interesting thing about this is that while the labels were pushing everyone else to figure out ways to block tracks that didn't have a clear authorized lineage from being included in such deals, that does not appear to be the case here. As a friend noted to me after this announcement, if someone creates a dropbox or other mountable hard drive with a ton of music, and people mount it and then run the matching software on it, they could technically "launder" unauthorized tracks through Apple and have them in their "cloud" pretty easily. Which means... expect stories in the very near future from RIAA-types about this horrible "new trend" of massive mountable drives that people use to then dump thousands of songs into their Apple music storage. How long until someone tries to pass a law about that sort of thing?

The other interesting bit? While the big four music labels apparently got that $150 million as an advance, all of the indie labels? They get nothing. Not only are they not getting any advances, but they get a smaller percentage than the major labels. Apple pretty much realized that if it had the big four labels, the indies would more or less be forced to come on board at whatever terms Apple wanted.

On the whole, lots of folks seem excited about this, and as with so many Apple offerings, I'm sure lots of people will use it and it will do quite well. But I just don't see what's so compelling about repaying to access my own (legal and authorized content) via other devices, when I've already set up plenty of ways to do just that already.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    Obvious

    Still, it makes you wonder what, exactly, Apple is paying the labels for here.

    They're paying for righteousness. Court arguments, etc.

    Nevermind the fact that my wife and I can't easily share music b/t our Macs (we have a lot of computers/iPhones/etc.)

    I think there might be a breaking point on Apple's business model coming up.

     

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      PRMan, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

      Re: Obvious

      Strange, my family easily shares the "music" share on all our PCs and my Android tablet if we want the actual MP3 files (all ripped from purchased CDs). And I have a UPNP/DLNA server that shares it with our 2 DVRs, Wii and PS3 (when it cooperates, which is rarely...Sony sucks at more than just security).

      Nice that Apple was nice enough to let you pay for a way to get around Apple's limitations...

       

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    Gwiz (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    ...you can have Apple scan your music and anything that it already has in the iTunes store will automatically be available to you on all your other (Apple?) devices.

    I wonder how precise this scan is. If it's simply scanning filenames and/or metadata, I wonder how hard it would be to "fool" it with empty files with the correct metadata?

     

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    B's Opinion Only (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:00pm

    Theoretically(*) Apple only has to store one copy of each song. Your personal cloud won't contain a physical copy of your music, it will have a database of what songs you are allowed to play.

    (*of course they will store multiple copies of each song for maximum availability, scalability and geographical distribution, but you get the idea.)

     

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    Danny, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

    Call me old fashioned....

    ...but seriously why would I want this over my current practice of keeping my music on an external drive and copying it over to my different devices as I need/want to?

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:19pm

      Re: Call me old fashioned....

      ...but seriously why would I want this over my current practice of keeping my music on an external drive and copying it over to my different devices as I need/want to?

      I must be old fashioned too because that was my exact same thought also.

      The other thought I had is what happens if this service doesn't really take off - will Apple keep the servers up and running forever for the people who do use it?

       

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      John Nemesh, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Call me old fashioned....

      ...because its more "magical" if you use iCloud! :)

       

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      antimatter3009 (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 4:25pm

      Re: Call me old fashioned....

      I've started using Amazon's cloud for everything Apple put out today, but up until just a few weeks ago I would've agreed with you. However, it's just easier this way. I have a phone, tablet, and several computers I want my music on. Rather than copying off my central storage to each device individually, I just uploaded it and now I have it everywhere, anywhere. And I can download it to any device I want it on. The old self-storage model worked great for me up to a point, and I honestly never thought a cloud service would appeal to me, but once you get a whole bunch of devices it's just too much effort to keep everything up to date with new music and such. It was starting to get unwieldy. This is much better.

      I still don't see what's so great about Apple's offering, though. There dig on it taking weeks was a little ridiculous. It took ~3 days, which was annoying, but that's once ever. Not a big deal. I guess the key for Apple is their trademark seamlessness, but just in terms of features I'm a bit disappointed.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 7th, 2011 @ 12:35am

      Re: Call me old fashioned....

      I don't know the full details, but at a guess from what i already know:

      - Convenience. If you have several devices you want to use, this removes the need for syncing and keeping track of several playlists if you regularly fill up devices with different capacities.

      - Accessibility. If you do a lot of travelling, you might not always have chance to sync before you leave, and you can't sync if you only have an iPhone/pad/whatever and not access to your computer. This removes the need to.

      - Storage. I have approx. 130Gb of music but a 16Gb iPhone, which is regularly filled with apps and podcasts as well as music. If I can access more music than I can fit on the phone, this would be a good solution (I currently use Spotify for this, but I have a lot of music that not in their library).

      - Safety. If that external drive is lost/stolen/broken, there goes your msuic collection. Here, you can access anything you want without having to carry the drive around.

      It's debatable whether this is really worth $25/year just to major labels (especially if you have a lot of independent music), but it's not entirely pointless.

       

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        PR, Jun 8th, 2011 @ 9:12am

        Re: Re: Call me old fashioned....

        Re PaulT's third point, on storage: iCloud isn't a streaming service, so you still have to find room on your iPhone for the extra music you're hoping to "access", forcing you to choose which to keep and which to delete, no? Not clear to me is how you specify which of your 130gb of music gets sync'd through iCloud in the first place but presumably that will be clearer as time goes by. Isn't this all a way to get us to buy iDevices with ever larger storage?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    The database of what songs you are allowed to play already exists. Anytime you add a file to your library, it notifies apple of what file was added. The only benefit here is backups. If this included video, I'd be excited. I have a tb of video i've purchased through itunes. My library is much too large to maintain backups.

     

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    Deirdre (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Data Usage

    The only Apple hardware I use any more is my iPhone, and it has a data limit-- ATT. I'm not interested in anything that affects that.

     

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    big al, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    $ per year....

    let me see..... if i buy a 16 gig sd card and put 4000 songs on it:i have a backup,i can play it on all my devices, i can rip my own cd's,i can add or delete at will and i can add a card a year for the same money... i think i'll pass on this one....

     

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      DannyB (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

      Re: $ per year....

      You can also buy mp3's at Amazon and elsewhere, and put those on your 16 gig card, and all your devices -- and all without using up your expensive data plan.

      And without having to pay $25 per year.

      If you use Google and Android, you can do the same, but upload your cloud songs from your PC (not using your data limit) and then stream them to your devices -- without re-paying $25/year for the privilege.

      When the RIAAcketeers sue Google for its cloud service, Google is going to have a good argument here that all the RIAA wants is to be re-paid for content users already own.

       

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    pclanguy, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 2:47pm

    OPTIONAL

    To my understanding, this service is optional. While I too have my media on external storage and no use for this service, I can understand how someone with an extensive old media collection that they spent painful hours ripping, only to have to go thru the process again, would be useful. I agree that Apple isn't going to make a ton on this but I doubt that's the point.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Still, it makes you wonder what, exactly, Apple is paying the labels for here.

    Very simple. The labels are being paid to shut up and go away. It's like patent trolling, but with music.

     

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    PeterScott, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:13pm

    Important clarification. If you bought your music from itunes there is no fee, so there is no re-buy.

    This is only for music of unknown provenance. You could have 16GB of MP3 you picked up at Piratebay and the Apple will scan and match them in the cloud with pristine 256K itunes files that you can then play on any of your machines.

    At least that is what it looks like to me.

     

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      AdamR (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 3:46pm

      Re:

      You are correct.

       

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        AdamR (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 6:26pm

        Re: Re:

        This is big win in these regards.

        1. They save a ton on bandwith, no uploading of tons of mp3s. They also save terabytes of storage since they only have pointer to files they already have.

        2. Locks people further into their hardware and more their software platform. (ie I tunes and AAC file format)

         

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 7th, 2011 @ 7:17am

      Re:

      This is only for music of unknown provenance. You could have 16GB of MP3 you picked up at Piratebay and the Apple will scan and match them in the cloud with pristine 256K itunes files that you can then play on any of your machines.

      That's assuming Apple can match those MP3s to what they've got in iTunes.

      What if they can't? According to All Things Tech on NPR yesterday, if it ain't in iTunes, it won't be available to synch to your devices.

      Tracks from artists who release their stuff free? Obscure artists? Foreign artists? Remixes? Mashups?

      $25 a year so Apple can synch up only part of my music library? Screw that. Where's my Google music invite?

       

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    Bort Sarsgaard, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 5:22pm

    Notification bar patented?

     

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    Bort@spam.yak.net, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Notification bar patented?

    Oops, wrong thread. Sorry!

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jun 6th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

    Plus this...

    For $35 and the installation of Shazam, if you can hum a few recognizable bars of the song, it will be added to your library.

     

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    Stephen, Jun 7th, 2011 @ 9:55am

    Steve Jobs is a genius

    Apple bought the rights to LaLa.com - and make no mistake, iTunes Match is literally LaLa.com, it's just married to the iTunes music store instead of the LaLa music store - and then twisted the arms of the major labels. Jobs pointed out the other two lockers that existed, and that iTunes brings the labels HUGE amounts of cash, and then suggested he might be able to at least promise money for something the labels don't want anyway. Cause make no mistake, Apple, Amazon and Google don't need to a license to store something on their servers that I already own, and charge me to store it there. Jobs is a genius.

     

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      Proplayer44, Jun 7th, 2011 @ 11:23am

      Re: Steve Jobs is a genius

      Don't forget this service might take off like gang busters, just like mobileme. :) Jobs was the same genius of that too and it was not successful.

       

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      Proplayer44, Jun 7th, 2011 @ 11:24am

      Re: Steve Jobs is a genius

      Don't forget this service might take off like gang busters, just like mobileme. :) Jobs was the same genius of that too and it was not successful.

       

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    Rzah, Jun 9th, 2011 @ 7:07am

    Jesus you people are slow

    It's $25 to obtain legitimate, DRM free, higher quality and persistent replacements for the thousands of tracks you "ripped" from CD's you "totally bought in the shops"

    You have one year to replace your dodgy files with the aforementioned cleaner, better versions, after that you keep all the stuff you replaced, but you cant 'exchange' any new stuff you "acquire" from sources outside the iTunes store. Maybe you'll even take the view that $25 is astounding value for money for the service and pay for another 12 months.

    Get it now?

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 9th, 2011 @ 7:34am

      Re: Jesus you people are slow

      You know, I wish it was possible to discuss things like this without people accusing me of being a pirate. It's a shame that some people are too brainwashed by the industry to accept that there's other ways to have a large stash of digital files, perfectly legally.

       

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        Rzah, Jun 9th, 2011 @ 4:31pm

        Re: Re: Jesus you people are slow

        An honest man? on my internets?

        FWIW A large proportion of my own gargantuan music Library consists of rips from CD's I bought by the truckload in my carefree youth, that still leaves plenty of tracks of dubious origin though. Personally, I'd gladly pay $25 not to have to upload ~85GB, so I'm hoping ITM makes it to the UK.

         

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          PaulT (profile), Jun 11th, 2011 @ 12:15am

          Re: Re: Re: Jesus you people are slow

          Don't get me wrong here, I'm not claiming to be perfect. I certainly have dabbled in P2P, especially back in the Napster days, and I can't vouch for the legality of every single track I own.

          However, such tracks are a minority. Beyond rips of the 300+ CDs and numerous vinyls I purchased in the pre-digital era, I also have a large number of legal tracks given away by their publishers, as well as from an eMusic subscription that led to me buying at least 8 albums per month for over 4 years, lots of legal freebies from the likes of AmieStreet, last.fm and MP3.com, and so on...

          It's rather pathetic that it's assumed that the only way to have a lot of digital albums is to pirate, and it's frustrating that this seems to be the basis of any conversation - I have need for a multi device, multi location service to access my music therefore I'm a thief. It's not the way to actually discuss these things.

           

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    Steve, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Misinformation

    I'm not certain why anyone would have any trouble exchanging music purchased from iTunes with their wife. My wife and I share an iTunes music library with no issues whatsoever.

    To answer a few questions in the thread - Jobs answered them in his keynote speech, in fact - any music Apple cannot match will be uploaded to the iCloud.

    Apple doesn't sell MP3 files, only AAC files.

    Amazon and Google Music (I belong to both, and have libraries in both) are nice, but not integrated with the Apple infrastructure. I can't download songs from them to my iPhone or iPad. They don't do gapless playback. They're only available where I have network access. Google music doesn't even allow re-download; Amazon does, but you can't do it from your iDevice, you have to do it on the computer and poke it into iTunes. I know Google Music has an 'offline mode' for android devices; I don't have one of those, though. MusicMatch isn't made for those folks (android users) any more than Google Music is made for IOS users.

     

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