Paul Brindley, managing director of music industry intelligence source Music Ally, here returns to MidemNet Blog with a message of optimism…
It’s nearly that time of year again when we gather down in the South of France to take the temperature of the digital music business. And, despite the doom and gloom of the global economic crisis, there really is room for some optimism in digital music. As one executive put it recently, for once the music industry actually looks in a better state than banking right now.
Thankfully, it looks like we can finally stop talking about DRM (on downloads at least) and we can also stop bleating on about how the subscription model needs to change. It is changing. Lack of ownership is no longer the barrier it once was.
Two new major services are launching in the UK from Nokia (Comes with Music) and Datz (with its £100 prepaid USB based service) which completely change the game, offering access to ‘unlimited’ music. As the likes of BigChampagne’s Eric Garland and the MCPS-PRS Alliance’s Will Page have argued very forcefully, we need to find a new way of bringing the bundle back to digital music and this latest generation of subscription type services might help to plug that gap.
But they’ll only do that if the price and the marketing messages are absolutely right and therein still lies a big concern. In both cases the prices are still unfrotunately much too high to attract the younger demographic who might benefit most from such services. At £130 for a Comes with Music handset and £100 for Datz, they’re both more likely to be bought by parents as gifts for teenagers rather than the teenagers themselves.
But they also need to be clear about exactly what they offer. In both cases the real attraction is that once you’ve paid up front the music in effect free. Neither Nokia nor Datz will be allowed contractually to promote this concept of ‘free’ music but this is where the real attraction will lie for consumers.
It’s much more appealing even than ‘unlimited’. And it’s particularly to important to plug the free message when the model, particularly in the case of Nokia, is pretty complex. Of course the music isn’t free. For Nokia, the price is bundled in with the handset. For Datz, you just pay up front and get your key USB stick to unlock the music. But, once you’ve paid then it certainly feels free. And feeling free is about the best way of competing with free.
Nokia’s already committed to spending more money on its UK TV advertising than it has ever spent with a key high street distribution deal with Carphone Warehouse. And Datz has a deal with the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. So this is a real chance for radical new digital consumption models to start going mainstream at last. But rightsowners’ concerns about maintaining the value of music still run the risk of hampering such bold initiatives from fulfilling their true potential.