Still Stumbling Towards Nirvana

12 09 2007

Wired Magazine reports today that Universal Music Group is contemplating a service (called TotalMusic) allowing ISPs and mobile phone companies to blanket license their music and allow music swapping between members of any particular service. Thus, users of (let’s say) Verizon Wireless could trade music with any other member of Verizon Wireless for a flat monthly fee (Wired quotes $15 per month).

While this, on the surface, seems like a step in the right direction, it’s really an incredibly ham-fisted attempt to make scads of money on an old business model.

The problems with this approach are, myriad, but they basically revolve around the fact that every single person on the entire service would have to opt-in to this service and pay the monthly fee, whether they use the music or not.

Tell me how that isn’t a non-starter. I cannot imagine my Mom agreeing to increase her cel phone bill by any amount at all, in order so she could listen to and swap copies of Jay-Z’s latest album. And, apparently, if she doesn’t agree to do it, everything goes belly up.

Wired also notes that:

a forced opt-in organization like SoundExchange would have to administer the
system for all artists and labels; otherwise rights holders and ISPs
would need to negotiate a near infinite number of deals in order to
offer the 100% catalog coverage consumers would demand for their monthly fee.

Wired thinks, however, that this shows that Universal is moving out of the 20th century. I don’t completely disagree, but it also sounds like they are still insisting on creating a total lock on a radio-style service. That doesn’t sound very forward-thinking.

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