Blog Post

So Much For The Big Guns’ Online Music Plans

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

The next-generation of online music services, due to be launched by two of our biggest tech companies, look a lot like, well, the current generation.

The Financial Times, which has found out from music industry execs, explains: “Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is now looking to use the cloud mainly to allow users of its iTunes store to back up their collections and access them from any Apple device.”

Meanwhile, “Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is hoping to combine this with a digital locker service that would allow users to keep copies of their media in the cloud.”

A locker? That‘s our digital future… ?

Such an addition may allow smartphone and tablet users, for example, to finally organise their library without having to tie their devices via cable to a blasted computer…

But this sounds mostly like merely a hard drive in the sky – a new place for existing customers to store files they already “own”.

The idea sticks closely to today’s à  la carte, per-track model of buying individual tracks, which itself replicates yesteryear’s model in which music was packaged up in to individual plastic units of consumer product.

Growth in this method of buying digital music has basically peaked in the U.S.. Will a hard drive in the sky give it a lift? Unlikely. Some now think that illegal music consumption is so tempting that the industry should effectively mimic this “music like water” approach legally.

That’s why some labels, notably Warner Music Group (NYSE: WMG), are getting keen for new access models like the unlimited-access subscription services from Rhapsody, Mog, Spotify and Rdio, which are trying to do for music what cable and Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) are doing for TV and movies respectively; if only their economics can stack up.

But, if Apple and Google have won label licenses for their new services, the labels’ position is curious – after all, the likes of EMI have spent years suing independent lockers like MP3Tunes operated by Michael Robertson.

4 Responses to “So Much For The Big Guns’ Online Music Plans”

  1. If “illegal music consumption is so tempting” How does switching to a subscription-based model make it any less tempting? It’s still free vs. paid.

    Robert, this makes no sense, unless you are betting on the “bottled water” scenario. Never bet on people paying for something they can get for free.

  2. iAmJasonPaul

    That is really disappointing news but actually very predictable considering the players. It’s the music industry playing it safe when actually it hastens it’s demise. I’m of the belief that Apple does not belong in the media business. When the music locker fails Apple and Google will still be standing but will the music industry? The redundancy of the music locker is so obviously stupid. Paying for storage of virtual goods you never owned in the first place. It’s both wasteful and dishonest to customers. Subscription based music services are the future. And they make piracy obsolete. I wrote an essay where I speculate that Netflix itself could push access music into the mainstream: http://www.jasonpaul.net/2011/01/how-netflix-can-save-music/
    I’ve since subscribed to one of the big subscription services and the ‘access trumps ownership’ theory (which I learned from Frank Chimero’s blog) really holds up.