December 27, 2003

A Look at eMusic From Wharton [1:37 pm]

Via News.Com: Online music’s winners and losers. An odd litte piece, frankly, that seems to ignore the current economics of emusic retail, which is a loss leader for everyone. Wharton’s proposition that streaming is the answer seems to miss the technological alienation angle — are you really ready to rely on a company to be 24/7 available, not to mention not to mixup your playlist? And what if your hardwired DRM device fails?

Provocative, at least……..

To some extent, all the models could fly. Larry Kenswil, president of eLabs, the media and technology division of Universal Music Group, suggests that music, like movies, should be able to thrive in a wide variety of channels: “People can watch a movie (at a theater), or on video, or on a pay-per-view channel. They have a dozen ways.”

Some experts, though, are betting that the ranks of the online music vendors will thin out because technology, consumer preferences and costs will conspire to create a dominant business model. Wharton marketing professor Peter S. Fader says all the signs point to the eventual emergence of streaming as that model.

For the moment, though, the models based on selling tracks and albums will predominate because that is how most people have learned to obtain music online, Fader notes. Perhaps more important, downloaded music is portable. It can be burned to a CD for listening in the car. It can be put on an MP3 player for listening while jogging or flying. But, in the end, downloading is burdensome, Fader suggests. “Obtaining the songs is a nuisance. It’s a pain to download them, to organize them, to back them up.”

And when you come down to it, Fader adds, people really don’t care much about having physical ownership of their music. What they really care about is having access to the music they like, when and where they want it.

At least they don’t purely push this Wharton-based theory. We get an opposing view from Steve Jobs himself:

Not everyone, however, agrees. Apple’s Steve Jobs recently told Rolling Stone magazine that music ownership is an ingrained habit, one that will always prevail: “People don’t want to buy their music as a subscription. They bought 45s, then they bought LPs, they bought cassettes, they bought 8-tracks, then they bought CDs. They’re going to want to buy downloads.” Jobs, of course, is the mind behind iTunes and so could be somewhat partisan. But he may have a point because even with music it is important to remember that people–especially Americans–like to own things.

Then there’s the community notion (see the following FurdLog entry):

The better approach, one that will most likely have to be part of a successful business model, is to create a sense of community among buyers or subscribers–not unlike the sense of community the original Napster as well as Kazaa and Morpheus have created among their users, [Gartner's Mike] McGuire says.

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The New York Times’ Underrated and Overrated Ideas [1:26 pm]

An interesting line up: Judging 2003’s Ideas: The Most Overrated and Underrated

From Underrated:

Curatorial Culture

In all the hype over Apple Computer’s online music store, one fascinating new feature included in the latest version was strangely overlooked: the celebrity playlist. The digital age version of the venerable mix tape, playlists have been a central selling point of the MP3 music revolution, since creating a brand-new mix of your favorite tunes is now as easy as dragging files into a folder on your desktop. Apple’s new Celebrity Playlist area in its store features collections of music assembled — with liner notes — by famous musicians: Sting, Ben Folds, Wynton Marsalis and many others.

What’s potentially revolutionary here is the ability to buy a compilation of music handpicked by another individual, as opposed to the official compilations released by record labels. No doubt Apple will soon offer a feature that enables ordinary music fans to create public playlists engineered around every imaginable theme (the post-breakup collection, the happy Nick Drake songs, the underappreciated recordings of Miles Davis) and then sell those compilations via the online store. Historically, the world of commercial music has been divided between musicians and listeners, but there’s long been a mostly unrewarded group in the middle: people with great taste in music — the ones who made that brilliant mix for you in college that you’re still listening to. They’re curators not creators, brilliant at assembling new combinations of songs rather than generating them from scratch.

Steven Johnson, author of the forthcoming “Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life.”

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A Look at the WSIS Fallout [1:12 pm]

From IPJustice [via Legal Theory Blog]: World Summit to Create “Pay-Per-Use” Society

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Slashdot on the MPAA’s “Refined” Strategies [1:02 pm]

As a followup to The MPAA Plays “Softlee Softlee Catchee Monkey”,we get this Slashdot discussion: MPAA Fights Pirates with Gentle Threats — see, in particular, Read between the lines

Everybody reading the article needs to read between the lines pretty carefully on this one. While the MPAA is seemingly offering the olive branch with one hand, look at the following quotes from the article:

Along with the warning letters, the movie industry is paying for consumer education programs and technology research, and pushing for laws and regulations that executives hope will protect their wares.

The most important thing for Hollywood to do now, Johnson said, is to move faster to develop the kinds of licensing agreements and protective technology

The path to a successful service has to involve the kind of technology that protects copyright unobtrusively,

Hand in hand with developing legal digital services, he recommends the kind of tough security that is built into satellite television equipment,

This whole article reeks of DRM. They never mention it by name, but this is exactly what they have in mind, and some of the stuff highlighted above suggests DRM in hardware.

So I don’t see where the MPAA has learned a damn thing, other than the blatant tactics of the RIAA don’t work so they’re going to try more underhanded ones. The agenda of the MPAA has NOT changed one iota.

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