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Dripping towards the river of music

Sometimes it takes a while for ideas to spread and become perceived as good ones. The “Music Like Water” metaphor where for a low monthly fee, people would have access to all the music they want in a kind-of music utility is one such idea.

In a variety of recent announcements, the once mighty major labels have begun to accept the idea that maybe, the old way of squeezing cash out of consumers for music – might need to be replaced with another model.

Emusic has been pioneering a hybrid subscription/download models for many years and is currently the #2 supplier of “paid for” digital music behind iTunes. Now both Sony/BMG and Warner Music are speaking publicly about subscription and utility models that they intend to explore.

Warner has gone so far as to hire Jim Griffin to head up development of a new business to bundle a monthly fee into consumers’ Internet service bills for unlimited access to music. Whoa!

The plan—the boldest move yet to keep the wounded music industry giants afloat—is simple: Consumers will pay a monthly fee, bundled into an internet service bill in exchange for unfettered access to a database of all known music.

Bronfman’s decision to hire Griffin, a respected industry critic, demonstrates the desperation of the recording industry. It has shrunk to a $10 billion business from $15 billion in almost a decade. Compact disc sales are plummeting as online music downloads skyrocket.

“Today, it has become purely voluntary to pay for music,” Griffin told Portfolio.com in an exclusive sitdown this week. “If I tell you to go listen to this band, you could pay, or you might not. It’s pretty much up to you. So the music business has become a big tip jar.”

Nothing provokes sheer terror in the recording industry more than the rise of peer-to-peer file sharing networks. For years, digital music seers have argued the rise of such networks has made copyright law obsolete and free music distribution universal. 🙂

Bronfman has asked Griffin, formerly Geffen Music’s digital chief, to develop a model that would create a pool of money from user fees to be distributed to artists and copyright holders. Warner has given Griffin a three-year contract to form a new organization to spearhead the plan.

Griffin says he hopes to move beyond the years of acrimonious record industry litigation against illegal file-swappers, college students in particular.

“We’re still clinging to the vine of music as a product,” Griffin says, calling the industry’s plight “Tarzan” economics.

“But we’re swinging toward the vine of music as a service. We need to get ready to let go and grab the next vine, which is a pool of money and a fair way to split it up, rather than controlling the quantity and destiny of sound recordings.”

Read more from Portfolio here.

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8 replies
  1. Item54 says:

    The music industrys desperation is their own doing – if they hadnt have screwed consumers since forever music piracy wouldnt have had such a strong appeal.

    The industry still has a major problem to deal with – what on earth makes them think anyone would pay a monthly subscription for music?

    Their deal is perfectly reasonable, but since we, the consumers, have been treated so unreasonably, what gives the industry any right to demand us to be ‘fair’ now?

    Its time to accept that nobody (or at least very few people) will ever pay for music again. Start providing music for free, and make money from concerts and merchandise – that, is the way forward – to be honest it really doesnt matter what the industry does, its not like anyone is giving them a choice.

  2. Derek says:

    This will never work, it is a free ticket to share songs. if they charged me that fee, i would download every song imaginable. then i would start a server with fast downloads of the music for free, and would charge a usage fee for access. then i could make money off the music, but i already paid, so i should be allowed to share.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  4. […] anton@xbitlabs.com (Anton Shilov) wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptWarner has gone so far as to hire industry critic Jim Griffin to head up development of a new business to bundle a monthly fee into consumers’ Internet service bills for unlimited access to music. Whoa! Jim Testifying before the Senate … […]

  5. […] dkusek wrote an interesting post today on Dripping towards the river of musicHere’s a quick excerptWarner has gone so far as to hire industry critic Jim Griffin to head up development of a new business to bundle a monthly fee into consumers’ Internet service bills for unlimited access to music. Whoa! Jim Testifying before the Senate … […]

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