Let’s force people to take our music

It’s hard to know where to start with Universal’s rumoured TotalMusic plan, which Business Week has just written about (although as Techdirt points out, Digital Music News first had the story weeks ago). Apparently the idea is to get all the record labels together, and then somehow convince Internet service providers and cellular companies to offer streaming music to their users — either for free, by eating the cost themselves, or by adding an additional fee onto every Internet user’s account.

Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider seems to think that this idea might actually work, but that it’s too late in the game for such an idea. I think it’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a long time. Where do these music executives come from — Mars? Mike Masnick says that it’s like an updated version of PressPlay and MusicNow, the last pathetic attempt by the industry to come up with a solution to rampant downloading, but I think that he’s being too kind. It’s way dumber than those services were.

Let’s forget for a moment that Universal, Sony BMG and the other major labels would never be able to agree on the details of any such plan, and that such a plan would never even make it through the impenetrable minefield of artists’ rights, publishers’ rights, performance rights and so on. And let’s forget that any such service would inevitably be all crapped up with DRM controls to the point where it would barely function at all.

Even if there was any evidence that people were willing to take streaming music instead of downloads (which there isn’t), how could Universal think that ISPs and cellular carriers would somehow be willing to carry the freight for this deal? Or shovel the costs onto their already aggravated users? It boggles the mind.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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