“I really admire what Lala is trying to do. Their user interface is nice and concept as you pointed out is one I championed in 2000. The world has changed dramatically since I did my.mp3 in 2000, but sadly the labels have not. My belief back then was that users should have rights to move their own music around. Music lovers want the music everywhere on any device. This means you must support an open API instead of locking users to a single service. This means you must support downloads not just streaming.
All that and more is the subject of a blog post by the singer as part of an ongoing series on songwriting at the New York Times. Among other things, I also didn’t know that she had given her permission to the remix artists known as DNA, who came out with the mashup of a Soul II Soul beat and her vocals and had a top 10 hit with it, or that she put together an album of 11 remixed versions of the song herself. For all of that and more, told in inimitable Suzanne Vega fashion, read the whole blog post.
Now he’s taking another crack at the industry with the launch of something called AnywhereCD. But before the new venture was even a day old, Michael’s plans, which he writes about on his blog, had hit a major snag. The service is designed to allow music fans to buy a CD and instantly get access to mp3 files of the same songs — but without necessarily taking physical delivery of the CD. This apparently got at least one label upset: Warner Music came out within hours of Michael’s announcement and ordered him to remove any WMG files from the service — even though all the appropriate royalties would be paid as though someone had actually bought the CD. Warner said in a statement that AnywhereCD was selling its music in a manner that “flagrantly” violated their agreement.
I’m continually struck by the bizarre contortions the industry forces people to jump through. The original MP3.com had a service called My.MP3.com, which allowed you to listen to music through the browser after verifying that you owned the original CD — which I thought was brilliant. It was shut down too (MP3tunes.com requires you to upload all the music before you can listen to it). Warner’s response seems particularly out of step given that some labels like EMI are offering straightforward non-DRM files.
Is the record industry doomed to just never get it?
I’m sure Steve Jobs, who just joined Disney’s board after they acquired Pixar, would rather they stuck with iTunes and only iTunes, but it’s nice to see record companies trying something different. A representative from Disney-owned Hollywood Records told Variety magazine:
We’re trying to be realistic. Jesse’s single is already online and we haven’t put it out. Piracy happens regardless of what we do. So we’re going to see how Jesse’s album goes (as an MP3) and then decide on others going forward.
It will be interesting to see how sales of the album do, both of Yahoo’s DRM-free version and the DRM-rich iTunes version — not to mention the old-fashioned shiny metal disc version. A few years ago, the band Wilco streamed its entire Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album for free on its Web site, and wound up having a best-selling album on their hands.