Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Great Subscription Music Consolidation Continues

This one is not via acquisition, but attrition...


Heard on the Street - WSJ.com: "Its Yahoo Music service, which has about 250 to 300 staff, is among those expected to be trimmed and its fee-based subscription music offering overhauled or shuttered. Overall, the company plans to move staff around and freeze some positions, though significant layoffs aren't expected, people familiar with the matter say."



Since the Rhapsody/Urge merger a whopping couple of weeks ago, even more has happened. Sony Connect has been shut down and it appears that Napster is backing off of their freeplay strategy. This is of course good news for "Rhapsody America" (ugh) as the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscribers will now need to look for a new home.

Also, as of last week Apple announced that they will be rolling out WiFiTunes (my name, not there's) where users can buy any track and download over the air to their iPhone/iPod Touch and sync it back to their computer. Unlike the wireless carriers who thought that you would happily pay 2-3x for this convenience has now had that business chopped at the knees.

Now for my latest conspiracy theories around Apple...

1) iPod Touch has WiFi and Safari - how long until they introduce a VoIP client (Skype anyone) and turn it into a WiFi phone? It seems interesting in conjunction with the rumor that Apple may bid on some of the 700mhz spectrum that Google has been ogling.

2) Other news surfaced this week that iTunes has hidden error messages suggesting that a movie rental service is right around the corner. Of course... if you can do movie rentals, there is no reason you can't do a music subscription service. The fact that some of the earlier iPods didn't have a secure clock that would enable these models has be negated by the fact that Apple is rolling out an entire new *line* of iPods that I'm guessing have the secure clock that enables temporary license management.

What do you guys think?

4 comments:

David Jennings said...

As well as the subscription closures and attrition, there have been a couple of announcements of new subscription services recently -- the new Universal subscription "concept" and a mobile subscription service in the UK.

So is it fair to say that the story is solely about consolidation in the subscription area, or is it just ongoing turbulence?

Cheers, David

J said...

David -

Good point about the new activities - and I guess you could point to other new ad-supported services like We7 and SpiralFrog too. But, I think that if Yahoo Music Unlimited disappears (and Napster continues to suffer) that - at least in the US - Rhapsody will end up with the bulk of those subscribers. This will of course the give them a critical mass of people (and revenue) that will further enable them to ramp up their marketing and enable them to try some new business models themselves). But, once again... I think all Apple needs to do is launch a subscription service (and a web-based store) and they could quickly absorb the 1 million+ music subscription fans out there in a heartbeat....

- J

David Jennings said...

I've been wanting Apple to provide a subscription service for years, but I think they're waiting for other people to absorb the (non-profitable) period of heat and friction. When the struggle with consumer education has been won, they'll rustle up their service with the emphasis on the usual Apple ease-of-use and execution.

Juan Figuerola-Ferretti said...

What does David Goldberg, Head of Yahoo Music, and advisory board of iLike have to say about this? I wonder... Yahoo and iLike each other?