Monday, October 08, 2007

Drowning Victims - Sink or Swim?

A couple of months ago a wrote a post (The King is Dead (and has no clothes). Long Live the King) about my coming to terms with the failures inherent in the current music subscription models. Or, more specifically, the failures caused by the convoluted DRM requirements inflicted by the major labels onto their partners and thereby passed along to the consumers. Well, the list of people that have been frustrated beyond repair by this short-sightedness is Ian Rogers - GM of Yahoo Music.

Ian just presented at Digital Music Forum West and had a wake-up call for the industry. Some good stuff in here... you should read the whole post.

Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses and Content vs. Context, a Presentation for Some Music Industry Friends at FISTFULAYEN: "I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out."

AOL and Yahoo *should* have been able to become the de facto destinations for play-on-demand music. Both companies are good corporate citizens - have ad supported and paid music services - and play by the letter of the law (generally speaking). But, by doing so they have both gotten surpassed by smaller start-ups that are willing and able to take some risks (see Imeem, Project Playlist, etc.) - choosing a path where they ask for forgiveness after the fact instead of permission beforehand. It's not like there aren't exceptionally smart people at these companies (AOL/Yahoo) that haven't been whiteboarding and spec'ing out these use cases for years... it's just been that these companies have been "playing nice" with the labels and are therefore getting dragged down with them as their failed business models fill with water.

I was reminiscing this week while on vacation about my lifeguarding days back when I was a teenager. The thing I learned then that had the most lasting impact was - if you go out to save a drowning victim, and they start to pull you under to the point that your life is endangered, extricate yourself as quickly as possible and leave them to drown on their own. Better to lose one life then two.

It is a sobering thought, but one whose time has come in this space. I hear you Ian... time to head back to shore until the labels are ready and willing to be rescued.


Anonymous said...

project playlist didn't take any risks - the saw imeem getting popular and cloned their playlist feature in a weekend. And they didn't host the tracks, leaving them on thrid party sites to reduce the chance of getting sued.

So, how, pray tell me, is taking risks?

jherskowitz said...

Imeem was threatened to be sued by Warner music. Sounds like taking a legal/business risk to me....