Friday, August 10, 2007

Universal Decides it is More Important to Screw Apple than their Customers

It has taken longer than I had hoped, but finally some more movement from the other majors on the DRMless front...

Universal To Set Its Music Free - "During its trial run, the Vivendi (other-otc: VIVEF - news - people ) subsidiary said it will make 'thousands' of its albums and songs available for download without so-called digital rights management, or DRM, restrictions, to observe consumer demand, price sensitivity and the impact on piracy. The songs will be sold in the MP3 format, which can be played on any handheld music player, including the market-leading iPod from Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ), as well as on any cell phone that can play music.

The test run will begin Aug. 21 and will run through the end of January. Universal's move is significant on a number of different levels. As home to a sprawling roster of leading recording artists including Amy Winehouse, 50 Cent, Fall Out Boy, Prince, Elvis Costello and others, its U.S. unit sales last year that were roughly three times that of EMI Group, which began offering its catalog without DRM restrictions in April.

n addition, Universal is shutting out Apple's iTunes Store from its trial run. Why? Because it wants to use iTunes as a control group against which to compare its sale of DRM-free downloads elsewhere.

Among the online vendors participating in Universal's test run will be, Wal-Mart, Google, Best Buy, Rhapsody from RealNetworks, Trans World Entertainment, Passalong Networks and Puretracks.

A nice move all-around, the consumers get what they want (DRMless content that will still play on their iPod), Amazon can make their entrance into the market with a bang (something the labels desperately need is a strong iTunes competitor to give them more leverage with Apple) and Universal at least gets to *appear* like they are listening to their consumers.

The other piece of BIG news kind of slid into the story is the inclusion of Google as a partner that is going to sell these tracks. Is Google finally getting into the game to after years of rumors?! Check out some of my related thoughts on Google as the ultimate music mashup...

Time to fire up Winamp and wait from Amazon's or Google's store to go live - haven't we all been waiting long enough?


Anonymous said...

Based on the defined period for this offer, it is also possible that they are using Apple as a control to test the effectiveness of DRM-less sales, perhaps at variable price points. IMO - I doubt Univerasal would be looking to screw Apple long term, more likely they would be looking to gain insight and leverage from this as a controlled experiment.

Blogger said...

In his famous article "Marketing Myopia" Professor Ted Leavitt described the buggy whip industry and observed that no amount of product improvement could prevent the evaporation of the industry.

The record industry is on its way to becoming a new buggy whip industry. Eliminating DRM is the kind of ineffective product improvement Leavitt described.

The industry needs to reinvent itself is a free, ad-supported medium.

Check out the Ad-Supported Music Central blog:

jherskowitz said...

I would love to see an ad supported service that works sans DRM. I've talked about it before, but a free all you can stream service (ad-supported) coupled with paid DRM free a la carte downloads would be pretty compelling in my opinion.

Unknown said...

You said: The other piece of BIG news kind of slid into the story is the inclusion of Google as a partner that is going to sell these tracks. - I don't think so .. this ill founded rumor started from a Universal press release that listed Google as a participating vendor for its new DRM-free music offerings. This was an error - according to Forbes, what Universal really meant was that Universal would purchase Google ads to steer customers to music vendor gBox. gBox has nothing to do with Google

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