Total Music Service

Universal Music Takes on iTunes

1. Price matters.  If it didn’t, the PC wouldn’t have trumped the Mac the first time around.

2. Music is important, but so is software.  There’s a reason AOL cleaned up in the first Internet wave, it was USABLE!  Sure, AOL’s model was eventually eclipsed, but it took ten years, and it wasn’t about cost, but service.  You could get broadband from your cable company for, in many cases, the same price as AOL’s inferior dialup.  iTunes and the iPod are a seamless solution.  So far, no one has come close to replicating either, never mind the combined effect of both.  The Zune is a brick without easy navigation, and Sony’s history is littered with undesirable players, never mind unfathomable software and the now deceased Connect.  It’s not only about the cost, after all, Apple succeeded by releasing the most expensive MP3 player back in 2001, with the $400 iPod, but the EXPERIENCE!

3. People want to own their music.  They will give up ownership when rental FEELS like ownership.  Try synching a Sansa to Rhapsody, then tell me Total can work.  I believe a rental-style model will succeed in the future, but not the near future.  Doug would be better off licensing P2P or authorizing an eMusic model for major label product in the interim.

4. Apple is not the enemy.  To demonize Apple is akin to blaming the Bay City Rollers for killing music.  Turns out most people just don’t want to pay a buck a track.  Give Doug kudos for trying a new business model, but Apple is an ally.  According to Universal, Apple’s crime is keeping 30 cents on the dollar – what, a retailer can’t make a profit anymore?  Not allowing Universal variable pricing, i.e. higher prices?  A better solution is to go in partnership with Apple, have Apple run the Total service.  You know why?  Because the Apple faithful will follow the company anywhere.  Because Steve Jobs can sell ice to Inuits.  Only Steve could convince the public to go with rental today, that’s how much power he has.  Still, most people won’t.  But they’ll believe a service from Apple will work, they won’t believe a service from ANYBODY ELSE will work.

5. Installed base.  Better idea is a way to fill the iPods that already exist.  Don’t abandon your base.  Yes, iPod owners are music lovers.  And they’re more dedicated to Apple than almost any act.

6. Get over yourself.  Doug Morris is not stupid, but he’s an old wave player failing miserably in a new world.  He knows how to sign talent.  Maybe develop it.  But if he knew how to sell it, Universal wouldn’t be in shit shape financially.  The way out is to license your music to everybody, let the techies develop the new model, in concert with the public.  Trying to convince the public to go your way, when you have no idea of what they want, and no familiarity with tech, is like trying to sell Vudu boxes.

7. The talent Doug needs does not need Doug.  Sure, if he can find a way to get them paid, they’re interested.  But, Radiohead, Madonna, the Charlatans, Jamiroquai, Oasis and the Eagles would rather be in business with someone who truly has bucks, who’s not going to fuck with them, who doesn’t have a history of screwing them, like Apple, like Fortune 500 companies.  Why take pennies from Doug when you can get millions from Wal-Mart?

8. Unlock the music.  As Jim Griffin always says, license the anarchy.  Rather than telling every restaurant and coffee shop to stop playing music, or getting them to write down each and every song they play, get a fee, then divvy it up amongst rights holders.  It’s kind of like YouTube.  Instead of trying to get people NOT to use copyrighted music in their videos, find out a way to get PAID FOR THIS USE!  Instead of suing people to stop trading, instead of trying to convince them to rent instead of buy, license/charge them for their present use, and follow the evolution of technology.  Instead of saying no, say yes.  Doug and Universal’s days as a monopoly are done.  If their shareholders had a say, if their boards truly understood the business, they’d say to STOP LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE!  Make deals with everybody.  Acknowledge what’s really going on.  STOP trying to convince people to do what you want them to.

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