Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tin Pan Alley

For those of you interested in the rapid evolution of recorded music sales, there's some news out of France that will probably be a harbinger of things to come worldwide. Neuf Telecom, a telephone/internet service provider, has just inked a deal with Universal Music that will essentially include music downloads in the price of internet access.

The deal is based on a multi-layered access model. For twice the price of an ordinary internet account (30 Euros vs. 15 Euros), the user can download an unlimited amount of any single category of Universal's music catalogue (ie. Pop, Rock, Disco/Funk, etc). For another 5 Euros more per month, they get unlimited access to the entire Universal catalogue.

The mp3 files are inscribed with a Digital Rights Management license that needs to be renewed each month. So they're only readable for as long as you keep your Neuf subscription active.

While it's an interesting proposed solution to the problem of how to make money selling recorded music, there are already a number of problems I can identify right off the bat. The mp3 files come in Windows format, making the deal useless for iPod users. Then there's the question of accessing music catalogues besides Universal's. Obviously, no one's going to duplicate internet subscriptions just to download music. Finally, there's the problem of how to make this kind of deal compatible with some of the licensing deals already struck between the music companies and sites like iTunes.

But I'm not sure any of those are anything more than temporary roadblocks. After all, there was a time when Mac and PC word processing files were incompatible. Even the access being limited to a single company's catalogue can easily be turned into a way to "brand" the ISP.

So this seems like a pretty clever approach. It'll be interesting to see how soon before any American ISP's follow suit.

Posted by Judah in:  Arts & Letters   Markets & Finance   

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