$20 Million Dollar Experiment to See if You'll Rent a Song for 10 Cents
A music experiment will soon begin with
the ambitious attempt to reinvigorate people to buying music online.
For just 10 cents you'll be able to select a song to add to your Music
Locker to play whenever you like. These aren't obscure or unknown Indie
bands like those you'd find on Amie
Street, but include nearly the entire music library of the
major record labels. This upcoming service has a big backer which might
just surprise you.
Here's how the innovative site works. Over 5 million well known songs
are browsable in a web layout. Songs are ranked by the number of
listens they have received - similar to the strategy MP3.com invented
10 years ago. Each song can played one time in its entirety with the
built in flash player. Subsequent plays are limited to 30 seconds. Next
to every song is an "Add" button which for a single credit will add the
tune to your personal collection. Credits cost 10 cents and each new
customer gets 50 credits for free.
Once a song is added it is accessible from your "My Collection" area
where it can be listened to an unlimited number of times. The songs are
not downloadable so they are not useful for portable players or your
mobile phone. There is also no ability to play the songs on Internet
radio, game console and DVR
devices (like Tivo) as you can with the Locker from
MP3tunes. These 'web songs' are trapped in a tab of your browser.
While the advertisements talk about "buying" songs it is more akin to a
rental model. The songs and the permission to play them are stored on a
remote machine by a company that may discontinue the service at anytime
- like a landlord who can change the rules whenever they feel like it.
The first time I wrote about this issue I gave the example of the Coke
Music store going flat. Then the Virgin Music store ceased
operation and most recently the MSN Music Store announced they would pull
the plug on August 31st and all purchased songs would go into
the coffin as well. If Microsoft, the richest technology company in the
world, cannot keep their store going that indicates you need to expect
any store to be in jeopardy of shutting down.
The financial backers of this dime-a-song rental concept might surprise
you - major record label Warner Music Group. They quietly invested $20
million into a company called Lala late last year (2007) when they
devised this strategy. At that time they also agreed to put printed
advertisement for Lala into 25,000,000 CDs in exchange for the right to
greater ownership. (WMG also sells CDs plus digital tracks through Lala
- a concept I first tried with limited
success.) Lala has raised a substantial $34.7
million in investment money to date. At the time of this
writing, the service is not yet public but it will be eventually at
Lala.com's main page.
Will people pay ten pennies for a restricted web song with pseudo
ownership? I have serious doubts. People prefer free stuff on the net
and there's plenty of it. You can get full length streaming versions of
U2's Pride on Napster,
or even better your choice of 6
videos from YouTube for free. So what would convince someone
to buy the Lala
WMG and Lala's song rental is an admirable concept with a solid design
and interface. And it is a positive sign to see the major labels
agreeing for songs to go into a personal locker area - (albeit a highly
restrictive one). But any locker needs to be open to the world via an API so the
music can flow to the car, phone, portable player as well as multiple
PCs like we have at MP3tunes. A successful model needs to give more to
paying customers not less
to compete with free and the omnipresent black market of piracy.
You can try this dime-a-song rental concept before it is publicly
launched via this "hidden
URL". Let me know if you think people will pay 10 cents to
rent a song in the forum.