Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Major suddenly realises owns web presence, launches service

So MusicNet is now to be offered to AOL members in the US. The key phrase in the report, and why its unlikely to work, is "AOL will charge USD17.95 per month for the right to burn ten songs to a CD, roughly the same price consumers pay for CDs in a music store."

Righto, so there's no manufacturing costs, distribution is a few kilobytes of data down a phoneline rather than lorries, men, forklifts, ships; there's no cost of packaging; warehousing is replaced with a little bit of silicon; there are no store costs involved. And yet the price per track is the same as if it was on a CD? (actually a little higher, since most CDs have about a dozen tracks). And we don't even get a lyric book?

And what's this monthly subscription/ten track deal anyway? That isn't how people consume music, is it? You don't go into Virgin Megastores on the first of each month, write a cheque for a fixed amount and say you'll pop back for, say, seven CDs over the next four weeks? A monthly fee for unlimited access, maybe. Otherwise, charge per unit. And charge a lot less, by the way. In fact, devising a way to allow people to pay ten cents a track might just send AOL back to profitability - a micropayment system that works is, like, the golden grail or holy fleece right now.

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