Tuesday, September 23, 2008

YAPF - Yet another physical format

Music On microSD: I Can't Believe The Labels Fell For This

SanDisk is going to try to sell music on teeny tiny SD memory cards.

The link above says it all for me. Though I'll bet it wasn't the labels falling for it (they likely extracted healthy advances from SanDisk); it's SanDisk that I can't believe fell for it.

Physical music is dying. It doesn't matter whether it's CDs, cassette tapes, DVDs, or tiny chips with music already on them. Sony once proposed selling flyers with album download codes at stores, which customers would enter into their computer at home to download the album. That sounds like a solution for the retailer, not for the customer. People are simply not getting their music at stores as much as they used to. That trend will continue its downward spiral as more mobile phone delivery and always-on connected services come on-line.

SanDisk claims that people are already walking around with microSD players in their mobile phones. But most people with phone memory use it for their photos and contacts. To play music, you'd have to disassemble your phone, take out your contact list and photos, and plug in your music. When the album was done playing, you'd have to do it all over again. Imagine trying to switch out a microSD card in the car, on the train or bus or airplane, in a kid's messy bedroom, or even in your own living room. Your music would quickly join your pocket change in the folds of the sofa.

Even with a USB dongle attached to your computer, you'll still need to change the music far too regularly. Maybe SanDisk needs to sell a SD card changer (though it would more likely be a tiny 50-port rack that all your SDs get plugged into for both storage and playback.) If they expect you to simply upload the album from the card to your computer, then what was the point of getting the card in the first place? Your computer is already hooked up to any number of download stores.

At least SandDisk will have a lot of unused inventory they can erase and resell as mere memory.

UPDATE 2008-12-05: YAPP II

Here is news of another USB memory stick music solution. An Australian company D:Net Media is going to attempt to sell music and bonus materials (videos, remixes, interviews, biographies, photos, lyrics, etc.) on a memory stick in stores. Their product apparently includes an online service component that sends you updates when more media related to your purchase becomes available. Though the bonus materials are a nice bonus, this again sounds like a solution primarily for retailers, not for users. The web site with more info is DDA4me.

Resnikoff on DRM-Free

Resnikoff's Parting Shot: The Downer on DRM-Free

Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News spends an amazing amount of time following the digital music business. Where does he get the time!?

In the post linked above, Paul discusses the lack of any sales bump from licensing non-DRM music to Amazon and others, and compares it to Apple's continued dominance, even though most Apple music remains locked up in Fairplay DRM. The complaint seems to be that non-DRM is not moving the needle.

I look at it the other way around: it was DRM that didn't move the needle.

This proves DRM was an unnecessary technology the music labels forced on distributors for years. DRM is inherently anti-consumer, and at the razor-thin margins the labels require (driven by Apple's refusal to budge on the 99 cent price point), no distributor can afford the customer support calls DRM creates.

Even after DRM has been proven a failure, the labels continue to make stupid mistakes even now with restrictive licensing rights and lack of margin to build a business.

MySpace Music

Why MySpace Music Is Likely to Fail

Here's a post by Om Malik on the coming-soon MySpace streaming music with upsell to Amazon MP3 downloads experiment. Om thinks it will be a failure. I hope he's wrong, but the key lines from his post are:

The record labels are still not facing the proverbial music and understanding that their business model is completely broken... They need to learn that they don't need to start a company, but instead encourage a thousand others

The music labels must get out of the way of distribution - both in terms of price and rights.

My usability opinion is that any web-based streaming service is bound to fail as the music stops playing when the web page it's playing on unloads. One way around that is to pop out a player that can be minimized to the task bar, but that defeats any display advertising. Online music will only succeed when it becomes custom radio, complete with local, regional, and national audio advertising and the occasional upsell to a favorite "now playing" song or album download.