My lovely bride pointed me to this Fortune article on the new iTunes Music Service. Obviously written for publication before the service was officially announced, it provides a great look at Jobs’ vision behind the service, and the inadequacy of the music industry in its previous and current efforts at online distribution.
A few items I’d like to address:
One thing’s for sure: If ever there was an industry in need of transformation, it’s the music business. U.S. music sales plunged 8.2% last year, largely because songs are being distributed free on the Internet through illicit file-sharing destinations like KaZaA.
I take issue with this statement, since it’s impossible to prove that illegal file sharing has had this much impact on the U.S. music biz. There is a ton of physical piracy (blanket CD copying) going on overseas, especially in Asia, that eats in to the music industry more than a bunch of geeks swapping songs online.
I have downloaded a lot of music from peer-to-peer networks, as well as some centralized sites I have access to. Some of it was digital copies of CDs and cassettes I already own. The rest was stuff I wanted to listen to before I went out and bought it. A lot of that got trashed when I realized it wasn’t for me.
I know I’m not the only one who probably spent more on music (albeit looking for sales and good prices online) because I was pulling music off the net.
Second, it seems as though hardly anyone in the music business thinks that the problem with falling sales may be attributed to the product itself. Elsewhere in the article:
For years they have been able to get away with releasing albums with two or three potential hits bundled with ho-hum filler cuts. That has been wonderful for the industry, but it has made a generation of consumers who pay $18.99 for CDs very cynical. “People are sick and tired of that,” says singer-songwriter Seal. “That’s why people are stealing music.”
Amen. That’s it right there. And we see further evidence of the music industry’s slow-to-catch-on attitude:
But MusicNet users still can’t download songs onto portable players. “These devices haven’t caught on yet,” insists MusicNet CEO Alan McGlade. Never mind that U.S. sales of portable MP3 players soared from 724,000 in 2001 to 1.6 million last year.
Hmmm. I would think a better-than-two-times annual growth, in a year, in any segment of the tech economy would be cause for consideration of said segment.
As for the service itself, I think it’s great. I haven’t actually bought and downloaded any music yet, but that’ll change any day. I’ve spent quite a bit of time searching through it and listening to samples. It’s going to change the way I buy music. It’s going to change the music business.