The Value of Music
Recently Nokia has announced its Comes With Music range of products. This is where you get one of their handsets and can then legally download an unlimited amount of music via their service for a year onto your newly acquired phone.
Now when we say ‘unlimited’ that always means ‘within reason’ or that which could be ‘reasonably’ listened to by an individual in a year.
The point is, this is slowly becoming a mainstream model. Sony Music is launching its own version (it has in scandinavia already) along with Sony Ericsson. I think we can expect that a similar deal will eventually work with the PS3/PSP platforms (at least for Sony content) and EMI recently went into a joint venture with Warner Music, not tied to a piece of hardware but allowing ‘unlimited’ downloads for a one off fee.
Now in many respects these deals with labels add REAL value to music. The labels will get paid a slice off the hardware price or package fee (as with the EMI platform). The customer values music enough to want it and pro-actively download it, but they have lost the sense that they should pay individually for each track/album. Yet this way they are still paying for it, without feeling that they are - and then the money is distributed through to the labels and appropiate artists/songwriters etc etc.
The flip side is that it could be perceived as the nail in the coffin of the traditional value system. The system which says:
‘That an artist or collection of artists and skilled individuals spent ‘x’ amount of time on this track/album. By purchasing it you are supporting them directly (and not the label - even though must of the money used to go to the label) and making sure they can continue to make music to the same high standard.’
Also it could be a way of blocking off the long tail. I.E. if an individual or band cannot get with a content aggregator. They may also find that these new services only push material from major labels, as by associated with material with high cache levels adds value to the hardware and is a win, win; for the labels and tech companies.
Does this squeeze out the individual, semi-pro? If they are left to ’sell’ their music, it would put them at a perceived disadvantage in the market place compared to the labels who have their ‘price hidden’ in the cost of the phone etc etc.
Times are a-changing as they have been non-stop for the last 10 years. However, is something fundamental happening in front our eyes? As labels panic and seek to find an income (something which is kinda important for a business) are they undermining, further, the very product they wish to make money out of? Or, are they smelling the roses and leveraging the content the best way they can, today, making sure there is money to invest into the music of tomorrow.
Also does this mean that it will impossible to have a complete music collection in the future? Might we see a situation, as with movies and Blueray, that certain acts can only be listened to on certain playback devices? I’m not too sure thats ‘bad’ as its the norm for videogames and as I said, movies. However it would be a complete change for the consumer.