Universal Music's Offer to Apple

Something about this sounds fishy.  I wonder what kind of CRAZY DRM scheme could be bundled in this proposed music deal.

First of all, I don’t want Universal Music’s entire portfolio on my music player.  I may already own a bunch of my own music, I still like the CD experience, and I think that I would be overloaded with too many choices of what to listen to.  I’m picky with my music, so I don’t want everything on Earth on my player, especially when I’m listening to songs at random.  I’ve also heard a different version of the deal in which Universal does open up it’s entire portfolio to Apple to pre-load iPods and iPhones with 50-songs in exchange for some of the music device revenue.  After that they want to charge some fixed amount per year to buy additional blocks of music.  I’m not sure I get this.  I’m not sure what Apple gets out of this as an advantage over iTunes and keeping all the money for its music devices.  It’s not clear yet, either whether there will be some fishy DRM to prevent the spread of digital music files and to force customers to subscribe if they want to listen the music that was bundled with their device.  It sorta feels like Universal is trying to either take over music devices or make it impossible for Apple to continue to be successful.  I have no love for iTunes and I have even less love for the traditional music industry.  Despite this, iTunes is the devil I know, so I’m a little scared of Universal’s proposal.

Speaking of DRM and downloading music, my Dad said something interesting to me a while back about my little brother and why he illegally downloads music.  He said that the iPod memory capacity is too big and that my little brother feels the need to use all of the capacity.  Therefore, he does willy-nilly downloads of music that he may not like. Perhaps many young people behave this way.  Perhaps Universal received a similar assessment of young people’s online activity — who knows — and they are trying to combat illegal downloading by prefilling iPods with crap.  Gosh, that would seriously crack me up if that is what Universal is thinking.  The flip side of this is that if my brother had to pay for this music, he wouldn’t have purchased it in the first place — it’s like samples at the Costco to him.  To me it seems reasonable as the content provider to act like Costco and let people sample so bands can build a fan base and then sell stuff to that fan base (I guess that’s the purpose of radio, but listening to radio, we know they only play about 40-different songs a day — there is no diversity, and the selection is controlled by the music companies.)

March 20, 2008 5:09 PM PDT

Why is Universal Music cozying up to Apple?


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