UMG new music service: Total Music

Universal Music Group along with SonyBMG and potentially Warner Music will join forces to provide a new subscription based music service targeting the iTunes and mobile consumers.

According to Macworld: As well as launching a rival to the iTunes music store UMG hopes to nurture the adoption of other music players such as Microsoft’s Zune, and develop a new business model in which music for consumers becomes essentially free.

JupiterResearch’s Mark Mulligan believes “the idea of working with device manufacturers to get revenue directly for music is not actually that crazy an idea”, while podcasting news provides us with Five Reasons Total Music Will Be A Total Failure.

From everything I’ve read, I’m of the opinion that Total Music is counterproductive in terms of DRM, consumer rights and business model.

The recording industry needs to agree on a viable approach to DRM that encompasses multiple devices, including the market leading Apple iPod. If Total Music doesn’t interoperate with Apple’s iTunes/iPod it will face an up-hill battle. Removing DRM and using watermark or similar technology will go a long way to overcoming the DRM issue we face today.

Total Music and its association with the big recording giants is likely to confuse people. On the one hand the recording industry is intimidating people through RIAA lawsuits, while on the other hand they want to hide the subscription fee so people don’t know they are paying for the right to legally listen to music.

No business model is free to the consumer. There’s always a hidden price to pay somewhere. It could be built into the purchase price of a device, subsidized by advertising or incorporated into a monthly phone bill – ultimately the consumer will be paying for the service. It seems to me that the recording industry is applying a web 2.0 approach to the Total Music business model and ultimately creating a very interesting experiment.

Clearly, this is an attempt by the recording industry to ensure that Apple iTunes/iPod does not develop a stranglehold on the digital music sector, something the PC industry couldn’t do with Microsoft. I believe that Total Music will be a distraction from the real work, that of alligning the business model with consumer behaviors and market opportunities.