Ever since it was launched the Apple iPod has been a smashing success as well as a cultural phenomenon. Over the years, various products and offerings have made inroads into iPod nation, but it has never been an easy task. Now the record labels are looking to take another bite out of Apple, and in the process perhaps give the Micrsoft Zune a shot at becoming a more viable product.
Universal Music, Sony BMG, and Warner music have been rumored to be in talks about launching Total Music. Unlike the Apple model, where the consumer shells out a fee for each song, the music on Total Music would be free to the consumer via a subsidy paid by the device manufacturers. The thinking appears to be that this may be enough of an incentive to get consumers to switch over to new devices and services.
While the concept may seem to have merit, there are already methods of obtaining music onto a device for free. Both Sirius and XM offer such capabilities (with limitations that the music remain on the device) on their wearable products. In Sirius' case, a bounty is paid to the record labels for each such device manufactured. XM is in the midst of a lawsuit by the labels due to some features that the record labels take exception with.
At the end of the day, it is about satisfying the hearts and minds of the consumer. The advantage Apple already has is that people are hesitant to give up a music library that they have already paid for. Getting free tunes, without the threat of a lawsuit, is perhaps the single best way to convince the Apple consumer to switch. However, with all of the controversy in royalty payments, lawsuits by the labels against consumers and download companies, and transferability of downloaded songs, consumer confusion is the largest hurdle any Apple competitor has. Thus, it will take more than just free music to gain the confidence of the consumer.
Position - Long Sirius, Long XM, No Position Apple, Microsoft, or Any Record Label.