Record Labels Embrace Cloud Music to Save Themselves
Last week, Apple inked a cloud-music licensing agreement with EMI Music. They’ve signed Warner Brothers, and are working Universal and Sony.
But why isn’t the headline about EMI signing up with Apple?
EMI already tested the waters with an iPad app, so it’s clear they’re embracing the union. It’s a little startling to remember there still are music labels when you’ve gotten accustomed to buying individual tracks. Labels rank lower in public opinion than the guys who delivered the iPod.
File sharing and portability broke the old music models. More importantly, “sharing” was the point. Napster set expectations for free music ten years ago. When you can freely stream Pandora , YouTube, or less legal resources, on demand, few still leave their soundtrack to chance.
With these services, you upload files to the cloud, freeing you at access your music from just about anywhere. All the big boys want in on it. Google started a cloud, though it’s still in beta. Amazon launched a Cloud Player with access via web or Android device, offering 5GB of storage before charges kick in.
That’s worth noting. The cloud spreads around storage, but they house your files. Why volunteer to pay to access your own files from other parties?
Its expected Apple will look to see what files you own then use theirs for playback. This tech explains why they purchased, then shuttered, Lala, The details aren’t out but a safe guess is they’d fold it into the already-dominant iTunes, and you can bet they’ll charge for cloud access. A better question is how they’ll verify ownership. You could just rip whatever file they check from others or invent proof from whole cloth.
Labels still believe there’s a place for them, and their overhead, at the table. Blockbuster acts bankrolled artist development but now both can friend and tweet fans directly. Instead of buying whole albums for one song, all are served up as individual tracks and as albums online. That lowers the overhead of producing and shipping discs, but what’s the upside when CD sales underwrote everything?
Maybe bundling label content, via iTunes or another package, is the key. Buying the “Universal Package” could give me access to their music, video catalog, and other properties. Include theme park access and it gets more interesting.
What if it backfires? An objection to cable TV was paying for packages including lousy channels. Since you usually only hear about labels when they’re suing the artists I had to look up who was even signed to EMI. It’s a varied bunch. Maybe they’ll offer a family-plan buffet to satisfy our a la carte tastes?
What value adds are they going to have to offer to get your money? Should musicians just go directly to the companies giving access to the cloud? Hit us back…