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Apple Claims Its First Victim
By Eric de Fontenay (Founder & Publisher)
(more articles from this author)
2003-07-14
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While Apple's iMusic Store's success has reinvigorated a desperate digital music sector, it has also claimed its first victim with the shuttering of Rioport by Ecast. "The level of financial commitment required to market an online music store to consumers, as recent events have demonstrated, was simply too high to make financial sense for Ecast," explained Ecast CEO Robbie Vann-Adibé. In other words, Rioport's ˘99 song model for major online retailers such as BestBuy.com, SamGoody.com was simply no match for Apple's own ˘99 offer available exclusively to Mac OSX users and RHAPSODY's price-cutting strategy.

All in all though, you'd expect most people in the music industry to jump on the bandwagon, thankful that at least someone is able to sell versus give their music away online. Well not quite, as Metallica leads a hodge-podge of artists boycotting the Apple store in the name of "creative control". Seems the band doesn't like our money right when we're ready to take out or wallets unless we buy the full album versus Apple's per song model.

Now I understand an artist desire to retain creative control over their works, including how it is packaged/sold. Could you imagine all you'd miss if you downloaded only your favorite or the more popular tracks from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (unless like me, they're all your favorites)? And Metallica has every right to decide what online retailers will carry their latest album and/or songs. But this entirely misses the point, especially in the case of Metallica.

Remember that Metallica was the banner bearer for the anti-Napster movement, exhorting fans to stop stealing from their favorite artists. That's fine, unless you turn around and deprive paying fans of legitimate music because you don't like the way they're buying it. You can't have your cake and eat it too!

The fact is that Apple gives customers a choice between purchasing individual tracks or the full album. And a surprising 46% of purchased songs over the first five weeks have been as part of an album. They're not interfering with Metallica's creative control as much as trying to build a viable, legitimate market for music in the face of p2p mania that lets you get the music you want, how you want it, for free. Metallica's decision is doubly selfish since it also deprives other artists and labels working to build that market with Apple of fans that might otherwise discover a new artists, and in turn, spread the wealth around.

Metallica needs to remember a basic rule about the music business: it's a business. If you want people to buy your goods, as with any other business, you have to either (i) give them what they want, or (ii) convince them that they want what you want to give them. So far, Metallica has failed on both counts.


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