Our New Service Is Called ‘Total Music,’ but We Like to Refer to It Internally as ‘Total Panic’
Doug’s a very special guy. He’s the last of the great music executives who came up through A&R. He’s old school. I like him a lot.”
–Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Universal Music Group CEO Doug Morris
The per-device royalties Universal Music Group receives for every Zune player sold were apparently substantial enough to buy CEO Doug Morris a bigger set of balls, because he’s out drumming up support for an industry-owned subscription service with which he hopes to loosen Apple’s grip on the digital music market.
The endeavor is called “Total Music,” and Morris has already approached Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group about participating. His proposition: a subscription-based music service for the hardware industry, one whose cost could be baked into the hardware that supports it. Under the Total Music model, hardware makers subsidize the cost of music, which consumers are then given for “free” when they buy a new digital media player. That’s more money up front for hardware makers, but it’s a wise investment because, as Morris reckons, they’ll make that money back and then some by selling many more devices.
Interesting business model. “If the object is to wrest control of the market from Steve Jobs,” said Gartner analyst Mike McGuire, “this is a credible way to try it.”
Sadly for Morris, it’s also one inevitably complicated by recent turmoil in the music industry. With Radiohead releasing its latest album as a pay-what-you-will digital download, Nine Inch Nails declaring itself a free agent, and Madonna about to dump Warner Music Group for a concert promoter, we’re clearly seeing a sea change in music discovery, distribution and consumption, one perhaps lost on an industry so hardened by years of CD price fixing. So while the music industry struggles so to wrest control of the digital music market from Apple, some of today’s biggest popular artists are crafting an entirely new business model.