How much longer before we can’t buy digital music downloads?
[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
When Steve Jobs made the rounds of major record labels in 2000, he knew he had them over a barrel.
Music piracy, kicked into high gear by the original Napster the previous June, was a threat to the recorded music industry. The new frontier for music was online and the labels were completely ill-equipped to deal with the greatest shift in music distribution in a century. They had to get in on the business of selling music digitally, but how?
Oh, the labels tried to build their own download stores, but Pressplay (originally called Duet and owned by Universal and Sony) and Musicnet (all the other majors) were miserable failures. First, they were expensive. For $15 a month, fans could stream 500 songs each month, get 50 song downloads and the ability to burn each of those songs to CD 10 times.
Third, the labels couldn’t work together on a unified platform because that would have violated all kinds of anti-trust rules, a legal situation that also help scupper the labels’ proposed purchase of Napster.
The labels had all the digital products but no way to distribute and sell them. Apple’s iTunes offered a way out of this bind.