Everybody Wants To Be A Killer
Every so-called “iPod killer” to arrive on the digital music player scene has been summarily dismissed by Apple’s market-leading, revolutionary product. Other products are said to fail because they lack the iPod’s refined design, don’t have its ease of use, and can’t match its iTunes software companion. It hasn’t been a fair fight. The iPod is a man among boys.
If anything deserves the be touted as the product to challenge the iPod, it may be the music-enabled cell phone. As the thorough and informative article “iPod Killers?” at BusinessWeekOnline details, the next wave in digital music has cellular carriers, cell phone manufacturers, and record labels salivating at the promise of the emerging market. (And they’re eager to nibble into Apple’s market share. Record labels certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Apple’s role diminished.)
Telecom has a few things on its side. First, as the article pointed out, a quarter of the world’s population uses cell phones. Second, all those people with cell phones already have an account with their carriers and are billed every month. Adding music to the monthly bill is a snap. Also, the monthly billing cycle means that telecom companies won’t be hindered by a credit card charge that is estimated at up to 20 cents for a one-song purchase. Verizon, Cingular, and Sprint could end up lowering their prices to $1 a song and still make more profit than Apple does. Add to that the ability to make truly impulse purchases—no more need to be in front of a computer to buy a song.
A 10GB cell phone could be on the market in two years, it says. But how will people react to a music player that also happens to be a cell phone? Will the convergence of technologies be the panacea promised, or will it lead to cumbersome products? The old school isn’t all that impressed—at least not publicly. “As long as the primary point of a cell phone is to be a good phone, any entertainment component will be somewhat lacking,” said Jonathan Sasse, the president of MP3-making company iRiver.
Warner Music Group Under the Microscope
Jeff Leeds of the New York Times wrote an insightful piece on Edgar Bronfman and Warner Music Group (subscription required). It catalogued his successes and failures in turning Seagrams into an entertainment powerhouse, and looked at the future of Warner Music Group. Some have been critical of the company’s moves and have questioned whether or not Bronfman is in it for the money or the music.
Warner Music Group has only one of the year’s top ten albums—American Idiot by Green Day—but does have a powerful catalog. Catalog will only go so far, though. Acquiring and developing new talent is the backbone of the music business. Said one analyst: “All he’s done is cut costs. Anybody can do that. You do have to continually come up with new artists.”
Others think Bronfman is smartly pursuing new avenues, such as digital music and cellular phone initiatives, ahead of his rivals. We’ll see what investors think of Warner and its $3.43 billion valuation when the company soon has its IPO.
What Are Bloggers Talking About This Week?
The return of Coldplay is a big topic ( Stereogum, The Modern Age ). The White Stripes have been heavily blogged lately ( Product Shop, too many others to mention ). And The Bravery’s pros and cons are always up for debate ( here, here, here ).