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  Friday, October 04, 2002

My friend George Mannes writes the excellent "5 Stupidest Things on Wall St." column at Today he also reported on a new effort at Best Buy for selling cards in stores that allow you to pay in advance for music you then have to go home to download. I think this is the 6th stupidist thing on the street this week -- the idea that people should go to a store to purchase permission to download a virtual/digital product.

After buying these $10 cards, available only in stores, users can use the money on the cards to download the songs in the Digital Hits catalog on their own computer. In theory, as the catalog expands, consumers could consult a touch-screen kiosk at each store to get a sense of the available music selections. But for now, the Digital Hits card appears to be promoted with endcap aisle displays, brochures and sales associates carrying computer printouts of the current catalog.

The only reason this rates any consideration is the possibility that teens who don't have credit card or pay-pal accounts would be able to purchase this debit/credit in the store for music. But the lack of immediate gratification aspect (why can't you download it to a device in the store?) will tank the project quickly.

Additionally, the Digital Rights Management limitations put on the tracks mean that you're spending $1 so you can do what the label wants you to do with the music. Buying the same single on CD for $2 allows you to rip it, burn it, put it on a mini-disk or MP3 player, or whatever you want.

EMI songs can be "burned" onto a recordable audio CD twice, can be installed on three different computers, and can be downloaded onto certain portable devices an unlimited number of times. Warner songs can't be burned onto a CD, can be installed on only one computer, and apparently can't be downloaded onto portable devices.

I predict utter failure on this, because the trial runs against giving people choice of how they listen to their music in favor of keeping them from copying it.

1:53:52 PM  comment []    

Today's WSJ  has an article on Clear Channel Radio's ownership of the maximum allowed number of stations in San Diego plus several others in Tijuana that broadcast into San Diego, giving them effective control of 13 "locations on the dial" for that market.
They sell advertising across the range of stations, make exclusive deals, etc.
The amazing thing is that they actually quote a DJ saying this is 'better for competition' :

"Instead of 13 stations you want to murder each morning, you feel like you're part of a team," says Mr. Machado, the Clear Channel DJ. He used to face off against pop station Z90, until Clear Channel took over its programming this spring. "Competition isn't really competition anymore," Mr. Machado says. Since the company stations carefully keep their play lists distinct, he says he can spend more time improving his show, rather than worrying about which promotions or artists Z90 might feature."

Consider the impact that ClearChannel has had in NYC: there is now only one Classic Rock station, one "Lite Hits" station (for an audience of 16MM) the playlists are milquetoast and repetitive. I don't think we have to wonder about why we hear the same songs on the radio constantly.

Over at SATN, David refers to Open Spectrum, which would eliminate the real-estate like concept of 'location' in broadcast frequencies. What a difference that would make in a situation like this - more competition in music tastes from many radio stations not limited by these tight frequency requirements. The ones that would survive would be the ones that people listened to because they wanted to hear that music, not because they settled for what was closest to their demographic profile. 

I'm not holding my breath.

1:40:32 PM  comment []    

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Last update: 11/2/2002; 10:05:46 AM.

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