Despite many of the negative reactions to Nokia's "Comes With Music" initiative, on the surface the move is a good idea.
Subscription services have failed to gain traction in both this country and abroad. Music fans just can't get their head around the concept of paying for music as a service rather than as a product to own. Eventually, I think that will go away, but for now, it's a problem that requires some creative solutions.
"Comes With Music" is one of those. Rather than trying to convince users to pay monthly, Nokia's gambit is to get customers to buy a year’s subscription upfront in the price of the device. With that information alone, it makes sense.
However there remains some uncertainty over the execution of this, and there is no small degree of speculation and just plain misinformation out there on exactly how this will unfold.
Nokia executives told me that any tracks downloaded from the plan can be transferred to up to five other devices that use Microsoft's subscription DRM, not just Nokia phones. Other press reports say otherwise, without any reference or sourcing.
There are a lot of ways Nokia can mess this up. The devices can cost too much. The music can be too heavily restricted. The labels won't all play ball.
We should hear more details of this as the service rolls out live, sometime in the first half of next year. I'll hold of complete judgment until then. But as a believer in the subscription model, this move at first blush seems to have at least some of the right pieces.
There's a great scene in the 1994 movie "The Paper," which chronicles a day in the life of a second tier New York daily newspaper. The grizzled editor, played to perfection by Robert Duvall, is grumpily lambasting the glut of columnists in his publication spouting off about whatever suits their fancy.
"What we need is for every columnist in this paper to: Shut. The f*ck. Up!"
Now the irony of writing a column about how columnists need to shut up is not lost on me. But the scene points to something that Nokia, and pretty much any other company planning to rollout a new digital entertainment service, needs to learn.
The number of columnists in the world has increased exponentially over the past few years, thanks to the Web, blogging, commenting, podcasting, etc. The number of wanna-be pundits are countless and have forever changed the media landscape-both for news and criticism -- past the point of control.
The backlash against what seems to be Nokia's decent "Comes With Music" idea stems from Nokia's failure to provide more information about the service upfront. The company just announced that it signed UMG as a participating label and then stepped back to welcome the applause.
The problem is that most tech pundits think companies like Nokia and UMG are bumbling fools. Given the lack of specific information, they're going to assume the worst and poke as many conceptual holes in any plan rolled out.
Take a lesson from Apple -- keep your mouth shut until you have the full picture, and then make a whole lot of noise. Leaks may come out, and probably will (if I'm doing my job anyway). But save the official glad-handing for after you've got all your ducks in a row.