AT&T's full-song mobile music download partnership with eMusic almost has it right. Almost.
I like the fact that the operator is partnering with companies that have expertise in digital music and I like the fact that it exposes a massive subscriber base to services that can frankly user the extra eyeballs. It's a far cry better than Verizon Wireless' attempt to prop up its own digital music store by paying out the nose for the AC/DC exclusive.
But I hope AT&T takes it a bit further whenever it gets around to offering mobile access to music subscription services like Napster or Yahoo. For users new to either service, a stand-alone mobile music plan makes sense. For existing subscribers, there needs to be a tighter integration.
For instance, let's say I'm a Napster subscriber. I pay one price for the PC-only service, and pay more per month for the option to transfer subscription tracks to my MP3 player. Why not add a third tier to access and download my playlists and music library to my mobile phone?
If I can't just add mobile access to my existing account, then you might as well just launch a proprietary service instead. If I'm paying for two separate services, then it doesn't matter to me if they're branded the same. It's integration that matters.
The point is that I'm excited to see where AT&T goes next. Most wireless operators trip all over themselves trying to act like entertainment companies while those in the business just sadly shake their heads at their clumsy efforts. AT&T is smart to stick what they know best.
I'm going to make this quick because quite frankly the less written about it the better.
Eminem's publisher, Eight Mile Style, and "copyright manager" Martin Affiliated are at it again with the lawsuits. This time they're suing Apple for selling Eminem's music on iTunes because they claim the label-Universal Music Group-didn't have the right to license his music to the digital music service in the first place.
What this is really about is publishers claiming that the label's right to distribute CDs doesn't apply to the digital format. They want a bigger cut, and whether or not they are right is not really my beef. That's between the labels and the publishers as far as I'm concerned.
At best, suing Apple is simply grandstanding. At worst, it's building a business based on litigation rather than the creative exploitation of assets in a digital world.
And the real shame of it all is the symptom behind it-that publishers can still make more money in lawsuit settlements than from digital royalties. You almost can't blame them for going for the quick buck.
But that misses the big picture. Going for the easy cash today makes it more difficult to hammer out a system that will make everybody more money tomorrow. Lawsuits like these are just counter-productive distractions.