PLUGGED:
As a bit of a music industry outsider, I'm just absolutely flummoxed that it took this long to create a legal, licensed online service for music lyrics. Which is why I think the new service from Yahoo Music and Gracenote is a great step in the right direction.

Yet lyrics remain a glaring omission from digital music files either purchased or acquired through subscription models. Not only do consumers not receive song lyrics with their download, they can't search for songs by lyrics within Yahoo Music Unlimited or any other digital music service including iTunes.

The cost of including the lyrics to these files-primarily due to the licensing fee-would force digital retailers to either increase the cost of their service, or accept less of an already thin margin.

Until music lyrics come as a standard bit of metadata with all digital music-along with album art, track information, etc.-then digital consumers will continue to get shortchanged. When I buy a CD, I get lyrics and liner notes. When I buy digital, I don't. Why? Frankly, any reason for that is a bad one.

Digital music is already hampered with a fragmented DRM environment, has a lower quality of sound, and can be difficult to move freely between even compatible devices. Let's not exacerbate the problem by failing to provide the complete product as well.

The digital music format hold the potential to completely reinvent the standard notions of album art, liner notes and lyrics. Think interactive and animated album art. Think audio liner notes. Think lyrics that can turn the file into a karaoke track for singing along.

Yahoo's new lyrics service is certainly a much needed development, if only to illustrate how far this industry still has to go.

UNPLUGGED:
Jobs poopoos music subscription... again.

Steve Jobs again put the kibosh on rumors that Apple is developing a subscription music service. At this point, do his denials have any credibility?

But let's examine his choice of words. He said "consumers don't seem interested in it." That doesn't mean he's not interested in it. In fact, with analysts like PacificCrests Alex Hargreaves estimating that an iTunes subscription service could rake in as much as $900 million a year for Apple, I'd say Jobs could be very interested in it.

Which leads to the second oft-quoted remark... that "the subscription model has failed so far." That leaves open the interpretation that the subscription model would succeed if "done right" and my bet is that Apple is furiously working on a subscription model that not only has the slick user interface expected of Apple, but also a few new features not yet seen (or at least not seen together).

The fact is that subscription services are interesting, and they are interesting to customers... only not very many of them as yet. Just because Jobs declares subscription an "uninteresting" service doesn't make it so.