The Labels' MySpace DisGrace

You have to hand it to the record labels.

When they get a good idea, they get it too late.

Take the new music service that three of the big four labels (Universal, Warner and SonyBMG) are going to launch within the next few months that they think will revolutionize the digital music business.

Dream on.

The labels are eight years late and a dollar short.

The joint venture announced yesterday with MySpace is meant to be a digital lifeline for both companies. The three labels are hoping MySpace's 110 million users will help both of them grow.

But the labels' hatred for Apple's Steve Jobs is showing. Oh, and they forgot (or didn't want) to say how much the music on this new service is going to sell for.

Let's break the deal down:

1. MySpace is over. Wrong social network. Facebook is the hot one and no social network is a good investment with a fickle market like Gen Y. MySpace growth has declined. Nice deal. Three dying labels in bed with a sputtering social network.

2. MySpace is slow, burdensome and full of advertising -- the wrong environment for the demanding and tech savvy next generation.

3. Music is DRM-free. Duh! I thought the labels were against that a few years back. See what I mean? Years late and a dollar short. Almost every young consumer embraces DRM-free music -- it's called stealing.

4. The labels and MySpace (owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp) will split revenue from downloads, merchandise, concert tickets, advertising, etc. Such a deal -- for them. Nothing special for the consumer but pennies off an iTunes download and millions of songs they can listen to (but not own for free) on their computers. Sounds like the record industry version of win-win to me.

5. Assuming the new music service is a smashing success, it still has to be easy to use and must become the choice over iTunes. I wouldn't bet the ranch on that.

6. One should be careful of thinking that access to millions of artists and songs is the killer app here. The next generation will tell you that they want what they want. It matters more what other people share with them. They want to mash-up content, something the labels do not fully understand.

So there you have it.

Another Zune.

Another Rhapsody or AOL music.

Another ill-fated attempt to pry young consumers away from Apple.

Excuse me, but I don't see any revolutionary ideas in the proposed MySpace music service. No "think different" mentality -- the stuff Apple is made of. In fact, it's kind of ho-hum. Kind of yesterday once more.

I don't want to rain on their parade because the labels are in trouble. They deserve a few months of thinking that MySpace music service is going to be the new iTunes even if it turns out to be a big disappoint like Microsoft's supposed iPod killer -- the Zune.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh on the labels for showing up with too little too late. Somehow, even Steve Jobs in a turtleneck and jeans couldn't make this thing cool.

The deal they should have done was to license Napster when it reared its ugly head. Instead the labels fought, put Napster I out of business and opened the door to unprecedented music pirating.

In light of that mistake -- something they should have learned some bitter lessons from -- the labels' announced MySpace adventure is -- a disgrace.

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