updated 09:40 am EDT, Mon September 3, 2007
Execs: Future of music
Rick Rubin, founder of Def Jam Recordings and now co-head of Columbia Records, is arguing that the future of music sales lies in a direction beyond the iPod and iTunes. In his conception, people would pay for subscriptions, but with more generous options than available on the likes of Napster. "You'd pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come anywhere you'd like," he says. "In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cellphone, from your computer, from your television. Anywhere. The iPod will be obsolete, but there would be a Walkman-like device you could plug into speakers at home."
"You'll say, 'Today I want to listen to...Simon and Garfunkel,' and there they are. The service can have demos, bootlegs, concerts, whatever context the artist wants to put out. And once that model is put into place, the industry will grow 10 times the size it is now."
Commenting on the issue, Dreamworks SKG co-founder David Geffen praises Apple's involvement in the music industry, while criticing his peers, noting that many music executives dictate too much to their customers. "[Apple CEO] Steve Jobs understood Napster [the P2P software] better than the record business did. iPods made it easy for people to share music, and Apple took a big percentage of the business that once belonged to the record companies. The subscription model is the only way to save the music business," Geffen contends. "If music is easily available at a price of five or six dollars a month, then nobody will steal it."
The New York Times observes though that some in business oppose subscriptions, for the same reason they oppose the iTunes Store. Tracks by Justin Timberlake and Al Jolson both cost the same amount on iTunes, an equality which the critics say robs them of millions of dollars. Similarly, charging a single fee for subscriptions would eliminate the profits of premium fees, and require a sharing of acts traditionally used as competitive advantages.
"There would have to be a new economic plan," Geffen says. "And it would have to be equitable, depending on the popularity of the artists."