Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I don't subscribe to this music model

Sony BMG and Warner are hoping to achieve something that the post Shawn Fanning Napster couldn't: Convince people to sign up for a music subscription service.

The hook? Access to unlimited music from the companies' vast archives. The catch? It's a loan, not an own. In his Monday column, Times media writer David Carr notes that such a digital library makes sense in an age when it makes little sense to hold on to physical media. After all, people are dispensing with CDRs and storage sticks in favor of today's virtual equivalent of a U-Haul storage facility: amazon.com. And, rather than own a vast DVD library of my own, I opt to use Netflix which is a subscription service.

But would it work for music? I don't see why such a model couldn't find a viable market given an attractive pricing policy and compatibility with a full-range of MP3 players. But here's the rub. People who are into music -- and the biggest consumers of music -- are every bit as obsessive as Nicky Hornby paints us out to be. Unlike those who merely snack on music and view it as a small, but wholly inconsequential nicety in life, music lovers don't just listen to music, we collect it.

We've channeled our long-lost hunter-gatherer instincts into our record collections. Many a music lover gazes upon his vinyl racks or CD wall with pride, the way a butterfly collector gazes at glass cabinet of pinned Lepidoptera. Simply, the idea of having to ransom a favorite song or album for a continuous fee doesn't gibe with our acquisitional instincts. Music is such a core part of our beings that we want it to be tangible and visible to us. It's an outward manifestation of the deep meaning music has to us. At least, it is to me.

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