Is owning media the wrong model?

It’s no surprise that retail entertainment outlets have been in trouble for a long time. I have not bought a CD myself in over 4 years. So, what do HMV, Virgin, Tower & Blockbuster have in common with iTunes? You still buy stuff.

Why own anything? It’s not like we are buying a car that we could recoup our cost on in a few years. The hurdle we have to get over here is purely psychological. Think about it. If I said that you could play any song in the world whenever you wanted via a simple subscription, would you do it? Of course it depends on how much that subscription is. Rhapsody does that now for $9.99 a month with access to over 2 million songs. For music lovers, meaning those of us who buy some music once a month, this will save you money provided the song you want is hosted. It is just a matter of time before the major labels work through the growing pains, along with the digital rights technology enabling us to take our music with us on mobile devices like iPods & cell phones.

I was thinking about all this as I was starting to write about the move to make full movies available for purchase online via download. Aside from the headache of waiting for a file that size to download, the headache of playing some formats on any device will prove challenging for most of us. And then why would I want to buy one movie online for $19.99 anyway, when I can get an unlimited amount of movies from Netflix for the same amount every month? Netflix has it right for the most part, now if they can only figure out a way to not have to ship all those pesky DVD’s. Imagine if Netflix had Video on Demand technology to stream movies right to your laptop or TV. Now we’re talking! Subscription combined with VOD.

If you can stream something, you do away with the whole rights management issue unless you want to take something with you on a portable device that is not connected to the internet. But it will only be a matter of time before all portable devices are connected via WiFi or WiMax anyway. Imagine never having to store your media? To be able to play it wherever or whenever you want, with or without a Slingbox? How about never having to physically loan something out to a friend, to never get it back?

From the consumer standpoint, engagement should rise as the affordability comes down, while the hard costs of manufacturing, shipping and the realities of retail come down on the corporate side. Unfortunately this will kill the current digital rights management business, as all media will only reside on the servers of those that own it – not necessarily a bad thing.

So, what’s my point? My point is, buying anything is the wrong model moving forward. It makes no sense financially for either the consumer or the manufacturer.

If only Netflix was into Music too……if only you could get it online……if only……

Check out these sites if you don’t know of them already for some interesting twists on the current model:

http://www.rhapsody.com/
http://www.pandora.com/
http://www.urge.com

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