The most recent numbers put Apple’s portable music player market share at over 70-percent, and the iTunes Music Store’s market share at over 80-percent.
What’s the competition doing? Charging more and giving it away.
It’s the tale of two cities; the Real Networks camp, where they charge for everything, even products that are free everywhere else.
And, there’s the Napster camp, which can’t make money selling music, so they’ll try to make money by giving the music away. Free.
Maybe they figure they can make up the lost profits on volume. Free is better, right?
Apple’s troika iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store owns the player and downloadable music markets and appears to be picking up the pace.
Meanwhile, there’s no mention of the competition other than their sheer desperation to make a buck; even if it means giving it all away or charging for water.
Real Networks just released Real Player 10.x for the Mac; this one is a Universal Binary and should run on older PPC Macs and newer Intel Macs.
Real Player does not have a stellar reputation among Mac users, even after a decade of use and version 10.
Real is headed by former Microsoft employee, Rob Glaser. He touts the new Player as providing near DVD quality video, a graphics equalizer, and plays QuickTime movies.
Real also says the Player behaves just like your other Mac applications. Yeah, from Mac OS 7.5. It crashes regularly.
Worse, is Real’s ability to milk a dead horse. Since they can’t make money the old fashioned way and earn it, Real resorts to charging for water in their music and player restaurant.
Their Premium Online Radio is just that. $12.95 a month of the kind of music you can get free at Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
Real’s market share has been declining while Apple’s QuickTime has increased dramatically as PC users climb aboard the iTunes train.
Meanwhile, what of Napster? They couldn’t make money giving songs away back in the day, so Napster went public, ran off with investor’s money, and tried a subscription music service that only your grandmother would love.
Apparently, that music business model is passe’, so Napster is heading back to its’ roots. Free music.
That’s right. If you can’t beat ‘em and can’t join ‘em, try something from the science fiction world.
Napster’s new music model is free online music that’s interactive, and advertising supported.
It’s the first online music service to offer users free, on-demand ability to listen to two million songs.
How’s that, again? A web-based music player lets Napster send you music anywhere you’re online at no cost to you. No cost. Zero dinero.
Of course, you can buy what you listen to, but you don’t have to do anything except listen. And watch the ads go by.
Does that mean you can listen to any one of the over two million songs on Napster? Yes. Except for the fine print, which limits you to five listens and then you have to pay up, become a Napsterite, drink the Kool-Aid, yada yada yada.
So, Napster has become a drug dealer, doling out free music for five listens, then you have to pay up, right?
Almost. So long as you don’t listen to the same song more than five times, you can listen to it again and again just like it was your own song; except it’s not. And you can’t put it on your iPod, or any other player unless you buy the song first.
I love the industry of marketing speak. Read this and laugh with me at the spin:
“If this is Free, Why Would I Subscribe to Napster?
As a registered member of Napster’s free music service you can listen to all 2,000,000 songs in the Napster catalog up to 5 times each. After the 5th free play, you must purchase the track to listen to it again.”
“As a Napster subscriber, you can listen to the same song an unlimited amount of times without having to worry about any limits. You can also download your favorite music to your PC and listen to it when you are not connected to the internet.”
Did you catch a little tear running down your cheek? Me, too, except it was a different cheek than you may suspect.
The idea, of course, is to bait you with free, and get you to switch to a paid subscription service. That’s where Napster makes money.
Well, I’m sorry. That’s my bad. That is really the point where Napster loses less money; when you give them some of yours.
Real Networks can’t make money with their subscription music service, so they have to charge for every visit to their site (metaphorically speaking; they charge just so you’ll listen to what you can get free elsewhere).
Napster can’t make money with their subscription music service, and they don’t want to copy Real, so they’re giving their music away for free, hoping you’ll get hooked on a song after five listens, then cough up money to listen to number six.
They say that if someone builds a better mouse trap, that customers will beat a path to your door. What if you can’t build a better mouse trap?
Real, Napster, Microsoft, Sony, et al, have tried and failed. Will free music succeed this time?
Yes it will. Once Napster starts giving away an iPod with every subscription, I’m in.