So, Google has been working on setting up an internet music service for a while now, and we even know some of the details about what Google wants it to look like. Sadly, however, rumour has it the negotiations with the music industry have been so frustrating, Google is contemplating abandoning the entire project altogether. This has led some to wonder – why doesn’t Google, or a consortium of technology companies, just buy the music industry outright?
The details of what Google wants its service to look like have already been leaked September last year. Google wants to sell music one track at a time, and they want to give customers the ability to listen to an entire song once before buying it. Google also envisions a digital locker service for $25 a year, while also allowing you to share songs with your friends so they can listen to the entire song once.
The talks with the music industry to set all this up have apparently been so frustrating for Google that they are now contemplating shutting the entire thing down. Wayne Rosso, who once ran Grokster, claims that sources familiar with the matter stated that Google is “disgusted” with the music labels, and is considering options ranging from just following Amazon’s lead and not seek the labels’ consent, to just shelving the entire project.
And this brings us the rather radical idea that’s been floating around. For all the power and influence the music industry has, it’s actually a very small industry in terms of money going around. As one of Rosso’s sources jokingly said, “Larry, Serge and Eric could buy the entire music industry with their personal moneyâ€. Jokingly, yes, but not that far from the truth.
It’s no secret that Apple, too, isn’t particularly enamoured with the music industry either, and I’m guessing Amazon’s pretty much had it as well. What if a number of large technology companies worked together to buy the big four record labels, and set up a licensing organisation to license all their content on a non-discriminatory basis? Assuming this could be arranged in a fair way (instead of creating another MPEG-LA), it could be the single best thing to happen to the music industry.
Right now, the record labels are blocking a lot of progress in the music world, as they are incapable of innovating at the same pace as the technology industry. This leads to crazy things like insane, control-freak governments enacting three strikes laws to kick people off the internet for sharing songs three times or more. No other industry has ever been given this kind of government support – not even the banks. Banks just got money; the content industry get entire laws and enforcement organisations.
While I’d much rather governments the world over stopped treating the content industry as some sort of special industry, the fact of the matter is that this isn’t going to happen any time soon (since the content industry’s goals regarding the web align with those of governments). This means I applaud any private effort to break the insane power the content industry holds.
While it’s highly unlikely the technology industry could ever arrange something like this… One can dream.