A report today in Australian newspaper The Age says that Sony is considering withdrawing its songs from Apple’s iTunes Music Store ahead of the launch of its own Music Unlimited service later this month.This would be bad news for Apple, which needs songs from all four major labels.
But it would be absolute suicide for Sony Music. Here’s why:
- CD sales have been plummeting for the last several years.
- Interest is dropping in digital music. Even pirates aren’t bothering to steal songs nearly as much as they steal movies or TV shows (or porn).
- Apple is the one bright spot in digital music distribution: iTunes sold five BILLION songs between June 2008 and February 2010.
- Based on its launch in the UK and Ireland in December, Sony Music Unlimited has no chance of success — it’s a subscription service (which most people avoid because they don’t care enough about music to pay a monthly fee) with a paid tier for Web-based radio (which is available for free from Pandora and countless other sources) and no mobile story (making it worse than every other subscription service out there).
Even if Sony revamps Music Unlimited into a decent service and puts it onto Sony portable devices like the PSP, pulling its catalogue from iTunes means it would sell a lot less music.
And nobody is going to buy a PlayStation phone over an iPhone simply because iTunes doesn’t have Sony artists like Bob Dylan — they’ll simply buy the Dylan CD and rip it to iTunes.
In other words, it’s a lose-lose for Sony.
The only possible winner in the situation would be Amazon, which would suddenly be the biggest online music store to have song downloads from all four major labels.
Sony may hate Apple’s terms for iTunes, but it literally has no choice but to accept them. The time to build a viable alternative was 2004. Not 2011.
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