Intriguing/head-scratching story this morning from the FT, which suggests that EMI is planning its own digital music portal.
Baffling, since that conjures up the awful memories of PressPlay and MusicNet, Big Music’s prior attempts to run their own music sites, way back in the first boom (sigh). And even though EMI owner Guy Hands is a private equity vet, and newish digital head Douglas Merrill came from Google, they surely know that there’s no point in a single music label trying to run its own e-commerce site, since no music buyer wants to buy their music based on the label that sells it. Right?
Right. EMI.com, coming this fall, will indeed allow people to buy downloads from EMI artists and watch their videos, but our understanding is that EMI execs don’t envision it as a portal, and certainly not a competitor to iTunes (AAPL) or any of the other outlets it works with. Think “laboratory” or “digital sandbox”, we’re told. And we wouldn’t worry about whether people will choose to visit “EMI.com” in the first place: If they show up, it will likely be because they Googled Kylie Minogue (big everywhere but the U.S.) or Robbie Williams (ditto) videos, etc and ended up there. Sort of how most of the Web works.
OK. We buy that. And we’d certainly rather EMI spend their remaining dollars tinkering with digital distribution than wasting it on big advances for artists that will never pan out. It’s just a pity that nearly a decade after Napster 1.0, big labels are still trying to figure out digital distribution. We don’t think they’re going to get another 10 years to figure it out.
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