back to article MusicStation arrives, but will we pay for digital music?

The Great White Hope of the music business - and many network operators - has arrived in the UK. The music business hopes it will persuade people to start paying for licensed digital music, while operators hope it will persuade people to start using their expensively built, but under-utilised 3G networks. Vodafone will launch …


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  1. Joe K

    You had me at "£1.99 a week"

    ...then lost me again at "DRM".

    I ain't paying to RENT music! If it was vanilla MP3's, at 192kps or higher, i'd be all over this, and my days of piracy would be over.

    Next idea please.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "expensively built, but under-utilised 3G networks"

    Simpler answer to that ... roll out a service that's laptop compatible, as fast as broadband on a landline but with less contention, costs less per month, doesn't require bundled rental of a telephone service and has at least as much monthly download capability as a landline broadband.

    Or if the 3G service really isn't capable of doing the above economically, stop and think -- why did you bid so much for the licence, and why are you really planning to bid yet more when the TV spectrum becomes available?

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  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh look, DRM....

    ..It's failed already.

  5. Will Leamon


    "DRM you say? Won't be using that, then - and will be advising others not to."

    "I ain't paying to RENT music!"

    I really wish consumers would host a world forum and get their sh?t straight. A clear list of your demands coupled with a huge on-line petition would be a great start. Then 'the industry' wouldn't have to keep taking pot-shots at new ideas just to have them shot down one by one. Just come out and say it: 'I refuse to pay for music in any way'. At least that would end all the industry delusions of direct profitably and instead they can turn their attention to indirect models.

    Can you feel that? That's the price of hardware (stereos, speakers, et al) sky rocketing. That sound you hear? That's the sound of a million narcissistic whiners with no craft at all cranking out music. Those are the folks who make music 'only because they love it.'

    And that smell is the advertisers lurking in the background waiting to take over the whole business.

  6. Christopher Martin

    "Any song, anywhere"

    DRM aside, this doesn't even sound like a desirable service. Is my mobile carrier going to let me download a friend's song, the Hitchhiker's Guide radio series, some obscure electronic music, Feynman talking about physics, or anything not licensed under the big bad recording industry leaders? I'll stick to my self-arranged track collection which I know will always be here without anyone else meddling with it, thanks.

  7. Mo

    So tell me…

    After I download a track, to my phone, what happens? Can I sync it with my iPod? When I plug it into my Mac or PC, does it appear in my iTunes library? Does it sync with _anything_? Or does it just sit on my phone, where it'll be practically useless to an awful lot of people?

  8. Simon Greenwood

    Re: Please...

    Who said anything about refusing to pay for music in any way? I am happy to pay for CDs and MP3s that I can play in any way I please. I am not prepared to pay for music that will only play on my phone or on a specific player or that introduces spyware to my computer. Why don't the music companies concentrate on A&R rather than restricting our use of the music that they sell? For that matter, why not only make music for the love of it? The stuff in the charts that is just made for money deserves only to be heard in coffee shops.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Geez. You give people the ability to legitimately listen to any music they like from the major players, 24/7, for only 2 quid a week, and all they can do is whine that they can't stop paying the second week and still have all the music.

    To me, this sounds great. I can listen to any tune I want, when I get the urge, without resorting to becoming a petty criminal. It's like a radio, only without the rubbish. And two pounds a week is nothing. It's four cans of coke. Less. (If I had any confidence any of that money were actually going back to the artists I like, rather than funding the latest tuneless moron who looks good on MTV, I'd be even happier.)

    But no. A generation of self-obsessed fools believe they're somehow entitled to get everything for free.

  10. Paul Crawford Silver badge


    "Can you feel that? That's the price of hardware (stereos, speakers, et al) sky rocketing."

    Utter nonsense! Such items are cheap simple and established, no industry subsidy of any sort to make them (and more important still, no license needed, unlike DVD, HD, etc)

    "That sound you hear? That's the sound of a million narcissistic whiners with no craft at all cranking out music."

    That is a real risk, but then only a small percentage of the big name music is worth while anyway.

    "And that smell is the advertisers lurking in the background waiting to take over the whole business."

    That is a much bigger risk, that the music business becomes much like USA TV (little of any good, endless crap advertising).

    I generally agree that a usable model is needed to fund decent music and to reward the artists, but I cant see the 'free music' genie being put back in the bottle, and I can't see anyone liking a DRM's service that wont let them play on anything they want (PC, car, home Hi-Fi, MP3 player, etc).

    They may hate it for various reasons (loss of control over prices and so on, current lack of payment for thier dues), but the allofmp3 site model (cheap-ish, all labels, choice of download quality & format, no DRM) would, if it did return *some* of the money to no-Russian artists, be their best way out.

    My 2p worth.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mo, It seems

    that you can download to your PC/Mac for £2.99 a month, though the tracks will be DRM protected by eAAC+. It's unclear as to whether your playlists etc would be maintained onto the desktop.

    Annoyingly the mobile market also provides the ability to divide users into country bases where they can be charged more. EU users will pay the equivalent of £2.70 for the same service, how nice!

    Your ipod won't support the format.

    I'd also like to point out the marketing crud, "doesn't need a broadband connection or a credit card like itunes". Well itunes works happily on the iphone and credit/debit cards are a good way to protect my money and my ipod will work on the tube.

    So here's a nice question, of the 70% devices reached how many can store more than 1 track at a time, so that when I'm on the tube I'll not get bored?

  12. Tim


    People seem to make a big deal out of DRM these days, but put it this way...Each song on iTunes is what 79p? So for £1.99 you'd reach your quota in 3 songs without DRM, which wouldn't be as attractive "buy 3 songs from us, or don't we don't care much either way" would be their slogan. It sounds like they've actually got a winner. An all-in-one music solution where people can get lots of songs without worrying about data costs, track costs etc. And at a decent price.

    (People who don't want DRM will already either pirate it, or convert it themselves so I doubt the profits will feel the pain of people who wouldn't use it anyway saying "Nope it's got DRM")

    I can see this being bundled with higher end contracts quickly and being quite a success.

  13. pctechxp

    8 quid a month

    what a rip off, and what if you decide to leave Voda, what happens to your music then?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unlimited Mobile Data - 8 GBP/month

    So, Vodafone will provide unlimited mobile data for 8 quid a month? AND they pay royalties to the music companies out of that. As long as its music being carried...

    So how come their data charges for everything else are so high? Are they subsidising this service (and why would they)? Or are they stiffing us on all other mobile services?

    Curious, no?

  15. N1AK

    Can't win

    Who cares about DRM in a RENTAL model, if you don't want to rent music go buy your albums/singles somewhere that offers them without it. Of course a rental model requires DRM the whole point of renting is you don't get to keep it forever.

    £2 a week to be able to listen to what you want, where you want and as often as you want it a pretty good deal. Or you could buy 10 albums a year I suppose, or get 100 songs on iTunes if thats your bag.

  16. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Why is it that the copyright lobby cannot hold a normal discussion about DRM? They will always reduce the argument to the absurd "ahh, you don't want to pay for music", "this will surely kill the hard working, much suffering artists" and "piracy means the end of the democratic world"?

    Oh, I see why - because they know their position is indefensible if you apply logic to it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TFL cries in despair

    As if there wasn't enough music in public transportation already. Mobile music - the business of annoying everyone around you. Will succeed.

  18. jonathan keith

    Hey Will Leamon (and the music business)

    It's really not difficult to understand.

    I want:

    - music files encoded at a high bit-rate so I can play them on a decent stereo without them sounding shit.

    - No DRM, so that I can play them where I like, when I like, on what equipment I choose and without my right to listen to them "expiring" once I stop paying a subscription.

    - A reasonable price, which takes into account that digital delivery is cheaper and faster for the music industry because it cuts out all the usual "bricks and mortar" retail costs, and that doesn't penalise me for living in Europe and not the USA.

    Offer this to me and I'll gladly pay. Otherwise I'll still buy CDs and continue ripping them.

    Not that difficult to understand, is it?

  19. Chris Dickens

    Regarding Rental

    When you rent a DVD from Blockbuster you have to take it back after a day or two, if not you have to pay again to keep it.

    When you rent a car that has to go back, even if you rent it for 6 months, you can't just say "oh, i've had it for long enough, it's mine now" and stop paying.

    Why do people think music is any different? If you want to rent it there has to be a method of stopping access to it if you stop paying.

    I subscribe to Napster. It works on my PC which is connected to a stereo, it works on my phone and I can connect that to my car stereo. I've no problem paying them their 15quid a month and continuing to pay it to keep access to the music - they do add new stuff all the time.

    If you want to keep the music/DVD/car then buy it outright - don't rent it in the first place.

  20. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Paying artists is absurd?

    "They will always reduce the argument to the absurd 'ahh, you don't want to pay for music' "

    Oh, I forgot. Because Russia is effictively outside the reciprocal copyright system for music, artists from Mali to Montevideo to Manchester don't see a penny for any sales or airplay in Russia.

    Now I can see why you think it's "absurd" to pay creators, Vladimir -you've never done it before ;-)

  21. Anthony

    Isn't this just the radio?

    I've always liked the idea of personalising my listening. So I created playlists for my mp3 player.

    With this service, by the time I'd chosen a couple of tracks I'd be at work and my battery would be flat. Just not for me.

    First thing I predict with any decent kind of takeup of this service is an immediate rise in mobile phone thefts. But I'm very pessimistic about things I have little interest in.

  22. Ally

    "Not if it has DRM!" Blah blah blah

    "No DRM, so that I can play them where I like, when I like, on what equipment I choose and without my right to listen to them "expiring" once I stop paying a subscription."

    Yes, I can see that as a business model that'll work brilliantly. People subscribe for one week, spending 24 hours downloading the entire track catalogue, cancel their subscription and walk away having spent 1.99.

    Get real. We all hate DRM, but when you're looking at a music rental model there's no other way to do it. This service is, on paper, excellent, but I'm not sure that downloading over the air is going to be enough to get it going...

    What we need (and I don't know why no big-wigs understand this): One DRM system. Though I dislike DRM, I could and would tolerate one that works with the vast majority of systems out there, and would let me listen to my music on my PC, iPod, Walkman phone, etc, etc. without problems. Then we need a rental model like the one proposed here (and 1.99 a week is a fair price, IMO), with reliable companies offering them.

    The last one is pretty important- there's been all kinds of hoo-hah about Napster going under- in a case like that anyone renting their music would basically be left musicless in an instant. So, iTunes music rental, then?

  23. b166er

    List of wishes (short)

    See the music industry let me down by making me pay for a new license every time a new format came out.

    Let me buy the LICENSE to a song I want to own, I'll pay £2 per license. Then let me do whatever the hell I like with that piece of music, be it download from P2P at 256kbps, buy as a single from iTunes, buy on a flash stick from HMV in FLAC format, whatever. Then new formats can come and go, but I still have the right to acquire that piece of music in any way I want, because I own the LICENSE to it, geddit?

    Then we all get a fair deal and none of us have to be made to feel like criminals (labels included).

    @Will Leamon, I really wish the LABELS would host a world forum and get on the level with their artists and fans, the solution is there, and 'the industry' has been slow on the uptake, fans and even artists have taken things into their own hands, they HAVE reacted.

    I don't want music for free, I expect people to make a living from doing what they are good at, my friend has just been successful with his band Hard-Fi and I wish him all the luck. However, maybe, just maybe, the lavish lifestyle awarded to the likes of Bono, et al and certain executives within 'the industry', is unrealistic now. That doesn't mean we can't all make a living surely? Maybe if the money was spread around more evenly, and a larger number of new artists were promoted, there would be a new era of great music (that's not to say that there isn't great music about currently) and sales would be booming, as opposed to the manufactured and marketed to death music that is so prevalent.

    Don't let music die please, my son needs as much muscial nourishment as I have had ;) (and not just from back catalogues).

    Music is Art and to be adored, by the artists, fans AND producers, money is great too, but Music is Art.

  24. chris

    Vodafone ... not bad at all really.

    Alot of negative comments but to buy a song costs you like £150 and with data charges thats nearly a fiver sometimes more. You pay sky or virgin to watch mtv so £1.99 a week is not bad at all and you can have what you want when you want plus another factor is when you use this service your already halfway towards qualifying for free weekend calls and texts. How many people have had to make calls at the last minute or have to text them self at 11.55 on friday night just to get free calls and text.

    Good Idea Vodafone. lets face it we were never gonna get unlimited music to keep for £1.99 a week we could download the whole catolouge in a week exspecially on pc.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: "Not if it has DRM!" Blah blah blah

    "Yes, I can see that as a business model that'll work brilliantly. People subscribe for one week, spending 24 hours downloading the entire track catalogue, cancel their subscription and walk away having spent 1.99."

    What's to stop them doing that now with CD's? or just go to <insert p2p downloader here>?

    "What we need (and I don't know why no big-wigs understand this): One DRM system."

    No we don't. What we want is the ability to be able to buy music and listen to it however we damn well please and NOT be dictated to by some greedy technology inept bunch of backward music bosses with no shaggin' clue of what the actual user wants.

    They have had their day of being greedy, their business model no longer works and it scares them.

    Do you think for one moment people who didn't give a toss about paying for music would be making so much noise over DRM? Of course they wouldn't - I somehow doubt Mr Torrent down loader really gives a flying shit about DRM - its the people who ARE prepared to pay for music BUT the service has to be accessible to the current players (hifi,mp3 player, pc, car etc) and NOT limited by what the music industry THINKS is good for the consumer.

  26. Mike

    What you want and what you want

    There are two types of people. Some want to own their music, some just want to listen to it.

    The owner type: One type wants to be able to play it on any player, and want to be sure that they will continue to be able to play it. They don't want to find out that their favorite song is unavailable. They don't want to be locked into a subscription model. They believe that DRM is evil and tend to listen to Midnight Snake, Joy Division, and Modest Mouse.

    The listener type: The second type wants to be able to listen to any song, but probably isn't as picky about what they're listening to it on. They can accept a subscription model if they have a very wide pool of songs to choose from, and the price is reasonable. They believe that vinyl records take up too much space and tend to listen to Midnight Snake, Joy Division, and Modest Mouse.

  27. Andrew Gribbin

    Ok Ok

    Well to be honest it sounds like a good idea, alot of people at the moment are actually using their handsets as their MP3 player and as a result this service will offer those people the ability to download as much as they want. There may not be EVERY track on offer for the consumer to download but i would assume there is a good selection. And besides the point you will be able to play it any where, through speakers etc as you are able to buy headphone jack connectors for handsets these days and i guess you will be able to play the tracks via a stereo or in your car if you have an AUX port.

  28. Fenwar

    Rental model betrays a bigger problem

    "If you want to keep the music/DVD/car then buy it outright - don't rent it in the first place."

    Except that rental is what is being offered here. Why? Not because it suits what we want to do with the music, but because the record & mobile companies want a guaranteed revenue stream, and they know the kids are getting bored of buying the filler-laden albums they've been relying on for most of their sales.

    DRM does make sense for rentals, but this whole concept still stinks to me. It's much like the idea of moving software like Office to a subscription model because there isn't enough innovation to make everyone buy the latest version every two years. Squeezing every last penny out the same, tired approach instead of taking the challenge to come up with something new. (Which can be done - in the console world, look at the success of the Wii versus the "more of the same, only shinier" 360 and PS3.)

    I'll stick to buying the few CDs that are actually any good, ripping to mp3 and playing whereever the hell I want. To support my favourite artists, of course, an even better way to do it is to go and see them live.

  29. Mark

    DRM kills music collections

    For some people part of the pleasure of music is the process of building a collection over the years, a collections that reflects changing personal musical tastes, whims, passions, bad decisions made under the influence, ex girlfriends and moonlit nights. It defines a part of your personal history, and as you get older its great to revisit your past occasionally and take a long walk down memory lane.

    With most DRM schemes or music rental, the shelf life of tracks is short and restricted, dictated by OS, playback location and whether you changed from Vodaphone to t-mobile. It hardy suggests the idea of music as a craft or something with value that the industry constantly try to flog us. Sitting down in 2027 and pondering a printout of the music you rented in 2007 hardly has the same bite as perusing a collection you actually own.

  30. Nick

    Battery life

    I wonder how long a mobile phone battery will last when you start downloading tens of MB of music over 3G. I expect it won't last a day if you download a few tracks and make a few calls - especially as 3G talk time can be only half to 2/3 as much as when using 2G (see the N95)!

  31. Ian Tunnacliffe

    Mark, Spot on

    Sometimes you just have to admit that someone has said exactly what you were thinking - even though you didn't know you were thinking it.

    When I slid the Arcade Fire Neon Bible CD onto a shelf in the same room as my original 7" vinyl copy of Love Me Do (bought for me when I was very young), the whole of my musical life was stretched out between them. I knew there was a reason I still buy my music on a physical medium.

    Apart from DRM, record company greed and the fear of being locked into an obsolete format of course.....

  32. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    Is DRM an excuse?

    @ Nick -

    "I wonder how long a mobile phone battery will last when you start downloading tens of MB of music over 3G. I expect it won't last a day if you download a few tracks"

    Good point.

    I can't see people downloading for more than an hour a day, but an hour is nevertheless around 40 per cent of a typical 3G phone's talk time.

    @ Mark / Fenwar / Jim -

    The use of DRM as a technical means of recreating the "single" or "album" - is dead. It's simply nailed to its perch; no one believes in it anymore. It doesn't help sell consumer goods and it doesn't help sell music.

    (And as someone with more than 20 feet of vinyl in my living room, I understand the value of collections.)

    But MusicStation is not a way of building a collection, and they're very upfront about this. It's really user-powered radio. So I wonder how much waving around this dead bogeyman - DRM - is simply an excuse not to pay for music?

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