In the Labels’ Darkest Hour, Sony Stupidity Shines Through.


Just a few days ago BusinessWeek ran a story that Sony was looking to sell DRM-free music, thereby joining the other “big” labels (Universal, Warner, and EMI) in offering at least a part of their catalog DRM-free. There was no mention of iTunes; speculation was that, like Universal and Warner, iTunes would be avoided and Amazon would be the online store of choice.

I wrote about Sony’s potential choice and wondered what the labels were up to. Silly me. I made the assumption that Sony would be selling through an online music store. I mean, where else would they sell digital music? Obviously it would be online, right?

But I forgot one key fact: This is Sony.

For all the dumb things Universal has done in their desire to get back to the glory days of huge music profits, I think Sony has been even dumber. Remember, these are the guys that invented the “ringle” — a ringtone/single on a physical CD — for sale in brick and mortar stores at $6 or more; the whole thing was laughable.

Well, history repeats itself. Sony is not (at least initially) using an online store for their DRM-free tunes. Rather, they will sell cards at retail locations that you use to download the album from a web site. It’s bad enough I have to go to a retail location to buy it, but I still have to use my computer to actually get the thing anyway. It’s the worst of both worlds! I guess this is what to expect from the makers of the ringle, CD rootkit and ATRAC.

And as bad as this looks, it’s even worse. As the Macworld article points out:

The move is far from the all-digital service offered by its rivals, though. To obtain the Sony-BMG tracks, would-be listeners will first have to go to a retail store to buy a Platinum MusicPass, a card containing a secret code, for a suggested retail price of $12.99. Once they have scratched off the card’s covering to expose the code, they will be able to download one of just 37 albums available through the service, including Britney Spears’ “Blackout” and Barry Manilow’s “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.”

Twelve. Ninety. Nine. Is Sony insane? Have they not noticed that the going price for a full digital album is $9.99 (and even that’s too high)? They want me to pay $3 more and go to Target for the privilege! Seriously, Sony, how dumb can you be?

Oh, and only 37 albums? With ringles they planned up to 50 titles, but now can’t do more than 37 lousy albums? These guys are dumber than Universal and, believe me, that’s really saying something.

Of all the ridiculous ideas that have come out of the labels the last couple of years, this is the ridiculoust! (Yes, I just invented “ridiculoust”. I think it applies.)

16 thoughts on “In the Labels’ Darkest Hour, Sony Stupidity Shines Through.

  1. Pingback: Sony: I’m Not Alone «

  2. At some point you have got to be asking yourself ‘Where do they find these people (CEOs running Big Media)?” Sir Howard Stringer used to be Dan Rather’s Producer on the CBS Evening News, a job that really prepares one to run a big media conglomerate like Sony. Uh-Huh. The guy running NBC Universal used to Produce the Today Show, almost wet behind the ears at Haaaavaaad. Great qualifications again.

    At some point in the not too distant future I see many established artists taking control of their music and selling directly through iTunes and eliminating the middle man. Physical CDs can be sold through a web site, maybe even Apple can get in on the business with a partner like Oasis.

    Unlike the days of old, I really don’t see the added value of the RIAA companies. Technology, actually a bunch of disruptive technologies, are changing the whole business model. Sony/BMG and the rest need to wake up or face irrelevance.

  3. SuperMatt,

    Agreed. If I’m at Target and I can pay $12.99 for a card that provides a digital album, or I can just buy the CD for likely the same $12.99, I can’t imagine anybody wanting the former.

    The whole point of digital downloads is shopping 24/7 from home, instant gratification, and the lower price. These stupid Sony cards provide none of that.

  4. I don’t understand why you’d pick this over a CD. With the CD, you can listen to it in your car on the way home, get higher-quality sound, not lose it if your hard drive dies, etc. The reason people like digital music is the convenience of instantly getting it on your computer, and that you can get 1 track at a time. Without those conveniences, there is no reason to buy this. Perhaps Sony wants to “prove to its shareholders” that DRM-free downloads are clearly something nobody wants…


  5. Hi,

    By making or supporting the Blu-ray technology or the Blu-ray Disc, Sony is on war with HD DVD too!


  6. If it wasn’t January, I’d have guessed this was one of Slashdot’s April Fool’s Day articles…

  7. I can’t wait until all of these media companies are gone. They don’t do anything for the consumer or the artist.

    I say let them all die!!

  8. Lets just hope and pray that the head of Sony or any other other music companies, like Universal, are ever elected to the White House?

  9. Rus,

    I would love to have Sony prove me wrong on this and announce DRM-free music on iTunes next week. However, I think that when Sony goes DRM-free on iTunes it will be the lst thing they do. They have lots of stupid ideas to try first…

    If any company announces DRM-free music on iTunes next week it’ll be Warner, in my opinion. They’re the only major label besides EMI who have licensed their entire catalog DRM-free. Universal and Sony are just playing around right now in desperate bids to find something (anything!) that may stick. Going all DRM-free — especially on iTunes — is the last resort for these guys.

  10. That was the funniest post I’ve read in a while. The only thing that would make it funnier is if it were a joke and then Sony woke up and sold their stuff DRM free on a real online store like iTunes and/or Amazon. April fools!

    They could have, you know, tried asking advice from … anyone in the world, say, some random person on the street, or one of their kids even, or ANYONE who doesn’t work at Sony and realized this plan is a stillborn idea. Mental. Seriously. Funny, but mental. Someone should really be fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun.

  11. Why won’t they hire music fans? They clearly have none on the payroll, and this would be the best means of knowing what is important to their target audiences, wouldn’t it?

  12. I still buy from the independent CD store in town. Best selection. Best attitude about the music. Hey, they even have t-shirts!

  13. Where can I sign up to be a highly compensated Consumer Electronics CEO? Do I need to learn to play golf?

  14. Tom, I say we give Sony ONE more week. There may be an announcement at MacWorld regarding DRM free tunes on iTunes.

  15. Seriously, this must be a joke. right?

    In the future stupid and sony will be interoperable words.

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