Today, music label Sony BMG’s chief executive, Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, spoke about the possibility of an online music subscription service that would work with all digital music players, according to Thomson Financial. Yes, all — including Apple’s iPod, a device Schmidt-Holtz specifically mentioned.
Talk of Apple looking into a new, unlimited music subscription plan for its iTunes music store garnered a lot of attention last week (our coverage). The company was said to be in talks with unnamed labels about such a service which would be a radical departure from their standard 99-cent-a-track purchase-to-own model. Given the proximity of the stories and how much they overlap, it certainly seems possible that Sony BMG and Apple are holding talks on this very matter.
For such a service to work on the iPod, any company would need Apple’s support to either modify or change the DRM the device currently accepts. Some are interpreting such compatibility the other way and think it means Sony may try to do a DRM-free subscription service — but how exactly a subscription service with no security in place would actually work is unclear, and seems unlikely.
Another key alignment in the two stories is Schmidt-Holtz’s statement that users may be able to keep some songs indefinitely, even after the subscription expires (an expiring subscription once again seems to indicate DRM). There was a very similar statement in last week’s Financial Times report about the possible iTunes subscription service. This is a fairly odd/complex idea for two sides to come up with completely independent of one another.
Schmidt-Holtz indicates that his company’s idea for a subscription service would likely involve a flat-rate monthly payment plan. This too was mentioned in the Apple report, though most people focused on the more intriguing idea of adding a $100 charge to everyone iPod sold which would allow it unlimited iTunes access.
Sony BMG wants its service to work with all digital music players, not just the iPod. The company is also said to be in talks with the other music distributors on the deal and hopes to set such a service up as early as this year.