I don't know if I've ever read Donald Passman's book, All You Need to Know About the Music Business. I think I might have glanced through it when I first arrived in Nashville in 1994. The whole business is in such a state of flux right now that trying to compile it all into a book strikes me as aiming a Howitzer at a moving target, but Passman has been re-issuing this book for almost 20 years now and I guess old habits die hard.
In any event, I'm pleased to see that Mr. Passman thinks well of the future of subscriptions services as the ultimate form of digital music delivery, despite the speed bumps such services have encountered along the way:
Q: Why do you think subscription-based services (such as Rhapsody) haven't really taken off?
A: Passman: They're not convenient enough, they're not truly cross-platform. For me, the ultimate would be anytime-anywhere access to any music for one subscription. On my computer, in my, on a connected device, whether it's an
iPod or something else, on an airplane when I don't have an Internet connection. Not just tied to one or two devices. I'm personally a believer in subscription services. People don't think twice about paying for cable, and when you stop paying it goes away. But with music, there's a kneejerk reaction because we're used to owning it.
Which nicely echoes the point that I've been making all along: Besides the clunky interfaces, the biggest obstacle to more widespread acceptance for music subscriptions services is the persistence of the illusion of "ownership."
Which, again, is why I'm one of the few who thinks the Google partnership with Lala such a potential game changer. Yes, I know, Lala is not a flat-fee subscription service (yet?). But the user interface works exceptionally well — is far superior to Rhapsody or the latest incarnation of Napster (from what I hear).
So users will find Lala from its new links in Google music searches, discover its ease of use, and become enraptured with the virtually infinite quantities of music they can absorb when they don't have to "own" it to listen to it. From there it's a short leap from Lala's current "nickel and dime" approach to "just let me pay a flat monthly fee and open the flood gates."
Add an iPhone app (presently in beta) to that scenario and it's pretty much "game over."