17 March, 2010

HP MusicStation: Wasted Effort?

A question for any illegal file-sharers in the audience: Would a download service packaged with a Hewlett Packard PC convince you to stop? How about the chance to download 10 DRM-free tracks (digital rights management) per month for £1 each? No? Might a 14-day free trial not convince you?

If you’ve answered ‘No,’ then already MusicStation – the music service being packed with new HP computers – is short another customer. Yet according to today’s article at The Independent, record labels including Warner and Sony Music are hoping the collaboration with cloud computing firm Omnifone will reduce piracy.

An endeavour between 4 major labels and several independents, MusicStation counts one more to the 400 legal music services available globally. What distinguishes MusicStation from the already popular iTunes and Spotify is unclear – except that it comes pre-packaged with HP computers, and covers Europe.

What’s more, the rhetoric of Rob Wells, Senior Vice President of Digital at Universal suggests MusicStation isn’t meant to compete with iTunes. Speaking with The Independent, he said:

“With its huge scale and user base, HP's 10 country introduction of Omnifone's MusicStation unlimited music service for the PC will help encourage legitimate access to digital music content from Universal Music and all the other major and independent labels."

What is telling here is the phrase ‘help encourage legitimate music access.’ Already legal downloads are widely available – yet according to a 21 January report by The Times, the music industry continues to be decimated by illegal sharing.

Far from competing with iTunes then – nor offering a service with any new benefits to consumers – nor encouraging a transition from CD to digital - MusicStation is an attempt do something (anything!) to deter piracy. Yet as we’ve already discovered, MusicStation offers terms no self-respecting file-sharer would accept.

Perhaps the collaboration with HP will succeed. Yet were the new service a genuine innovation, Mr. Well wouldn’t aim at changing the attitudes of his market. Far from ‘encouraging’ anything, he’d be selling the benefits of his product.

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