I had fairly high hopes when I first heard about Datz: long term subscription service for as much digital music as you want. Pay £100 for a year of unlimted downloading of music not only from indie labels but the majors too. That's actually less than I currently pay for my eMusic subscription which offers no major label music, so I was gearing up for a change.
But hang on. Now the details are emerging and things are not looking so good. Principally, it's the usual problem in this space, which is that not all the majors are on-board. EMI and Warners, plus some major indies, but nothing from Sony and most importantly, Universal. Which, given Universal's dominance in the market, means Datz is not nearly as attractive an offer as it might have been. To commit to upfront spend of £100 I'm guessing most people - certainly me - would have to be pretty sure that they were going to get good value from it. But with only 2 majors the offer is going to inevitably by patchy. I won't even mention the fact that you can't download an album in one go but have to find all the tracks and download them separately, as I can only assume this is a technical issue which will be ironed out. If it isn't, someone should be shot.
All this got me thinking what my ideal music subscription would be, and how much I'd be happy to pay for it. Yes, I know, paying for music might make me seem odd and frankly old-fashioned in these days of bit torrent and limewire, but as I've said before, I'm happy to pay for music because I value it so highly. Am I getting enjoyment out of the new TV on the Radio album? Yes. Am I therefore happy to pay for it? Yes. Simple as that really.
So, what would work for me?
Firstly, and I may be unusual here, but I'm up for a regular subscription. It's a bit like paying your household bills by direct debit - it's just easier and is less hassle, and cheaper. I also know how much I'm going to spend, which helps budget planning.
Secondly, music is music and at the end of the day I don't care what label it comes from - the biggest major or the smallest indie or in fact unsigned. So, don't confuse me with only offering me music from some labels but not others. This is the equivalent of exposing the inner disagreements of an industry to the public - unneccesary and undesirable.
Thirdly, give me good recommendations. Learn from what I've downloaded, and listened to. Don't try to offer me the latest from Rhianna or Leonna Lewis (as Napster does) as that will just piss me off.
How much would I be willing to pay for this? Well I'd certainly stump up what Datz are asking for - £100 pa - and in fact I'd probably be happy to pay more if I could get all of the above. £20 per month is about the maximum I'd be happy with now, which is £240 pa. That seems high, so let's agree on a round £200 pa.
So why don't all the major labels get together, and offer their own subscription service which delivers a great service for people willing to pay? There's nothing out there doing this, so I'm confident they'd be on to a winner. It wouldn't even need to be unlimited, as long as the cost per track was reasonable - which means less than the 79p iTunes charges.
Here's a thought: why don't the majors buy out eMusic and make it their own? They could be up and running in a few months using existing serving and billing infrastructure.