Ian Rogers, Jackass

Enough people (from TechCrunch to Daring Fireball) took offense to my comments about the iPod on ymusicblog.com that I felt it wise to just remove the paragraph and explain myself. First of all, the comments were the definition of flippant, a complete afterthought to the post, and given that they detracted from what was overall a positive message, I regret them. Believe it or not, it was meant to be a positive sentiment. I’ll try to explain. First, here’s the paragraph that originally appeared in the post:

For those of you about to complain about the $12/month to get unlimited tracks (like, um, Steve Jobs), check yourself before you riggity wreck yourself. Labels and artists get paid for every radio play and every Yahoo! Music download to the Sansa Connect, whereas we all know iPods are mostly full of not-paid-for MP3s. At Yahoo! we would like to help maintain a healthy music business, compensating labels and artists at a fair price to consumers. The labels and the consumers have been pretty far apart in this negotiation and we think we’re doing a damn fine job striking a balance between the two with the rich feature set Sansa Connect and reasonable monthly price of Yahoo! Music Unlimited. We hope you think so, too. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, right?

I’m looking at the following set of givens:

  • The music industry is declining by something like 20% year over year, maybe more
  • Digital sales, while increasing, are not making up for the gap
  • NPD states, and Steve Jobs confirms, that only 3% of music on the average iPod is from the Apple Music Store
  • Therefore, 97% of music on MP3 players, whether ripped from CDs or not, represents no incremental revenue for a declining industry
  • In contrast, each radio play and play of a subscription download on the Sansa Connect does represent incremental revenue for the music industry, as the model is pay per play rather than pay per download.

From where I sit I see every day how far apart online music consumers and record labels are with their expectations. Coming up with products and experiences that are compelling to both sides isn’t easy. People keep telling me I just shouldn’t bother trying. Who cares what the record labels, with their CD-centric cost structures, want? Well, someone has to bridge the gap and I definitely see an opportunity for Yahoo! to be helpful to both sides in this ongoing negotiation. Many will tell me I’m wasting my time. I understand why. I’ve worked both sides of this game, consumer software and content owner. Maybe it’s a mirage but I do see how the two come together at a point down the road and in the spirit of Lucas’ Lightnet, I think it’s worth pursuing.

Again I apologize to all iPod owners who thought I was calling them a thief. I really wasn’t at all. Honestly, I wasn’t making a judgment on whether or not your files were ripped from CDs or downloaded from Oink.me. What I meant was that either way your iPod doesn’t amount to any incremental revenue for a massively declining industry, and that this device (along with a subscription service, of course) actually does. I was trying to anticipate what I was assuming was going to be the main complaint with the device: “Yeah, it’s cool so long as you pay $12/month to Yahoo! for Yahoo! Music Unlimited.” Subscription services aren’t for everyone, but it’s definitely a very compelling and satisfying experience for an increasing number of people, and an example of the possibility that the wants of both music lovers and music sellers can be balanced.

Sorry to anyone I offended.

Rip, mix, burn,
ian