O'Reilly's observations, together with Cringely's suggestions for a scrappy, long-haul new model for musical artists, make me wonder: why aren't individual bands/acts yet offering subscription services to their entire artistic output?
A yearly subscription might be just $30 and include:
unlimited access to downloadable back-catalog
unlimited access to downloadable new releases
access to special online events
priority access to concert tickets
a once-yearly collectible trinket confirming membership
automatic annual rebilling until cancelled
After all, fans identify with artists rather than labels or
the nascent aggregation services. Such per-artist subscriptions
would give fans the exact guaranteed-quality music they want,
plus the warm fuzzy feeling that they're doing the right thing,
and in such a way that less money goes to middlemen.
Bands lack the expertise to set up such a system and
back-end billing. But a service company could easily
offer a turnkey solution. PayPal offers a
super-easy system for recurring billing.
Serving costs would exceed revenues. But a P2P
distribution scheme could allow the service site
to merely serve as the fallback source iof rich media
tracks -- with 99% of transfers going direct between fan
Some people will just sign up, grab everything, and
not renew. I'm not sure this is even a bad thing.
Some of these people would renew each time new material
becomes available. Tweaking the renewal pricing and
trickling out new releases year-round could discourage
I suppose Prince's NPG music club was (is?) a little like this.
Kelli Richards points out that David Bowie,
Elton John, and Todd Rundgren
all offer paid fan services of various forms. However, I find that each of these artist websites are crippled by atrocious,
awkward, loud, flash-drenched user interfaces -- and so I can't tell if any of them actually offer the artist's oeuvre in any
(My tip to any acts that want to try a individualized subscription service: drop the garish designs, pop-ups, flash,
tiny type, and sluggish captioning. Just say in big clear letters, "For $X a year you get access to all my music and
additional benefits A, B, C. Click here to sign up. Thanks!")