Turn Up The Radio

28 04 2011

Back in 1984 when Autograph released their signature song, Turn Up The Radio, little did they or anyone else imagine a day in which we would be able to get our music for free from data clouds. But before you ponder that thought, do watch the video…the big hair thing is pretty hysterical now.

So much has happened in the last 15 years…illegal sharing a la Napster and Limewire, a la carte pay-per-downloads at iTunes, and precipitously declining CD sales. Most recently we have started to embrace subscription listening services like Rhapsody.

And now, just as Wired Magazine Editor Chis Anderson predicted, the price is headed toward $0: MOG is going freemium.

Freemium, of course, is a two-tiered subscriber service. The basic level gets you some privileges for nothing, nada and zip, while the premium tier brings added features. But the reason for the switch? Simple. Apple and Google are readying their new listening services, and when big boys like those two enter the fray, it isn’t going to be easy for anyone else. All are available online, but ideally work best with mobile apps. Like when I am biking out in the country.

Pandora, Slacker and LastFM may already be free, but they do not provide music-on-demand. You have to listen to the “station” it stirs up based on your inputs. Rdio has a subscription-only plan like Rhapsody, while Europe’s Spotify uses the freemium concept.

But with Google and Apple beating their war drums loudly, it makes perfect business sense for MOG to at least try to get a small jump on them. Without aggressive marketing, some or all of the smaller offerings may wind up singing the blues. Sure, Pandora is talking IPO, but if we can listen for free to specific songs, artists or albums, what’s to keep us dialing in to random playlists and a Music Genome Project that often has as many hits as it does misses?

The implications of completely free (and demandable) music are huge. This is much better than the radio of which Autograph sang, and Baby Boomers listened to for hours while sowing their seeds of discontent. Consumers are the big winners here, while it spells bad news for labels and music retailers (tangible and digital), and even worse news for artists.

I have purchased only one CD for myself in the last three years (The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street re-release in 2010), and only a handful of digital songs in the last year. I have eliminated DVDs (thank you, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu), and 90% of my magazines (the Zinio app rocks) and books (iBooks and Kindle app, I love you). I subscribe to Rhapsody for $10 a month, but would ditch it in a heartbeat if I could listen to my music for free.

Which means if Autograph were to stage a reunion tour or re-release their old stuff, they had better change their lyrics. More likely it will be “Turn Up Your Smartphone.” That, or be content rocking in a chair than onstage.

Dr “Things Go Better With Rock” Gerlich


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