More details on Nokia, Universal's "Comes With Music" offering, and why Total Music is doomed from the start

More details on Nokia, Universal’s “Comes With Music” offering, and why TotalMusic is doomed from the startArs Technica has dug up a few of the missing details on Nokia’s new “Comes With Music” offering, whereby customers who purchase a qualifying Nokia phone (due to go on sale in the second half of 2008) will have twelve month’s unlimited access to Universal’s entire music catalog.

According to Ars:

  • While customers will be able to keep any downloaded tracks even after the “free” subscription period ends, the service employs Windows DRM, meaning that music can only be played on a PC or, presumably, a compatible Nokia device. If you own an iPod or Zune, you’re out of luck.
  • Tracks can only be transfered to one PC and one registered Nokia device at a time.
  • Music can be burned to CD but only after paying an additional upgrade fee per-track.
  • As we suspected, Universal’s participation in Nokia’s “Comes With Music” offering is part of the label’s Total Music plan, whereby the cost of a music subscription is absorbed into the price of a supported device.
  • One the twelve-month period ends, the only way to continue subscribing is to purchase a new “Comes With Music” Nokia device.

Ars Technica makes a big song and dance out of the fact that Nokia’s “Comes With Music” service will employ Windows DRM. But frankly, what did they expect? Despite a very welcome industry move away from DRM for download-to-own (DTO) music sales, there is no way on earth Universal (or any other major label) would offer unlimited DTO access to its entire catalog, in one go, and without any technological restrictions on how those tracks might be shared.

And for Nokia, the idea of going DRM-free also makes little sense. If users can transfer their “Comes With Music” collection to an iPod (or other competing device), then there seems little incentive to purchase a new Nokia phone as a way of renewing their subscription.

In fact, trying to work through the conflict of interests between the major labels, device manufacturers, ISPs/carriers, and, of course, consumers, that are inherent in Universal’s Total Music model, and I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the idea is doomed from the start.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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