ISP Sky's on-off music service will finally launch on Monday 19 October, offering free streaming… and that's about it. A handful of MP3s will be bundled, but strictly at CD prices, dashing hopes of Sky bringing its marketing muscle and innovation to the digital music business.
The Register first brought you details back in May - and was the first to disclose the Sky Songs branding. Back then, Sky envisaged four tiers of service, all including streaming, but each permitting a small number of DRM-free MP3 downloads at high street CD prices. Now it's two tiers - 10 songs for £6.49 or a £6.49 album, or 15 songs for £7.99 or a £7.99 album. That's slightly cheaper than the earlier plan, but nothing ground-breaking.
So no danger of cannibalising digital sales, there - or much else. This isn't an offering to whet the appetite. 15 months have elapsed since Sky announced the initiative, with Universal as the first partner. It's got all four majors on board, but the landscape has changed considerably in that time. Free streaming services Spotify and We7 have picked up users, while new DRM-free download stores Amazon and 7Digital have brought some competition into a la carte downloads.
Virgin still says it wants to offer UK punters an unlimited, untethered MP3 download service, after it emerged that Sony Music was putting the blockers on the initiative. Much of the music business says it wants radical and attractive business offerings to fight the tide of P2P file sharing - disconnections are expensive and don't, at the end of the day, directly bring in any money for either ISP or music companies.
But the most conservative voices at the major labels would rather cling on to what they know - even if it's the flotsam of a sinking ship.
For their part, and despite what they may say in public, ISPs are keen to quietly bump the heaviest 24/7 Torrent users off their networks. But without capturing some value from the music and movies that flow across their networks, they're also in a business that is going to the wall, gradually becoming an increasing burden on the parent business.
And because these two basket-case industries can't agree, expect lots more throttling, capping and other anti-consumer capers.®
Andrew warmly welcomes your speed-capped email.
According to the Daily Mirror, the name of Sky's "Spotify rival" emerged on 1 October - about 5 months after Reg readers found out about it.