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Op-Ed: La-La – By Bob Lefsetz

Raw insanity. Right price point, wrong product/service.

Never forget the lesson of Apple, SIMPLICITY! Which leads to USABILITY!

With x number of people new to Google this year, what are the odds consumers are going to understand Lala's business model? Shit, I can't understand their business model. I rent the music online, but only online, I can use my own stuff online…what about the rarities, do those get uploaded too? And, is it so complicated that I ultimately want to use this service?

Bill Nguyen is a smart cookie. I know him. But his expertise is in tech, not the music business. No one understands the music business except those who are in it! Bill wanted to do right by artists, he wanted to broadcast radio concerts and pay the performers. GREAT! Except the record company gets a say. And so does the publisher. The former's rights delineated in hundred page contracts so arcane that you can never get all your royalties because there can never be complete agreement as to what those royalties are, and the latter so concerned with a penny rate and making sure they get paid in the future that they hold up the whole process.

A dime a track…AND YOU OWN IT!

Then it doesn't pay to steal.

Isn't that the exercise? Coming up with a business proposition so good it doesn't pay to be the criminal kind? It's not about suing people into submission, but enticing them to do the right thing, BECAUSE THEY WANT TO!

A dime a track sounds good to me.

And it should sound good to rights holders. Especially when they consider these files are not forever. Try opening your old VisiCalc spreadsheets in Vista or Mac OS X. You're not even gonna TRY! And you're not gonna bitch, because you got your money out of that product, and just like you don't want to watch TV on a tube, you don't want that old, arcane software program.

In other words, sell it to people now… AND THEN SELL IT ALL OVER AGAIN! Kind of like the upgrade from LP to CD, if you think about it. Who's gonna want the MP3/AAC when you get pristine sound with something else? Especially when you've got to maintain a creaky system to listen to the old stuff!

But the labels are so ignorant, they've given up almost a decade of charging to make sure the future is on their terms. That's like the oil companies not charging for gasoline for a decade because people don't want to pay the freight. Of course, files are digital and reproducible for free, but do you get the point? THAT DOUGH IS NEVER COMING BACK!

Instead of looking for perfection, the system that works for everybody, how about a little experimentation. Knowing that the future arrives and you always get to come to bat one more time.

Amazon fails because the average person doesn't want to download the software to get the tracks into their iTunes library. Who cares if the files have no copy protection, people who are paying don't care about DRM!

But the freeloaders do. So, if you create a system with no DRM and you get everything cheaply, how many freeloaders are left? Those with too much time and not enough money. Ten percent are NEVER going to pay (according to Michael Eisner). Are we trying to construct a system that ropes in them, or the vast majority?

The iPod doesn't come with FM transmission. You may bitch, but most people don't want it. You buy tracks easily, and they automatically sync to your hand-held device, the iPod. This is what people want. If they didn't, tech repairmen would be out of business, the Geek Squad would go bankrupt. People don't know how their computers work and they don't want to. They just want utility. That's what AOL delivered, utility. AND, Steve Case was smart enough to merge with the valued Time Warner when it was clear that window of overpriced utility was coming to an end.

Where are the smart people in the music business? Who will let people like Bill Nguyen free? Techies who can truly come up with innovative solutions that those in the record business cannot? You don't bring your car to the salesman to get fixed, you bring it to the mechanics. These thirtysomething techies are the mechanics. But the industry doesn't want to give them any power, they're afraid of them. Because techies don't cotton to intimidation, they don't understand bullying. They understand 1's and 0's. Scale. Return on the dollar. Honesty.

There's no honesty in the music business and those trying to maintain their power want to continue this pattern. Incomprehensible royalty plans with the company getting the lion's share of the money with the public as the common enemy.

The company comes last. First comes the artist, then the consumer. The company's job is to facilitate the connection. But today's companies just want to inject a toll booth, that's impossible to navigate.

Billboard article