Alpine Summit

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

(Not Really) Peas in a Pod

I found this link on instapundit about podcasting on Napster-compatable mp3 players. I'm no apple fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I've been warming up to them; and if my iPod is any indication, I should expect great things from them in the future. One minor issue I had with this post was that it seemed to me that they thought podcasting was an apple invention when it was actually started by the "open-source" people. Steve Jobs is merely being a good CEO and responding to what his customers want. If Napster wants to ally itself more with the RIAA than the general public, then that's their stance in the market. Apple has decided to give its customers actual ownership of the music file.
With Napster - which is now quite legal - you pay a monthly subscription of $15 ($10 if you are going to do all your listening at your computer) and you can download most music straight to your MP3 player with no additional charges. Those few songs Napster couldn't get on their musical buffet are offered at the iTunes rate of $.99.

iTunes offers songs at $0.99 and Napster offers the same for $15/mo. So, using the 1000 song example, to have 1000 songs from iTunes would cost you roughtly $1000 ($990 to be exact) while you would only have paid Napster $15. Sounds like a good idea on the surface, the problem is that Napster only leases the songs to you. You have until your subscription expires before the song won't play anymore- which is why you have to have certain players if you plan on using Napster; the iPod, and a few other mp3 players, don't have that "feature" of knowing when a song's subscription has expired and would just continue to play the song.

I'll spare you the whole time-value of money thing, but consider this - during this 5½ years I will have recycled my 1000 songs many times. I'm not married to the same 1000 tunes. I'm free to find out if Jazz is my thing, or country, or whatever. I don't listen to the same music today that I did half a decade ago. My tastes have changed, and music marches on too.

This is a similar argument as to why you would want to lease a car- an equally dumb idea IMO. "Styles change, tastes change, preferences change. Leasing ensures you always have the latest and greatest." It also ensures you always have a bill and will never have anything to show for it should you decide to end the relationship.

It's also nice to know that I don't have to keep paying for the same songs over and over again. Suppose you download 15 songs off of Napster (in order to ignore economies of scale) one month. The next month you download nothing. You've just paid 30 dollars for 15 songs to listen to them for 2 months. Had you been using iTunes, you would have paid 15 dollars. Should you decide to keep the music, the savings in iTunes only increases over Napster as time passes. After 3 months, you've paid Napster 45 dollars for the same 15 songs while your cost on iTunes is still a paltry 15 dollars... you get the picture.

If you actually include economies of scale, then Napster and iTunes are on equal footing since it would then simply depend on the individual whether or not Napster is better. If you're someone who enjoys listening to different music each week and likes to bounce around the top 40 charts from week to week, then Napster will probably be a good deal. But, if you're someone like me who simply listens to what they may hear in a movie or on the radio and doesn't really do a lot of music downloading from month to month, iTunes would probably be preferable. iTunes is also preferable if you take pride in having a music collection.

Perhaps if people like the RIAA and Napster weren't making diamonds out of coal with their digestional egresses when it comes to mp3's, and actually work with their customers (as Steve Jobs is doing), they might actually get a handle on this market. Instead they insist on trying to control the public's actions on how their product is used/handled. Business relationships depend a lot on trust. This includes buyer/seller relationships. Think of how many times you've heard "the company you can trust" in commericals. The trust of the consumer is important to a lot of goods-based businesses. The amount of trust can translate into an ability to charge a higher price for the product (read: brand recognition). Is it really so much to ask for the same amount of trust from the companies? Capitalism is a two-way road. Businesses tend to forget that sometimes.

The rest of the post is a "how to" on getting podcasts on your Napster mp3 player. I guess you can't simply find the source file and upload it to your player- as you can with the iPod. By the way, if you don't like iTunes to upload files to your iPod, you can download a really cool plugin for Winamp that actually allows you more control over the files on your iPod.