Murdoch's music dot.com pockets $77m
Has Beyond Oblivion a hope?
"Beyond paid downloads, beyond subscriptions, beyond piracy, and Beyond Oblivion is Music Liberation." In true 1999-era dot.com style, that's how Adam Kidron's music startup signs off its corporate communications.
The venture does not lack ambition - it has amassed the largest financial war chest ever gathered by a digital music service. This week Beyond Oblivion announced another $77m in funding - from long-time backer News Corporation, and, bizarrely this one, the Wellcome Trust.
So what exactly will it do? It's not unlike Zune or Nokia's ill-fated Comes With Music. Punters will get a license to acquire and share music (with other BO members) for the lifetime of a device. The company reckons this will be $50 or $70 per device, and hopes the fee will be "embedded in the cost of the device", in Kidron's words. He says most of the money will be returned to large record companies in the form of advances - between 70 and 90 per cent.
It will also be available as a standalone app. Nokia never made Comes With Music available as a separate SKU - or available on the majority of devices - which is one reason attributed to its lack of success in Western markets. A spokesman told us you'll be able to subscribe and "retrofit" it to your home PC and portable music player of choice.
So, yes, the dreaded DRM is involved. But DRM isn't necessarily the kiss of death it might be, as the success of Spotify has shown.
Spotify boasted its one millionth subscriber this week, which is not bad for a walled-garden, locked-down music service. Music is trapped in an encrypted cache, which is only readable by proprietary APIs available only to Spotify. But Spotify keeps its DRM so discreet you don't notice it. And strangely there have been no boycott campaigns, Facebook groups rallying users against it, or have-a-go hero hackers boasting about "cracking it" or "freeing the music".
Then again, the DRM on Comes With Music added hugely to the administrative challenges for the user and the retailer. And being a Nokia invention, it wouldn't play on iPhones or iPods - that was the whole point.
For the curious, here's a demo (starting six minutes in).
Beyond Oblivion will unveil a public beta in three weeks, and hopes to launch in Asia first, and Europe before the end of the year. It's talking to the independent sector and publishers, we gather. ®