Microsoft-MTV ‘URGE’ may interest antitrust regulators; Anti-iTunes labels Sony, Warner back ‘URGE’

“In a move that may interest regulators worldwide (such as in Europe and Korea) who are considering Microsoft’s potentially anti-competitive practice of bundling its media player with its OS, the company will integrate the new [MTV] Urge service within a future version of Windows Media Player,” Jonny Evans reports for Macworld UK. “This new digital music service will offer both a la carte and subscription services, as well as access to MTV’s video assets.

“Urge has quickly won the support of at least two major labels. It’s interesting that both these labels are believed to be the ones that are applying the most pressure on Apple to offer ‘flexible pricing’ on downloads,” Evans reports. “Both Clive Davis, chairman and CEO of [Sony] BMG US and Lyor Cohen, chairman and CEO of US recorded music for the Warner Music Group spoke up to support the new service. Curiously, MTV was long felt by many in the music industry to be in possession of too much clout when it scored a home run in music video broadcasts. BMG has now merged with Sony outside Japan, and strong industry rumours suggest Warner may even have plans to merge with EMI.”

“Van Toffler, MTV Networks Music Group president described Urge as a ‘psychic concierge,’ and promised all manner of personalisation, recommendation and music discovery features for users of the Windows-only service,” Evans reports. “Jason Hirschhorn, the company’s chief digital officer, told the Associated Press: ‘We think the iPod has done a great job. Our aim is not to switch people from iTunes and the iPod. We need to concentrate on where there’s going to be a bigger market.’ A bigger market? iPods account for 75 per cent of music player sales, and iTunes for 80 per cent of legitimate downloads. The focus on future market trends suggests that Apple’s enemies in the space hope to use that company’s success as a trailblazer, in a similar way to that in which Apple familiarized the planet with a graphical user interface in the eighties.”

Full article here.
We long for the day when Apple Computer vs. Apple Corps. is settled and Apple can simply eliminate the MiddleBronfman. Remember SonyBMG’s and Warner’s shenanigans (see related articles) when choosing your purchases. Not buying products with SonyBMG and Warner labels could be a nice decapitation strategy of our own.

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Related articles:
Warner shuts down ‘pearLyrics’ song lyrics lookup companion application for Apple iTunes – December 07, 2005
SonyBMG antics may well cause public to turn on them and turn many people onto Apple Macs – November 06, 2005
Analyst: Sony BMG’s boycott of Apple’s iTunes Music Store Australia won’t last long – October 24, 2005
Why aren’t Sony, BMG, Warner, Victor making their artists’ music available on Apple’s iTunes Japan? – October 06, 2005
Warner’s Middlebronfman: ‘We sell our songs through iPods, but we don’t have share of iPod revenue’ – October 05, 2005
Dvorak: record companies’ biggest concern about Apple’s iTunes is clear and accountable bookkeeping – September 29, 2005
In 99-cent fight with ‘Looney iTunes’ labels, Apple CEO Jobs will get whatever Jobs wants – September 29, 2005
Warner music exec discusses decapitation strategy for Apple iTunes Music Store – September 28, 2005
Warner CEO Bronfman: Apple iTunes Music Store’s 99-cent-per-song model unfair – September 23, 2005
Analyst: Apple has upper hand in iTunes Music Store licensing negotiations with music labels – September 23, 2005
Steve Jobs plays high-stakes poker with greedy record labels – September 22, 2005
Record labels accuse Apple CEO Jobs of ‘double standard’ as they seek to force iTunes price increase – September 21, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs to repel ‘greedy’ record companies’ demands for higher iTunes prices – September 21, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs vows to stand firm in face of ‘greedy’ record companies – September 20, 2005
Sony and Warner holding out on Apple iTunes Music Store Australia – September 08, 2005
NYT’s Pogue to record companies: it’d be idiotic to mess with Apple iTunes Music Store prices – August 31, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs prepares for pivotal fight on digital music prices – August 28, 2005
Musicians stage mutiny against Sony, defiantly offer music via Apple’s iTunes Music Store – August 10, 2005
Record labels to push Apple for higher iTunes Music Store prices in 2006? – August 05, 2005
Record labels look to raise iTunes wholesale prices, music industry fears Apple’s market domination – March 05, 2005
Report: Apple CEO Steve Jobs ‘angered’ as music labels try to raise prices for downloads – February 28, 2005
Report: Music labels delay Euro iTunes Music Store fearing Apple domination – May 05, 2004
Greedy Big Five music labels looking to jack up iTunes songs to $2.49 each? – April 22, 2004


  1. The labels have this “anything but Apple” attitude because Apple has shown the world how truly pathetic these record companies are. Just like with all these other so-called competitors, we won’t hear anything else about this endeavor beyond the initial press-coverage.

  2. This is soooooo sad. How in the HELL can you put together a viable “business strategy” without servicing the number one music player in the world in your prospectus? What kind of finance institution would back such a boneheaded move?

    Oh, that’s right — these guys all have money up the ying yang to blow. I forgot. I mean, I’ve just been hearing soooo much about how their sales are hurting for the last few years and, you know, how they’re LOSING money!

    Yah, the costs of this failed endeavor are sure to be passed along to consumers of their shit music in the form of — you guessed it — higher CD prices.


    It’ll be so cool to look back at all this and wonder why we worried when in 10 years Apple is the King of music distribution, artist development, and creative expression — and artists everywhere are actually getting the lion’s share of the fruits of their labor.


  4. And the thing that pisses me off the most is that it is a Windows only service. Are they that narrow-minded? I thought this was for a “bigger market?” If so, then make the service available for Windows, OS X and Linux. Just because I use an Apple does not mean I am not willing to try other services. Part of theses other companies’ failures stem from the fact that they don’t give the “other” 25 to 40 million computer users the respect they deserve.

    I hope these iPod toting teenies have the URGE to throw this back in their face. No one is going to stop using their beloved iPod and switch to a Sony bean just to try some iTunes emulating service.

  5. “Urge has quickly won the support of at least two major labels. It’s interesting that both these labels are believed to be the ones that are applying the most pressure on Apple to offer ‘flexible pricing’ on downloads,” Evans reports

    yeah, great.. wonder what it’s like for customers… pulling your hair out with all these fine-print DRM caveats… each song having it’s own unique DRM attributes and each song having it’s own price.. *shudder

  6. Just so everyone’s clear, the majority of downloads may go through iTMS, but that is still a very small portion of overall music sales. Thus, there is still a very big market that can be sought without encroaching on iTMS space. Although, I highly doubt MTV/MS are going to be the ones to do this.

    Overall, I think this is a great idea. The next step would be for a music distributor to sell the variable-priced songs in such a way that it can be uploaded into iTunes automatically, eg. Limewire. This wouldn’t be a benefit for Apple (which is the only thing that most of the people here are concerned with), but it would be a huge benefit for consumers. Imagine being able to compare prices between two different stores, purchasing the one that’s only $0.39, and then having it seamlessly imported into iTunes and then to your iPod. Obviously this won’t happen because it would require Apple to either license out Fairplay or accept another DRM scheme into the iPod.

  7. when was the last time anyone tuned to MTV to listen to music?

    The only thing Apple needs to do to eliminate the middleman is to directly sign artists. Give them a better price and have a “New artist” section on iTMS with periodic free downloads of the featured new artist of the week.

  8. Is not URGE Windows only because iPod is not compatible with anything else but iTunes; what is the reason for URGE to be Mac compatible if they can not reach beyond MP3 player connected to the Macs?

  9. Evgeny says: “Is not URGE Windows only because iPod is not compatible with anything else but iTunes; what is the reason for URGE to be Mac compatible if they can not reach beyond MP3 player connected to the Macs?”


    iTunes is the only system that runs on both Mac and PC. Looks like URGE will be the same old crap: PC ONLY! It’s never fly.


  10. Evgeny: “Is not URGE Windows only because iPod is not compatible with anything else but iTunes; what is the reason for URGE to be Mac compatible if they can not reach beyond MP3 player connected to the Macs?”

    I know a lot, no make that A LOT, of people who do not own an iPod but still use iTunes frequently. iPods, iTunes, ITMS, Macs, PC’s, etc. work together flawlessly, or independently just as well. If you want to make money on music sell your device/service on it’s stand alone capabilities first, then show what how it plays with others second. If URGE was Mac compatable and was a decent product it would find people who use it on a Mac, despite not being iPod capable.

  11. when was the last time anyone tuned to MTV to listen to music?

    Unfortunately this is a really a project of parent company Viacom. They also own CMT (Country Music TV) and urge will be there too. Viacom owns CBS (old established major commercial TV network), BET (Black Entertainment TV) Nickoldeon (Kids TV), Showtime (premium pay movie channel), Paramount movie/television studios, Simon& Schuster publishing, and the bane of all, Infinity Broadcasting (a major percent of ALL radio stations in hte US that suck so bad that has driven everyone to the iPod), and more.

    So urge will potentially touch much more than the teenybopper/rap drivel broadcast on MTV.

    Given all that, I agree urge has numerous difficulties ahead of it, some anti-trust related.

    And what about Real and M$?

    (numerous explanations in parantheses add for non-Amedrican readers not familiar with the American media scene.)

  12. I guess it worth mentioning yet again, the secret to Apple’s media success:

    1. iPod: Superior media player; simple to use, elegant and fun

    2. iTunes: Superior computer based media player; simple to use, elegant and fun

    3. iTunes Music Store: Superior online music store; simple to use, simple, fair pricing, elegant and fun

    See any trends here, folks?

    Until Mafiasoft, ‘Creative’, $ony/BMG, MTV, ‘Real, or whatever comes up with a better offering that includes at least all of the above, they will fail – period.

    Rock on SJ!
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