U.S. Justice Department launches inquiry into Universal Music’s ‘Total Music’ scheme

“The U.S. Justice Department has launched an inquiry into ‘Total Music,’ an approach for selling digital music that has been the subject of early discussions between major record labels and consumer electronics manufacturers, a person familiar with the inquiry said Thursday,” Alex Veiga reports for The Associated Press.

“The department sent a letter seeking more information from Vivendi’s Universal Music Group, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity,” Veiga reports. “The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported Thursday on its Web site that Sony BMG Music Entertainment had received a similar letter.”

“Discussions between Universal and rival record companies may have raised the potential for antitrust issues at the Justice Department,” Veiga reports.

“The idea behind Total Music involves offering music fans access to unlimited digital music for a period of time with the cost built into the price of the portable music player, mobile phone or other device,” Veiga reports. “Mobile handset maker Nokia Corp. and Universal struck a deal last year that calls for Nokia to offer a similar service sometime this year.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Pastry Chef” for the heads up.]

Ethan Smith reports for The Wall Street Journal, “In a development that could derail a music-industry initiative that has barely reached the planning stages, the U.S. Department of Justice has begun an inquiry into a new way of selling music that Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group has proposed to its three main competitors.”

Smith reports, “Not much detail on Total Music has been proposed to the various music companies, the people familiar with the matter say, and the project has been generally viewed as an effort to create a strong competitor to Apple Inc.’s iTunes Store, which dominates digital music sales. Record labels have been unhappy with iTunes’ insistence on a single price for all songs, and have been frustrated with the mixed performance of subscription music services like that of Napster Inc.”

MacDailyNews Take: If by “mixed performance,” Ethan means “abject failure,” he’s correct.

Smith continues, “It was unclear what aspect of Total Music the Justice Department was looking into, but competing suppliers’ cooperating to set the price of a consumer product could raise antitrust issues.”

Full article (subscription required) here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Nick L.” for the heads up.]

More trouble for old man Morris.

Here’s what we wrote in our Take back on October 12, 2007: We’re left to imagine what if Apple’s Mac had the benefit of entire industries working for years on various methods of toppling Microsoft’s Windows hegemony? We guess it’s okay to build entire industries (anti-virus, for example) around Windows’ deficiencies and support Windows no matter what while ignoring or even denigrating Apple’s superior Mac solution, but when Apple creates the best player/jukebox/music store combo, then all of the two bit also-rans must be propped up with higher bit rates, lower prices, DRM-free music, etc. for everyone but Apple’s iTunes Store. Is that sort of stuff even legal? It sounds like collusion or something to us.


  1. I believe that the potential Anti-Trust action could also embrace an Anti Cartel suit.

    By getting all the music bods to agree to a Cartel Monopoly without any user choice at any stage is clearly illegal.

    Sock it to ’em I say

  2. I also questioned months ago whether the record companies’ actions didn’t amount to collusion of some sort. What’s ironic is that while their CD sales plummet, the one silver lining to their business is the rise in legitimate digital sales. Those due primarily to one Steve Jobs and Apple, the very company their collusion is meant to undermine. Stupid, shortsighted idiots.

  3. “U.S. Justice Department launches inquiry into Universal Music’s ‘Total Music’ scheme” SB SCAM!

    What’s going on in the browser world? Three updates on Version Tracker today.

    Camino 1.5.5 – web browser
    SeaMonkey 1.1.8 – web browser
    Firefox – web browser

  4. They like subscription services in any form because, like radio, they don’t have to give the artists a friggin’ cent.

    Damn Apple with their digital sales. 5 cents out of every dollar in profit goes to those greedy creatives.

  5. A subscription service is a subscription service no matter who pays for it. The labels what a reoccurring fee collected by the hardware vendors to:
    1) insure a profit stream to fight the independent* artist movement
    2) if the user didn’t use the service they still paid for it (which makes it a tax or Digital Music fee on the device)
    3) the music is still DRM’d and Windows only and from what I’ve read on the scheme very restricted. (1 Computer and 1 Player extra charge for each additional media player and a charge to burn to a CD (though some reports have said CD burning will not be offered)
    4) In most cases this will be a hidden charge and be hyped as a free service by the labels when, in fact the cost of the devices will just have the cost factored in $60.00 for one year is a very large tax/fee on the digital music player cost.
    5) the labels attempting to use the something for nothing, business model and they are attempting to force digital media player manufacturers to go along with there plan.

    * Independent artist – is an artist who is self produced, self released and earns the full wholesale price of the music they sell.

  6. I think correction of this problem should start with Universal being forced to return the $1.00 “royalty” embedded in the cost of each Zune to the end user in cash (no store credit or dollars-off coupon that is actually just a sales ploy). Of course, the users would be forced to admit in public that they spent money on a Zune.

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