Online music service

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An online music service (also called a music portal ) is an online service that can be used to download pieces of music as a whole (" download ") or play them from the server ( streaming ).

Many services are commercial offers from the music industry in the form of an online music shop. The price for downloading a piece of music is usually between one and one and a half euros; an album (so-called bundle with booklet) costs ten to twelve euros and is therefore often significantly cheaper than an audio CD . Music streams are usually offered as a subscription for a monthly fee.

Other services, such as B. SoundCloud and Jamendo , are not aimed at the commercial distribution of music, but the free sharing of pieces of music between musicians and the audience.


With the emergence of download platforms, the visible boundary between major labels ( Sony BMG , Universal Music , EMI and Warner Music ) and the many small independent labels is becoming blurred . Both parties used to be very competitive and it was frowned upon to work with the other. One of the reasons for the blurring of the border is that the different availability of budgets on both sides on the Internet does not necessarily lead to a different perception by customers. The shop systems used are also set up and structured similarly. It is even so that the majors are trying more and more to present themselves as independent labels and try to cover the niche markets more intensely.

The very late start of the full-range platform is seen in the Internet industry as a failure of the companies, as they recognized the need for such offers too late or demanded the establishment of the DRM process as a prerequisite for entry into this market. Around 2005, when the appropriate procedures were then available, this development turned into the opposite and led to hundreds of corresponding "web sites". However, the offers are mostly based on the same technical basis and obtain their content from so-called aggregators , of which there are relatively few worldwide. In Germany, finetunes, Feiyr , Paradise, MTunes and Zebralution should be mentioned, and in the international market OD2 (e.g. MSN Music, MTV Track-Tanke or Tiscali Musicdownloads).

The first music portals were , , BeSonic and virtual-volume. was a particularly active music portal, which by its tradition is also a promotion platform. The iPod together with Apple's iTunes Store , which attracted the attention of a broad spectrum of consumers for the first time , provided a strong impetus for online business . Well-known brands like Musicload have continued to build the market.

In 2005, IFPI had $ 1.1 billion in downloaded files, accounting for 6 percent of total sales. In 2006, sales rose further to $ 2 billion and about 10 percent of total sales.

Avoidance of DRM (2007/2008)

The big record labels are increasingly turning away from DRM systems. Universal is testing the consequences of unprotected content for paid download with . The board of directors of Warner Music, a consistent advocate of copy protection, now admits that they have made mistakes. In the summer of 2007, EMI made its catalog available without DRM restrictions.

Platforms with a wide range of DRM-protected and DRM-free content showed that sales of unprotected content were four times that of protected content. eMusic demonstrates that there is a great deal of interest in quickly and easily accessible titles and, although the repertoire only includes small independent labels , they can look forward to good sales. Consumers who are interested in music sold by these providers are ascribed a high willingness to pay for the purchase of songs and not avoid these costs by file sharing .

At the end of 2007, Warner also turned its back on DRM and is initially offering all tracks without copy protection via Amazon's MP3 service (USA only). In 2008, 7digital was the first European provider to reach an agreement with Warner on the distribution of their songs without copy protection. In the spring of 2008, Sony BMG began selling at least part of its catalog without protective measures, including on Amazon.

Parallel to this development, various providers of so-called music subscriptions are appearing, e.g. As Napster or . There was criticism that the music industry was trying to introduce DRM through the back door. Audiobook portals also attracted attention , as this niche market is experiencing strong growth thanks to the online concept ( The Long Tail ). The first video portals are taking shape.

In 2007 IFPI posted 40 percent growth for the download market, and its revenue share was $ 2.9 billion, 15 percent. There are more than 500 online shops worldwide. The rise in online sales cannot yet compensate for the ongoing decline in CD sales, but it does indicate a trend reversal. There is still a lack of consumer acceptance of DRM-protected content, a survey by Spiegel Online showed that under these conditions only 7 percent of those questioned would buy a title for 99 cents. If the locks were lifted, 82 percent showed willingness to buy.

In April 2008, Apple's iTunes Store overtook the Walmart chain in the USA , making it the largest music retailer there. Meanwhile, the majority of the big labels refuse to license Apple to sell music without copy protection. It is believed that this is being done to break Apple's supremacy in the download market.

With the in-house MP3 shop , Sony reached Europe in mid-2008 as the third of the four big music exploiters with its DRM waiver. A special feature of this offer are music videos that can be played for free in high quality compression. At the same time, Universal is also taking a clear step towards abolishing DRM in Germany and is offering 215,000 titles from its repertoire via the download shop of the electronics retail chain Saturn .

Young people hardly ever consume music via CD players; MP3 players, computers and cell phones predominate, which clearly shows the trend away from physical sound carriers.

After lengthy negotiations, Apple announced on January 6th, 2009 that the major music labels are now making their titles available for purchase without DRM. In return, Apple gives labels more freedom in pricing. At the end of April 2009, the entire range of around 10 million songs was converted to formats without copy protection.

Further development

With the global economic crisis in the background, total sales in the music trade continued to decline slightly in 2008, so music downloads remained below expectations with an increase of 25 percent. Its market share is 20 percent. Forrester Research analysts predict digital distribution channels will outperform physical commerce by 2013. In 2009, worldwide sales in the download music trade rose by only 12 percent, the share of total sales rose to 27 percent. In 2010 sales grew by 6% to now $ 4.6 billion; Music downloads now account for 29% of total sales. Illegal downloads continue to be a major problem for the music industry.

In Germany, music downloads made up 85% of the single charts in 2012, and 21% of the music albums. In the neighboring European countries, on the other hand, the proportion of music downloads in the single charts is often almost 100%.

Comparison with audio CD

It is questionable whether the download will completely replace the CD market. At the moment, many people are saying that the abstract process of acquiring a file means that you lose the feeling of having bought something, in contrast to a tangible CD. There is a considerable need for improvement in online purchases in the often inadequate addition of booklet texts and cover images, which modern MP3 players with graphic displays and playback programs on the PC could use. Improvements on the technical side should create a new album file format that accommodates such content and thus better remedy the first-mentioned deficit.

The increasing relocation to the Internet as a point of sale is viewed critically in the field of independent music, as the local scene is weakened because the possibility of real contact is lost. It is also argued that only individual hits will be bought as an album instead of the complete work.

When visiting a download shop, it is immediately noticeable that, in contrast to mail order, there are preview options for all titles, as the pieces are already digitized. Since there are no physical goods with corresponding storage and production costs, the costs of keeping a musical work in stock decrease. For example, larger repertoires of older or less popular ( independent ) music can only be financed. This increases the buyer's interest and willingness to buy in accordance with the long-tail principle, because exactly the music they want is available.

Due to the lack of shipping costs, the willingness to buy fewer titles when needed increases. Furthermore, the music is immediately available after a short download. There is no ripping for enjoyment in the MP3 player, but CDs have to be burned instead.

The audio CD will presumably continue to occupy an important position as a music medium for a long time to come, even if it is likely to be replaced by its previous sole leading role.

Offer forms

The new technology enables new offers. The most important ones are listed below.

À la carte
À la carte ”, also known as download-to-own, corresponds to the conventional business model in which the goods are paid for directly. The content can be used without restriction (or in accordance with the restrictions of the DRM license)
When subscribing , the consumer pays a monthly amount and can then download a set number of titles per month. The content can be used without restriction (or in accordance with the restrictions of the DRM license)
Flat rate
The music flat rate enables access to an extensive music database from which the customer can download unlimited. A fixed price is always paid, which is due monthly. In many cases, however, the pieces of music are protected by the use of DRM technologies. In this case, the songs can no longer be played after the contract has expired because the license has expired. Burning as an audio CD is usually not allowed. Some providers are now avoiding the obligation to purchase licenses by recording the music from live streams on web radios. In contrast to free radio rippers, both the audio quality and the length of the music files are on CD level. Currently, this is the only technology that enables the user to receive MP3 files without DRM protection as part of a legal music flat rate.
Streaming music
The streaming model combines a flat rate with the functionality of Internet radio. In return for payment, the user receives an ad-free and mostly unmoderated radio stream via the Internet, which is derived from the favorites entered or consists of playlists compiled by himself. There are many possible combinations of offers.
Free offers arise for a variety of reasons, for example to advertise the artist or his album, to establish a close bond with the fan community, because commercial distribution for highly specialized genre music would not be profitable, as an exchange platform for amateur musicians or on Basic ideational ideas ( open source movement ). Net labels , which often specialize in free offers or " free music ", are a new phenomenon .

Other diverse forms of sales are possible. Some build on the new possibilities with the DRM technologies and others use the low distribution costs of a download offer. The band Radiohead offered their album In Rainbows as a download for a freely selectable price. Whereas others are exploring free advertising funded distribution. Download services are also very suitable for coupon campaigns , as customers can choose their product from a wide range.

The online music market currently offers little transparency. Each song and each album is available for a different price from different paid providers, and this often changes over time. Since the beginning of 2009, more and more price comparison services have been created to inform the buyer about the large price differences and to give a small overview of the current market.

Criticism of DRM and the music industry

A parody of the music industry's " Home Taping Is Killing Music " campaign in the 80s

In view of the widespread use of file sharing and the ease with which music files can be copied on a computer, the entertainment industry was looking for ways to prevent this in the future by means of copy protection . The key to this is digital rights management (DRM), in which software decides how a file can be used. For the consumer, it initially has the advantage that he is not the paying stupid, while others illegally create extensive collections via P2P file sharing sites.

The disadvantage of many file formats and copy protection procedures is the restrictive handling of usage rights. For example, it is not always guaranteed that DRM licenses can be easily transferred to portable players or converted into alternative formats. In some cases the license is tied to a specific personal computer and may expire if the operating system is reinstalled or the hardware is expanded . In addition, there is the often complicated handling of the DRM functions.

DRM copy protection can easily be bypassed (e.g. Apple's FairPlay ) and can therefore be considered ineffective.

For detailed criticism see: Digital Rights Management, Criticism section

See also

Web links


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  2. Digital Music Report 2007 (PDF; 5.9 MB) of the IFPI , accessed February 27, 2008
  3. Warner CEO Bronfman sings the DRM blues ,
  4. ↑ Top seller DRM-free MP3 music ,
  5. Warner Music MP3s are now copy protection-free on Amazon at
  6. Our catalog of MP3s just got even bigger ( Memento of the original from March 9, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , 7digital, accessed March 4, 2008 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. ^ Sony BMG Plans to Drop DRM , BusinessWeek
  8. Online music market grows by 40 percent
  9. The music industry is spoiling business , Spiegel Online , accessed February 27, 2008
  10. ars technika: Apple passes Wal-Mart, now # 1 music retailer in US , news from April 2, 2008
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  12. golem : Saturn sells Universal music without DRM , accessed September 5, 2008
  13. ^ : Study: Young people mostly listen to music on the radio , news from November 13, 2008
  14. heise online : Macworld: iTunes music is freed from copy protection , news from January 7, 2009
  15. Digital Music Report 2009 ( Memento of the original from March 8, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 1.9 MB) of the IFPI , accessed on February 15, 2009 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. Forrester: Digital license sales will change the future of the European music industry ( Memento of the original from July 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Press release from January 19, 2009 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Digital Music Report 2010 ( Memento of the original from March 22, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 1.7 MB) of the IFPI , accessed on April 15, 2010 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  18. Digital Music Report 2011 ( Memento of the original from September 22, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 3.7 MB) of the IFPI, accessed on September 23, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. 85 percent of sales in the German single charts are digital , Media Control press release from May 31, 2012
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  22. Popular music flat rates in comparison
  23. Music flat rates in comparison