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BuyMusic.com Launch Uses Apple's Ad Format (Pics Included), BuyMusic CEO: Steve Jobs Is On The Wrong

BuyMusic.com Launch Uses Apple's Ad Format (Pics Included), BuyMusic CEO: Steve Jobs Is On The Wrong Platform

by , 3:00 PM EDT, July 22nd, 2003

As first mentioned last week, Buy.com has officially launched a new online music store in the vein of Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS). The new store is called BuyMusic (BM), and the company has aggressively borrowed from Apple's success with the iTMS, especially with its commercials (more on that below).

BM is a Windows-only music download service that the company actually brags in its press release as being "powered [entirely] by Microsoft technologies including Windows Media 9 Series and Microsoft.NET framework." Not so ironically, the company's tag line is "Music for the rest of us," a phrase that borrows on Apple's own tag line from the 1980s of Macs being "computers for the rest of us."

Much of the company's flattery-in-the-form-of-immitation may come from the fact that Buy.com's CEO considers Steve Jobs a visionary. From an AP report:

BuyMusic founder Scott Blum called Apple CEO Steve Jobs "a visionary, but he's on the wrong platform." While Apple users constitute about 3 percent of the personal computer market, BuyMusic is targeting the

BM is charging "from 79 cents" a download, and "from US$7.95" for full albums. The "from" comes from the fact that the company is not charging a uniform price for singles and albums, due in part to the company's inability to secure uniform licensing rights. This means that some songs are priced at 79 cents a download, but others are more a dollar. The same issue affects what users can do with the songs, as well, with BM offering an inconsistent user experience. From the same AP report:

Still, BuyMusic suffers from some of the same licensing drawbacks that the other PC-based digital music retailers have.

Jobs secured uniform licensing deals from all the record companies that allow all iTunes songs to be burned onto CD an unlimited amount of times, save for a restriction for making multiple CDs with the exact song lists. All songs on iTunes can also be transferred to up to three different computers and to the iPod, a portable digital music player.

Blum was not able to obtain uniform licensing rights from the record labels and artists. As a result, different songs on BuyMusic have different restrictions for how often, if at all, they may be burned onto CDs or copied to other PCs or portable music devices.

The company's press release says that all five major labels are on board with the service, and also claims to have songs from "thousands of independent labels." All told, the service launched with some 300,000 songs, several thousand more than the iTMS has as of Apple's latest numbers. Apple is working to bring on independent labels now, but launched in April with a catalog exclusively from the Big Five.

As mentioned above, the format for the songs is Microsoft's WMP format. As Apple did when the company announced that the iTMS would offer songs in the AAC format, BM's Scott Blum is attempting to spin the lack of MP3 support in a positive light. From the company's press release:

"We are doing things differently at BuyMusic.com," added Blum. "The new buzz phrase is no longer MP3 players, but 'digital music players' or DMPs, and refer to any device that is compliant with BuyMusic.com's format and DRM technology. In addition to offering more songs and catering to the PC industry, BuyMusic.com will also offer video tutorials explaining how to use the BuyMusic.com web site, download music to a DMP, or burn a CD. We wanted to make sure this store is the easiest place to download music."

Speaking of those commercials, there are three of them currently being displayed on the BM site, and two of them are directly borrowed from Apple's long-established advertising from the Switch ads to the iTMS ads. The other features BM spokesperson Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe smashing a guitar symbolizing Apple's iTMS campaign. We took the time to grab some screen shots for those who may not have software on their Macs to play WMP format files. We also offer our own captions for those having trouble following the subtle themes present in the spots.

Commercial #1

This is the set up, to make sure you get that it's supposed to be a photo shoot for the iTMS.

Enter our hero, rock-n-roll bad boy Tommy Lee, who spies an opportunity for mischief!

Show the world how BM will smash the iTMS!
Go, Tommy! Go!
Commercial #2, Rapper's Delight Commercial #3, Super Freak

You see, it's funny because she's fat.
(Fat white people don't stereotypically like "rap.")
Get it?

You see, it's funny because he's a Rabbi.
(Rabbis don't stereotypically like "funk.")
Get it?

You can find more information on BM at the BM Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Those commercials are as subtle as the potty humor in our "BM" reference. We are hardly fans of Apple's advertising in general (the proof's in the pudding), but Apple's iTMS and Switcher spots show real people expressing themselves in real ways. There's something honest in the way Chiat\Day made those commercials.

By contrast, the BM spots are obviously staged and scripted, and lack any sort of honesty. Instead, they are cheap in their crude attempts to convey what Apple achieved so elegantly and simply. Then again, these spots are aimed at lemmings, so perhaps BM knows what it is doing.

Then there's BM's reliance on Windows Media Format. As much as Apple's DRM in AAC is onerous and annoying, we'd rather stick a fork in our eye than trust Windows Media with our music. Your mileage may vary on that, and certainly DRM of any sort is a Bad Thing™. It stands to reason that many lemmings have grown to accept Microsoft's DRM bludgeon.

All that said, we are glad to see Apple get some competition for the iTMS. BM is certainly the first thing deserving of the name "competition" of all the other online services, and the company clearly borrowed most of the right things from Apple. No subscription fee, the ability to download some singles, the ability to burn to CD, and the ability to move songs to non-MP3 "DMP" devices are all must-have features for a download store right now. The company fails at being able to move songs from PC to PC, something we think is crucial for such services. We also wish BM luck in not supporting the iPod, but there are plenty of other players the company is supporting.

We imagine that BM will fare well, despite or because of the company's initial attacks on Apple's iTMS. There are those in the Windows world who harbor resentment at not having access to the iTMS, and BM should be able to capture that business easily. It remains to be seen if Windows Media Format will provide customers with long-term satisfaction, but it also remains to be seen if AAC can do the same thing for iTMS customers. Again, though, we expect BM to do well. There's a lot of money to be made in this market, and there is room for many players. In fact, the more the merrier, as this will eventually drive down costs.

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