EMI’s decision to make 90% of its catalogue available for digital download and Apple’s i-Tunes service have certainly set a cat among the pigeons. Sony Music, who has been the laggard of the European online music market, has finally announced that it will provide catalogue for digital distribution via Europe’s key digital service provider On Demand Distribution (OD2). This announcement may be the culmination of protracted negotiations but it is also very much the product of its times, and has been pushed to fruition by I-tunes and EMI.
As things currently stand, EMI have a competitive advantage over its competitors at a time when margins from other revenue channels are contracting. It was only be a matter of time before the other major labels responded in kind. Although Sony Music’s deal with OD2 effectively only brings it in line with what the other 4 majors were already doing, in the context of Sony’s previous reluctance to commit, this is a significant first step forward.
What will be interesting to see is whether the remaining three majors decide to expand their subscription service relationship with OD2 or to instead follow the EMI / i-Tunes model and make a larger amount of their catalogue available for a-la-carte download.
In terms of direct impact on the European market, Apple’s i-Tunes service has had less of an impact than EMI (at least for the near-term) but its apparent success has undoubtedly caused something of a sea change in the way many in the music industry view digital distribution. An irony is that the combined effect with EMI, is that it might result in the UK’s online music offerings looking more comprehensive than those in the US.