It would appear that iTunes and unprecedented success in the UK, France and Germany has really kick started the digital music market into action and as a result the competition seems to be hotting up (there’s another (flimsy) justification for this entry’s title later).
OD2 reported increases in growth in excess of 20 percent a week after Napster’s launch and again after iTunes’ launch. Which of course makes sense. OD2 has a fraction of the marketing budget of either of those two heavy weights and furthermore relies upon each of it’s retail partners to market the white labelled OD2 stores and services. The net result is a fragmented and relatively modest profile that is nigh on impossible to wield, outside of the tech press, in a responsive manner to competitor product launches. So when Roxio, Apple and Sony push their services they raise the overall profile of digital music and in doing so the likes of OD2, Wippit and PlayLouder all benefit.
But OD2 aren’t satisfied with playing second fiddle to the newcomers and have just announced that they are expanding their catalogue to 1.3 million tracks, significantly outdoing any of their rivals, at least on the surface it does. If those are cumulative across all markets then a better comparison would be against the cumulative total of the catalogue of each of the competitors, yet even that wouldn’t be a true apple-to-apple (no pun intended) comparison as there will be significant overlap when summing together country service catalogue.
Ultimately the number of tracks debate should go away fairly soon…at least in theory….which brings me onto the other reason for this entry’s title. It doesn’t really mean much to an average music fan whether there are 300 or 3 million tracks available as long as they can buy the music they want, which in simple terms means the catalogue has to be roughly comparable to a Virgin Megastore. Unfortunately it would seem we’re not quite there yet with any of the services. As part of my latest report I am doing an availability and pricing comparison of key catalogue in the online services. You’d be surprised just how many gaps there are in some of the services. For example Usher’s latest album (which doesn’t actually include “It’s getting hot…”, but anyway) is a top 5 album yet it isn’t available in totality in any of the services (which some might argue is actually no bad thing). Although to Naspter’s and Apple’s credit it is available in ‘incomplete album’ form, from some it’s missing entirely. To find out which services fare better than others you’ll just have to wait for the report.
There’s a really simple lesson to be learn: efforts on expanding catalogue should focus first on quality and quantity second. Some times less is more.