HITS Daily Double
"Doug's a very special guy... He's the last of the great music executives who came up through A&R. He's old school. I like him a lot."
—-Apple's Steve Jobs on UMG's Morris


UMG Boss Enlists Labels to Launch an Industry-Owned Subscription Service With Costs Built into Hardware
Doug Morris is taking his battle against Steve JobsiPod/iTunes monolith to the trenches.

According to Business Week, the UMG chief wants to join forces with the three other major label groups to launch an industry-owned subscription service.

Morris has reportedly already enlisted Sony BMG and is now talking to Warner Music Group about joining him. Together, the three control about ¾ of the music sold in the U.S.

Morris’ coalition hopes to move digital music beyond the iTunes universe by nurturing the likes of Microsoft's Zune and Sony's PlayStation and working with the wireless carriers. The service is dubbed Total Music.

Their business model? Get hardware makers or cell carriers to absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with music that's essentially free. Music companies would collect the subscription fee, while hardware makers theoretically would move many more players.

Morris cut off discussions about a long-term deal with Apple in July, offering his roster on a month-to-month basis. In essence, the proposal turns music into a utility to which the public is entitled, like water or gas. Buy one of the Total Music devices, and you've got all the music at your fingertips for free.

The big question is whether the makers of music players and phones can charge enough to cover the cost of a subscription, roughly $5 a month. When Microsoft was looking to launch a subscription service for Zune, Morris got the tech giant to pay him $1 for every player sold, plus royalties. Total Music would take that concept even further.

"If the object is to wrest control of the market from Jobs," analyst Mike McGuire told Business Week, "this is a credible way to try it."

If Morris has declared war, Apple’s Jobs appears pretty magnanimous.

"Doug's a very special guy," he told Business Week. "He's the last of the great music executives who came up through A&R. He's old school. I like him a lot."