Gigs & Bytes: Microsoft And MTV Get The URGE
It’s too early to tell, though, how history will remember a recent alliance between Microsoft and MTV to produce a digital music service. Just because something’s new doesn’t mean people will jump on the bandwagon (case in point: the Betamax video recorder, 8-track tape and quadrophonic sound).
The new thing is URGE, and it will feature entertainment-intensive content from MTV delivered to consumers via the next version of Microsoft’s Windows Media. Sure, Microsoft sells individual tunes through its MSN portal, and once considered starting its own music subscription service, but the Microsoft / MTV alliance is way over the top of anything music-related that the software giant previously contemplated.
The plan calls for URGE to offer more than 2 million tracks from major labels and thousands of tunes from indies. Along with music downloads and original content, URGE will present exclusive MTV programming.
Of course, because Microsoft’s operating systems already dominate about 90 percent of the world’s desktops, there will be a built-in potential audience for URGE.
But will people click on it? If not, don’t blame marketing because MTV excels at self-promotion.
Although neither Microsoft nor MTV have said anything about URGE prices (and whether the new service will undercut iTunes standard 99 cents per track), a tiered pricing structure is expected with different payment structures for à la carte downloads, subscriptions and transferring the subscribed tunes to portable players.
There is a downside, though. The service will not be available for non-Windows machines, causing some to speculate that the same audience most likely to own iPods may not be all that interested in a service that isn’t Apple-compatible. Since iPods represent about 75 percent of the digital player market, with iTunes commanding 80 percent of legal digital downloads, the lack of an iPod-friendly URGE could be more of a road block than a speed bump.
But that doesn’t seem to bother MTV’s chief digital officer, Jason Hirschhorn.
“We will be the preferred service,” Hirschhorn said, adding that URGE will not target iPod users.
“We think the iPod has done a great job. Our aim is not to switch people from iTunes and the iPod,” he said. “We need to concentrate on where there’s going to be a bigger market.”