Hats off to Jeans Now for pointing me to this article (link expire) about Japanese artists signed to Sony attempting to go around their label’s anti-Apple directive and get their songs into the iTunes Japan legal downloading frenzy. Sony — maintaining the business strategy of sticking cotton in its ears until Doc Brown finds a way to transport the world back to 1985 — refuses to offer its artists’ songs on iTunes, much to the chagrin of the artists and their management companies who are losing a very serious business opportunity. Most management jimusho own the master rights and publishing to their artists’ work, so this is not about missed “promotional opportunities”: The production firms generally make a large chunk of cash directly from music sales.
I’ve always liked Sony. They have a heart-warming success story and used to make very high-quality products. And if it weren’t for the Playstation 2, I would have never let my thuggish avatar virtually pick up a prostitute, have sex with her in an abandoned alley, pay her, and then run her over with my car to get the money back (I’m talking about Parappa the Rapper.) But lately, Sony has been the epitome of what we call in the academic business world, “an industrial cockblock.”
Sony used to take up about 20% of the Japanese music market, but its market concentration has frequently dipped towards a mere 10% in the last couple of years. Although Sony’s myriad labels are back up to being about 17% of the market (2004 Oricon figures), I’m not sure that they sleep well at night knowing that they profit from tricking consumers into thinking Orange Range is a music group and not a fungal infection afflicting the ear.
In the past, Sony probably had enough market power to actually stop unwanted technological progress (well, they bit it big-time on Betamax), but now, nobody has anything to win from their stonewalling — except, of course, Sony itself. But the end is nigh, and the company comes off like a hubristic king trying to keep the dying peasants from fleeing a plague-ridden castle. But once the powerful jimushos get angered that Apple is not laundering enough of their funny money, I very much doubt that Sony can really keep holding out on this anti-iTunes crusade.