Not only is Universal not signing multi-year contracts with Apple, it is now creating a service to confront iTunes and nurture iPod competitors like the Zune. Called Total Music, it may include Universal, Sony BMG and Warner—75% of music sold in the US—and would offer a twist on the traditional download and "PlaysForSure" subscription concepts. When you buy a Total Music-supported MP3 player, you would essentially get free all-you-can-eat music.
According to BusinessWeek, it works like this:
[Total Music will] get hardware makers or cell carriers to absorb the cost of a roughly $5-per-month subscription fee so consumers get a device with all-you-can-eat music that's essentially free. Music companies would collect the subscription fee, while hardware makers theoretically would move many more players.
The downside as I see it is that this is clearly not a move away from DRM, but towards more of it. You can bet those downloads are going to be wrapped thicker than a 5-year-old's Christmas present, though Universal is still pursuing a test run of DRM-free sales with Wal-Mart, Google and Best Buy. [BusinessWeek via BB Gadgets]