Remember Napster? All the free music you wanted, in one place? Those were the days. The only problem was that the record industry didn’t think so – and, Spotify excepted, there’s been an impasse ever since. But serial entrepreneur Adam Kidron this he’s found a solution. Beyond Oblivion (his service’s working name) will offer a library of more than 15 million free and downloadable tracks (iTunes has 13 million) and pay a royalty for every play: a “substantive fraction of a cent”, says Kidron. Oh, and there aren’t any sign-up or subscription fees to worry about.So how will he finance this idea? By charging device manufactures for licences to bundle it with their products. So, when you buy an MP3 player, mobile phone or even a car, you also pay for your future music consumption upfront. “In most circumstance [the cost of the licence] will be baked into the price of that device,” says New York-based Kidron, 51, originally from Britain. “But as you get lower down the totem pole – say an MP3 player that costs $60 [£36] – that’s where the price wile b more easily noticed.”
Still in China, for instance, the cost of each licence will be “in the very low tens of dollars’. The gamble is that consumers will renew their devices before they play more songs than they’ve paid for. “It’s quite a sophisticated bet,” says Kidron. “Device life in India is different from device in China.” Having secured $77 million in a recent funding round led by News Corp and $500 million in licence guarantees from manufacturers (brands include Android and Windows Mobile), Beyond Oblivion plans to roll out in the US and UK soon after its Malaysia launch on July 31. The company is calling the date “music liberation day” – so we expect nothing less than music execs dancing in the street.