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Demise of Ruckus puts the final nail in TotalMusic's coffin

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 09 Feb 2009 11:31

Demise of Ruckus puts the final nail in TotalMusic's coffin TotalMusic LLC, the company behind the college oriented Ruckus music service, appears to be dead. Last week the Ruckus website was replaced with a notice of the service's demise. This was followed by a blog entry from one of the company's executive that reads like a corporate obituary.
TotalMusic started out life in the summer of 2007 as a plan for the major record labels to offer a subscription music service directly to ISPs. It was seen by some in the music industry as both an answer to iTunes' dominance over the online music market and a way to curb illegal file sharing.

The US Department of Justice saw it a little differently and in early 2008 decided an antitrust investigation was in order. This ended TotalMusic's initial foray into online music but their comic misadventures were far from over.

Later in 2008.TotalMusic bought Ruckus, a company offering free, ad-supported, DRM limited music to college students. Ruckus had been around since 2004, but hadn't managed to make a serious impact in the online music business.

Fast forward to last week and Ruckus mysteriously vanished. With no advance notice TotalMusic's only offering was no more. This was followed on Saturday by somewhat cryptic comments from Jason Herskowitz, TotalMusic's Vice President of Product Management.

Herskowitz talked on his blog about the demise of Ruckus and leaving TotalMusic after just three months on the job. Although he didn't actually say the company itself was dead, the LinkedIn profile of Executive Vice President Ted Ferguson seems to confirm it. As of this month, Ferguson lists Sony Music Entertainment as his employer.

Ironically it seems that Herskowitz is one of the few music industry executives who has some understanding of why TotalMusic ultimately failed. In his February 9 blog entry he wrote "The problem is that to make a music service a win for everyone, then they all of the famished participants have to sit at the table - and be content to let all the others have a little bit to eat, even though they are still hungry themselves."

Until the labels learn they're no longer in the business of handing out crumbs they'll never be able to compete in the online marketplace.

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