The Killer Music Rental Device

Bob Lefsetz said this in his recent post The Price Must Drop

How about rental?  Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo?

Good model, but presently people don’t want it.  They want ownership, we live in an ownership world.  You can fight this, or accept it.  Hell, until there’s a reasonable rental device, as easily used and as sexy and cool as the iPod, rental is a total nonstarter.  Why hasn’t anybody come up with a device this good in five years?  Well, how come latecomer Apple makes the coolest and best mobile phone?

I sent Bob an email after reading that. Because there is a killer rental device. It’s called Sonos with Rhapsody. I have four of them and we barely play mp3s anymore even though we also have a terabyte of legally purchased mp3s on our Sonos system.

My daughter Emily has a friend. He’s 14, same age as Emily. He loves music the way I loved music as a teenager. The way I still love it. He’s got an iPod full of mp3s and always walks around with his earbuds in his ears or flipped over his chest waiting to go back in his ears.

But when he saw the Sonos, held the controller in his hand, played the music right from the controller and it came out on the speakers all over the house and in the backyard, his jaw dropped. It’s hard to describe Sonos with Rhapsody. You just have to do what Emily’s friend did. He sat in our backyard by the pool last weekend and DJ’d all afternoon. He was in heaven.

The “problem” with Sonos is its expensive. $399 for the zone player you connect to your music system and another $199 for the wireless controller. But that’s only $99 more than the iPhone. It’s not absurd and everyone I’ve shown it who has had the means to get one has done just that.

Sonos is not a master of marketing like Apple. Not enough people have seen it. Not enough people understand why ownership doesn’t matter when you have pretty much all the recorded music in the palm of your hand.

Maybe Sonos will break out. Maybe Cisco’s rumored “connected device” offerings will break out. Maybe Apple/Jobs will finally understand that streaming audio and video from the cloud is a better way than selling files. I am not sure who will be the iPod/iPhone of the streaming/rental device market.

But I am sure that it’s the future. All you need to do is get Sonos and Rhapsody and you’ll agree.

UPDATE: Bob wrote me back. Don’t you love it when your favorite bloggers write back? He said Sonos with Rhapsody is nice but he hates the scrolling. He wants search like in iTunes. I agree with Bob on that point. If Sonos had a search on the wireless controller, now that would be super killer.

#My Music#VC & Technology