Saturday, September 02, 2006

So MySpace Is Selling Downloads

MySpace has now joined the digital music retail war by announcing plans to create a non-DRM download store where artists can sell their own music. Liz Gaines at Gigaom offers the following details:

This isn’t a challenger to iTunes because the songs will be unrestricted MP3s, therefore leaving out the DRM-obsessed major labels. But it’s a great way to play into the allure of being part of the cool crowd — one of MySpace’s greatest strengths. Bands will be able to set their prices, with MySpace and Snocap each getting a cut. Fans can syndicate the stores on their MySpace pages, but it’s not clear if they will be able to take a share of the revenue as well.

While this a cool widget, I don't see this ala-carte MySpace store catching fire unless the larger independents and majors hop on board. Would I consider having Blackout! artists selling music through individual stores on MySpace? Absolutely, provided the labels rights were protected.

By using this somewhat traditional model of digital commerce, MySpace missed a huge opportunity to really seize the hearts and minds of music lovers. Instead of the pay per download model, they could have set up a low cost monthly subscription plan, that would rival eMusic. For a few dollars a month (or other incremental micropayment users) could dowload up to X amount of releases. I believe this would have ultimately created more long term value for labels, artists, and MySpace itself.


Jason said...

I agree with your subscription based model. I believe this would have been much more geared to the general myspace user who has 20-30 bands they would grab songs from...this is isnt progressing towards anything useful. It doesnt make any sense for me to buy a song on myspace when i could just grab it off limewire. If i could get all the bands i wanted from mypace that would be a different story. Myspace could have really changed the course of how things work here.

Anonymous said...

See I actually disagree. First and foremost I think myspacers have gotten used to listening to free music from small bands. But also, I really can see someone visiting a page and liking the band, but that doesn't mean they want to subscribe monthly to Myspace.

Also, I'm still a bit suspicious about everyone getting a cut through subscription based models, unless they restrict the amount of downloads to a certain number of course. And if they do, then how exactly is that a subscription? Isn't that the same exact thing as prepaying for "X" amount of downloads per month? Why not just buy an iTunes gift card every month? At least if you do then the music is yours to keep, as opposed to Napster where it isn't.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this Bill.

BW said...

MySpace users have indeed gotten very used to listening to free music from bands and downloading certain promotional songs

Downloads (as opposed to streams) are kind of a different animal. Most bands tend to restrict the downloads of free tracks on MySpace, as somewhere in the back of their minds they think they're going to score a "deal" off of the web and some white knight A&R guy is going to save them from touring in a shitty van with a bunch of other unshowered band members.

Let me put it this way: the traditional business is dead. I'm so over it. CD's don't sell without prohibitive marketing expenses, and those precious "hits" pretty much only wash away the sins of the multitudes of releases that go unheard and unpurchased.

The subscription model already works for eMusic, the second largest download service in the US. And those of you who read this blog frequently know I'm a fan of their approach. Yes,it's a metered subscription, but that's because their unlimited model led to a ton of piracy.

Would users pay a modest fee to dowload unlimited music while understanding they're contributing to the artists to fund more recordings? I think they would, as long as it's cheap enough.

My ultimate feeling is that that ala-carte isn't the answer, and that cheap, DRM free downloads will ultimately monetize the bulk of music for the producers.

More on this later.

Anonymous said...

You're right that streams are differet from But in the future when end users and operating systems become more and more sophisticated you'll start seeing streams working against you. Its just a matter of time before OS's have "Capture All Audio" buttons or plug-ins come out for firefox/IE which allow you to capture all audio leaving the application (if they don't already exist). This won't happen for a year or two, but rest assured it will happen. And when it does the question is now how do you convince people to buy? As much as I love computers, the internet and the entire digital revolution, I find it hard to convince myself that digital audio will be nothing more than a constant never ending catch-22. And, more importantly, if you find a way to stop the viscious cycle then you have found yourself as nothing more than a new-age record label doing what will eventually be antiquated and expensive.

BW said...

There's plenty of ways for users to get free music. P2P, and pinching streams using shareware program that hijack the audio outs.

The difference is going to be the usability of the destination as a discovery tool as well as a place to get music.

The other difference is the intended usage. I use Rhapsody for mac (streaming) so I can listen to catalog I don't own or pop releases I wouldn't be caught dead purchasing. It also enables me to carry my musical taste to whatever computer I'm working on by simply logging into the site. Portability and full discovery without clogging my hard drive with useless bullshit..that's the value in streaming for me.