Music it seems is still the soma of the masses. In an attempt to monetise its large user community, Mashable are reporting that
“MySpace has announced it will sell songs from the 3 million unsigned bands on MySpace.com. The songs will be sold as unprotected MP3s, free from DRM. MySpace co-founder, Chris DeWolfe told Reuters: “Everyone we’ve spoken to definitely wants an alternative to iTunes and the iPod. MySpace could be that alternative.”
The new plugin will be delivered by Snocap, the P2P music distribution service from Napster founder Shawn Fanning. Snocap charges the artists a small distribution fee, and most of the tracks are DRM-free. Unlike the fixed-price model of iTunes, artists on Snocap set their own price.
“MySpace aren’t the only social networking site trying to use music to attract users. America’s second largest social network, Facebook, is already a promoter of iTunes, it’s currently giving away free iTunes tracks to members. YouTube is also getting into the music game: in mid-August the site announced its intention to host “every music video ever created“. And in late July, booming social network Bebo launched Bebo Bands, with a near-identical setup to MySpace music.”
What I especially like about this announcement from MySpace is the fact that there will be no DRM! Personally I am sick and tired of DRM. I have several computers and handheld devices capable of playing MP3 music. e.g the MP3 player I use for running is not the same as my mobile phone which in turn is not the same as my laptop.
Depending on where I am and what I am doing, I like to listen to different playlists. I often wipe my 1GB SD Card clean before reloading it with a new playlist. But copying DRM music which I have “legally” bought onto any of my media players is often a nightmare. The music manager (iTunes, Windows Media Player etc.) should simply synchronise the chosen playlist along with the DRM file stored locally each time but it seems I am only allowed to synchronise (copy) my file three times? So imagine if I was just upgrading my devices a few times or replacing the one’s I might have had stolen or broken, I would be stuffed because I wouldn’t have anymore license copies to use and yet I bought and paid for the music.
At first, to get around this problem, I used TuneBite, a great little program for legitimately overcoming this type of DRM issue. It works very much like the old days of recording radio programs to cassette tape by sitting in the background of your PC, waiting for you to play your DRM enabled music. It then simply records the track as it is playing but this time saves it as an MP3 file freed of DRM. For a while I used to do this for iTunes and MSN Music I purchased but then I found AllTunes, a Russian music download site that delivers quality MP3 files but without the DRM.
Yes I still have to [happily] pay for the music, it’s not an illegal download service like Kazaa or BitTorrent, but now I can copy what ever music I own to all of my MP3 devices, as many times as I like and at a fraction of the cost, the tracks are only $0.17 each or a whole album can be downloaded for less than $2. The price is attractive but not the main driver as I would happily pay more for the convenience of having DRM free quality music.
Right now most of the music industry is putting pressure on the Russian government to close AllTunes but personally while the DRM problem still abates and the download costs keep rising, I for one hope AllTunes sticks around. It is a great example of a web company disrupting the incumbent economic model and forcing the music industry to adapt or die.
So regarding this MySpace announcement, I applaud them for taking this model one stage further. By helping people buy music directly from unsigned bands within their community, at a price the bands wish to set but without the DRM, they are disintermediating the record companies themselves. So it might be too late for signed artists like Sandi Thom, Lilley Allen or the Artic Monkeys, who allegedly made it because of their MySpace popularity but in the future bands might decide this is a better distribution route to fame and fortune i.e dealing directly with their fan base.
As for the costs of touring and running concerts, maybe MySpace will share some of the advertising revenues generated from the unsigned bands MySpace profile with the band. The more popular a band, the more advertising revenue it should generate for MySpace and conversely for the band themselves. I am a firm believer that sites that make [lots of] money from user generated content should share the rewards back with those users who helped make them.
For now iTunes and Windows Media DRM music sites are probably safe, as the mainstream music bands are all signed up but there is nothing to stop any record company using this new distribution mechanism if they want too.
Note: a new product called MyTunes has just launched and like TuneBite it’s there to strip out the AAC DRM from iTunes.