DRM-free music marketplace Amie Street is announcing its beta launch this morning. (Note: it looks like it’s having traffic issues today, but it is coming up if you’re patient.) We wrote about the company’s alpha launch and interesting demand-driven pricing model here in July. Songs uploaded by artists fluctuate in price according to demand over time. Users get recommendation tokens for each dollar they put into the system and get free credits if the songs they recommend rise in price. Artists receive 70% of sales proceeds. The company is angel funded, with one of the most notable angels being Robin Richards of MP3.com fame.
Today marks Amie Street’s official public launch as well as a site redesign. The design is still a bit rough, but some new features have been added and there is better Mac support for the interface. The new site allows advanced searching, a pop-up music player allowing users to listen to playlists of sample tracks, and Meebome accounts for real-time-chat in artist stores. Since we covered the company in July, their user base has increased to around 4,000 users. They have had a couple hundred artists participating in the alpha selling around 2,100 songs.
The band State Radio from Nettwerk, the label that publishes Sarah McLachlan, is selling music on the site. Most of the music is from independent bands but with prices as low as 2 to 10 cents for many songs and long samples available to listen to – even the very risk averse can do some looking around for music they like on the site. To be honest, I’m still looking – but I love the model. The most successful songs on the service have been by high school groups who manage to leverage their real-world connections to drive sales online. One such group, Spinlight City from Miami, has the most expensive track right now at 70 cents. Tracks top out at $0.98.
Amie Street isn’t the only company experimenting with freedom from DRM and changing price structures. See also the crowdsourced music production of Sellaband, the free listening with heavy DRM of SpiralFrog, the 77 cent tracks with DRM and 88 cent versions without from PayPlay.fm and the feature rich (plus newly funded) music browser Songbird. Music distribution is something that obviously needs some serious reworking. DRM faces growing criticism, music prices are too high and the ease of online distribution is making it clear that major labels (instead of the artists) are taking too much of the money we spend on music. I’m glad to see the release of Amie Street into public beta and hope this or some other innovative model like it finds traction with users.