Online music has been one of the most tumultuous categories online. Ever since Napster launched in the late 90′s, the music industry has been scrambling for a new model. DRM was once thought the industry’s saving grace, but consumer frustrations and movements from big players like Apple have reversed the trend. Some are even streaming it for free.
Luxembourg-based Jamendo (launched in 2005) is a grass roots site, following the DRM free music trend by helping artists distribute their music under the Creative Commons license. They just closed their series A round of funding from Mangrove Capital Partners today for an undisclosed sum. You may not have heard of Jamendo because their growth has been focused in areas like the Continental and Central European markets. However, Jamendo intends to put the money toward growing in North America, Brazil, India and Russia.
Artists can upload their tracks to the service and pick what type of creative commons license they want to list their music under. Listeners can create profiles, review music, post videos, and play the tracks in Jamendo’s player. Tracks can be put into easily shared playlists or downloaded from the site.
In exchange for uploading their music unknown artists get promotion and distribution from fans gushing about their tracks embedding the songs on their sites, and sharing albums across P2P networks. Donations are also appreciated.
Jamendo claims over 140,000 active users with nearly 4,000 albums and over 40,000 user reviews. Creative Commons does have a competing public license music search engine powered by OWL, but lacks the social networking aspect.
There’s no word on a business model yet, although the site currently runs banner advertising. Imeem is a close competitor to Jamendo, which lets users listen to Snocap and indie artists, while splitting ad revenue with the track owner. Amie Street’s demand based music pricing is also another model to watch. Jamendo may follow a similar model.