Confirmed: TotalMusic Is Dead

Earlier today we detailed the chaotic history and recent trouble at TotalMusic, an experimental music initiative created by Sony BMG and Universal Music Group designed to rethink the way music was streamed on the web. After a round of layoffs and the shutdown of Ruckus, a streaming music service acquired by TotalMusic last year, the company looked like it was in bad shape. In what will likely be the most official statement we’ll get, Jason Herskowitz, the company’s VP of Product Management, has confirmed in a blog post that the music labels have indeed pulled the plug on TotalMusic:

And so it goes. And, so do I. I know what you are thinking… “Hey Herskowitz, you were only there 3 months, how did you manage to screw it up so quickly?!”. Heh… all I can say is that in that short time I had the privilege of working with some great people on something that I *know* was going to be extremely compelling. I regret that we didn’t get to show you guys more about what we built – but in these extremely hard economic times (particularly for those in the music industry) it’s hard to blame them from pulling the plug on a still-highly-speculative offering .

Herskowitz’s post is worth reading, if for no other reason to affirm that there are at least some people in the music industry who know that things need to change for online music streaming to become a viable business. And where does he think the labels should turn for innovation? Startups.

But, from where I sit at least, I see all of the innovation in digital music services coming out of bootstrapped companies and passionate tinkerers. Hell, there are very few private investors or venture capitalists that want to get anywhere near this space right now… and rightfully so considering no one has really figured out how to make any money out of this industry (and its products) that so many people love.

Herskowitz has also thrown together a few music mashups (some of which are likely of questionable legality), which are worth checking out. Among them is Friendp3, which offers a list of songs that have recently been listened to by his friends on (note that this only shows songs that were played by his friends).

In a way it’s disappointing that TotalMusic has run its course – the music industry is desperately in need of innovation, and it sounds like the initiative was making some progress, even if it wasn’t quite tangible yet. Of course, while TotalMusic may be gone in its current form (whatever that was meant to be), don’t be surprised if the record companies band together again once the economy settles down. After all, TotalMusic has come back from the dead before.