WaTunes, a service that helps independent artists get their music into online music stores like iTunes and Amazon, has announced that it is making its service entirely free. The move is a direct attack on competitors like TuneCore, which also helps independent artists distribute their music but charges fees depending on the number of songs being sold and the number of stores the artist would like to sell their tracks on.
In the company’s blog post on the new pricing scheme (or lack thereof) CEO Kevin Rivers writes:
We’ve went from being free to be charged, to giving 90% of sales, to giving back all the sales earnings. We’ve finally can say that we have raise the bar even higher by providing you guys an ABSOLUTE digital distribution service. As of now, WaTunes will enable it’s customers to continue to sell unlimited music, earn 100% of the royalties, and more, ALL FOR FREE! There are no fees, cancellations, no gimmicks.
So now that the company is giving up its entire source of revenue, how is it planning to make money? I spoke with CEO Kevin Rivers, who explains that the site is moving towards launching a music-based social network with rich music widgets and a community of fans and artists (it sounds like it will compete against sites like MySpace Music). Users will also be able to buy songs through an online storefront, with advertising as the primary source of revenue. The move to make WaTune’s distribution service free is designed to attract a variety of independent artists to the music social network, which he says will launch around June.
While this seems like a great deal for artists, it also sounds a little too good to be true. There are already many online music communities, and even if WaTunes does begin to distribute music for a large number of artists, I still don’t see how they’ll be able to convert them into new users on their music portal. That said, free is free, so I doubt WaTunes will have any trouble attracting new artists for the time being.