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mp3.com, freebies, etc... another point of view
O Loopers and Loopettes,
It's tempting, on first glance, to write off mp3.com as money-grubbing
corporate extortionists. But it's a bit more complex then that.
Back in 1995-96, IUMA charged artists $200 to sign up for their system.
The idea of a website dedicated strictly to music, that would offer you
unlimited file storage space, and would take a file you uploaded and
convert it into different kbps formates for you, all for FREE... was
science fiction at the time. But that's what mp3.com has been doing for
the last few years.
One could easily suggest that IUMA switched to a free service due to
competition from mp3.com. This removal of a principal source of income
might help explain their being bought out by eMusic... who ditched them
a couple of months back.
IUMA has an historical precedent for charging artists for its service,
and with mp3.com going that route, it's not unrealistic to think that
IUMA might do the same. Being bought out by Vitaminic will no doubt
help in the short term... but it was their being bought out by eMusic
that originally put them in such a precarious spot in the first place.
If every single one of the 120,000 + artists on mp3.com was paying $10 a
month (as Stephen hypothetically proposed), they'd be making about
$1,200,000/month in subscriber fees.
Now, when you subtract the $1,000,000 that THEY have been paying out to
artists every month since payback for playback started, that would leave
them with only $200,000 - about $1.67 per artist - of income.
When you consider that the site recently had to pay out several HUNDRED
million dollars in legal fees to the major labels, their situation looks
even less rosy.
Consider too that only a percentage of those 120,000 + artists are going
to be paying the monthly service. And consider that the web storage
space and traffic for EVERY artist, REGARDLESS of whether or not they
opt to pay in, still has to be paid for.
And also remember that you don't NEED to pay the monthly fee to stay on
the website. Yes, you'll be moved to the back of the line in terms of
service, but if someone's running a business (which is what mp3.com is,
first and foremost), then OF COURSE they'll appease their paying
customers before their hand-outs.
The payback-for-playback thing was interesting, and it let a few artists
make some cash. It also turned mp3.com into the indie music equivalent
of Amway. And it's never been a guaranteed system, in terms of
consistency, longevity, or method of calculation.
mp3.com has chosen a particular business path, which includes being a
publicly-traded corporation that's weathered multi-million dollar
lawsuits from every one of the major (and several independent) record
I'm not a huge fan of the site, and I've never taken it very seriously
as anything other than free FTP storage space, but to slam them because
they're a corporation that wants to increase its market value and pull
in some money sort of misses the point.
The whole dot-com gold rush of free services over the last few years was
fun while it lasted, but it's not realistic to think that it could go on