A music solution that’s so brilliant, no wonder why the music industry has shunned it

arts and entertainment, business and consumers, music

The other day I got a (yet another) piece of inbox spam on the otherwise cool service last.fm.  And no good can come from spam, right?

Not sure what got into me, but I actually went to the site (which I’ll not name, so as to not potentially give them any customers).  And you know what?  They were doing something brilliant:  they were selling high-fi music tracks for 20 cents a piece.  No, that’s not in itself brilliant; Russian sites doing the same thing are and have been a dime a dozen.  What struck me as brilliant was their way of allowing music lovers to explore the *full length* of songs while still enticing them to buy the track.

How did they do this?  It’s ridiculously simple yet, IMHO, likely to be remarkably effective:  they overwrote parts of each track several times with a moderately annoying audio blip (sort of a “chirp”).  Only the truly desperate would possibly stream and copy and store such a track as an mp3, and, as we know, the truly desperate are not one’s potential customers.  Had this firm been even more enterprising, they would have instead added once after each minute of song: “Sample brought to you by [companyname]; uninterrupted tracks just 20 cents!”  If they wanted to be both enterprising AND deliciously devious, they’d have seeded a ton of torrent sites with those tracks :D).  Or, at minimum, made it crazy-easy for bloggers to embed any track or album AND receive a cut of all proceeds from people clicking through to the site.

Maybe I’m naive or missing something glaringly obvious, but it seems like everyone would stand to win with such a situation:
– Music lovers would get to sample full-length (albeit slightly interrupted) songs, instead of dealing with the 30 second samples found on iTunes and similar sites.
– Musicians would be happy to see samples of their work passed around in a way that wouldn’t damage their potential for earning revenue on the same tracks.
– Bloggers and others distributing the tracks (especially if done so out of real passion for specific artists or songs) would be delighted to get commissions (though it’d be hard to grant commissions on just the bare passed-around MP3s).
– The legit music sites hosting MP3s in this way would probably enjoy greater sales and profits.

Your thoughts?

4 comments… add one
  • Graham Feb 14, 2009

    Last.fm and Lala.com already let you listen to uninterrupted full tracks for a lot of music, so I often go to them if I need to check something out before I buy it. (Lala only lets you listen once without buying, but they also offer 10¢ web-only version of their songs if you don’t need to own an actual MP3.)

    Also, I don’t think I ever receive spam from Last.fm. So either my spam filter is working better than yours, or there’s a setting you can change on your account to have them not email you.

  • Gunnar Feb 19, 2009

    Spotify anybody? Free as in streaming beer (if you can stand getting a 5 second voice ad, pro-done, every hour or so)…

  • Adam May 24, 2009

    Simone, unfortunately, from what I recall, very very very few people downloading the albums actually gave the artists any money.  This saddened me. (same thing with public radio here in the States; bazillions of people tune in, but proportionally very few donate even $1).  Kinda disappointing commentary on human nature and generosity.

    Graham, good points, and I might have been slightly too colorful in labeling the last.fm marketing mail (which I probably did opt in to) as “spam.”  I certainly am loving lala nowadays and have actually bought some stuff from them (320kbps MP3… whoa boy!)

    JohnT, yep, I’d think there’s a copyright violation there (which is why it’s not surprising that the site I was referencing is not in the U.S., nor in a copyright-friendly country).

    Gumnar, alas, not available officially here in the U.S. (and I certainly wouldn’t encourage people to use proxies to get around that, no, of course not :-D.  Also, I noticed, er, I mean, I heard that Spotify didn’t have nearly the size of catalog as, say, Napster or Rhapsody or lala here in the States :-(.

  • Adam May 24, 2009

    And Gunnar, sorry for butchering your name above.  d’oh!

What do you think?