The music industry is anxiously looking to step up competition in the online distribution channel to reel in Apple’s dominant position. That may be good for consumers too, as more competitors may drive down the price to own music and foster innovation.
Universal Music, Sony BMG, and Warner Music Group all committed to a joint venture with MySpace to distribute music through the wildly popular social networking site, according to the New York Times. The selection of music promises to be comprehensive but file formats and payment models are still in flux, though some music will be offered free, supported by ads.
Some tracks will also be available for download to mobile devices, and there is a possibility that a subscription based model will surface allowing unlimited access to music.
Chris DeWolfe, Chief Executive at MySpace says “this is really a mega-music experience that is transformative in a lot of ways. It’s the first service that offers a full catalog of music to be streamed for free, with full community features, to be shared with all of your friends.”
That may be true, but there is already a wide selection of songs available on MySpace shareable via its streaming player. And it’s doubtful the music industry would support users sending their friends free “samples” of their favorite hits. So what is DeWolfe driving at that’s different from the current status quo?
It’s also clear that the music industry has finally accepted DRM-free music as a viable business driver, “exact terms of the deal and details about the new site, like prices for downloaded music tracks, were not disclosed. But MySpace did say the site would offer songs free of digital rights management software or D.R.M., which is used to prevent illicit copying but can create technical hurdles for buyers. The songs would be playable on any portable music device, including Apple’s iPod.”