Saturday, September 02, 2006

MURDOCH SEEKS TO TURN MYSPACE INTO HISCASH

There are some truly awful ideas bouncing out of News International surrounding MySpace - the plans to remake MySpace as MySun, which is presumably the reason they've had the catastrophic redesign of the Online Sun this morning; the frankly shabby plans to try and work a TV channel out of the site; the pointless magazine based on MySpace. Added to this is one which sounds at least plausible: Flogging music as well as giving it away.

The idea would be that MySpace would take a small distribution fee, while the bands would set their own prices. Co-founder of MySpace Chris DeWolfe says the online store could be selling music before Christmas, initially unprotected mp3 files from unsigned bands. This, of course, would be the launch pad on which they'd then bring in major label artists - these, of course, in copy protected formats. There are rumours that EMI might be interested in jumping onboard, although EMI won't acknowledge this.

While we're sure it all makes sound business sense when written down on a flipchart and faxed across to Rupert Murdoch, we're not sure we can understand why any of the majors would want to support this model - yes, it would mean they'd get access to a large market, but they'd equally be legitimising MySpace as a music store. And that would be great news for the unsigned artists there, who'd go from selling their wares alongside Sniffy and The Dirty Crotches to sharing a webstore with the likes of Madonna and Pearl Jam. And if you're able to get access to the same marketplace as artists on a major label, only keeping a larger proportion of the cover price, you might wonder what the point of signing a deal would be.

The labels, though, probably won't see it like that - because, for them, they have only one thought in their collective head right now: Must Kill iTunes.

DeWolfe admits as much:

"Everyone we've spoken to definitely wants an alternative to iTunes and the iPod. MySpace could be that alternative."

"Everyone", of course, probably doesn't include the people who actually end up paying for all this - the music fans - who, when offered an alternative to iTunes and iPods (and they are, often and repeatedly) turn out to not be that interested. Otherwise, you know, Coke would still be giving away songs through MyCokeMusic and not iTunes credits this weekend and ATRAC wouldn't have gone the way of the 8-Track. The "everyone" who wants an alternative tends to be the sort of person whose connection with music goes no further than spreadsheet piecharts showing market share; a MyTunes music store could provide them with their dream of a service capable of pushing Apple out of a monopoly position. They might find, though, that it speeds their own demise, too.


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