After much resistance of the digital age of music purchasing, it seems three of the major labels (Universal Music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group) have struck a deal with the hugely popular online site MySpace. The deal would mean that the major labels will allow their entire catalogue to be downloaded on the site.
This would essentially become a one-stop shopping for music. People would be able to listen to and download music, which would be paid for by online advertising. There is also consideration for a subscription plan — where people would pay a monthly fee for unlimited access. In addition to the music, tickets to concerts, merchandising, and ring tones would also be available for purchasing.
MySpace Music will run in a similar way to a major label with a board of directors representing each of the major labels involved. Part of the impetus to do this — in addition to MySpace being a huge medium for fans to discover music and for artists to promote themselves at a much cheaper cost (MySpace is free to use) — results from competition with the current leader in downloading; iTunes.
This doesn't surprise me at all. I've had a suspicion over the last couple of years that record companies as we know them are going to be a thing of the past in favor of an online company.
As online promotion has increased monumentally, and artists are gravitating towards the DIY method of releasing their music, I'll be curious to see going forward whether bands will continue to have an association with a major. I know there is still a school of thought which believes a major label is what you need to become successful (I have an artist I'm consulting who falls into that category).
So, I think for the time being, that may remain as it has been. But I don't know whether it will be true a few years down the road.
The other issue it raises, and one I see now with MySpace, is how all this will be promoted. I like MySpace for opening up many doors musically. I've heard many bands with incredible talent and potential who without MySpace, I would likely have not heard.
But it's almost overwhelming, because of the massive amount of members on there. I think with this new deal struck with the major labels, there still needs to be organized promotion and management, sort of akin to how a record store is set up. You have sections for artists, genres etc., so it's easier to manage. It's great for an artist to have a page there and an opportunity for people to discover them. But you still need "people" to work them not only within the structure of the internet, but to press, radio and television as well.
I support the idea of the record companies going online. It's long overdue as this is a hugely growing trend amongst music buyers.
Still, I have reservations about doing this as a partnership with MySpace. Not because I have issues with MySpace, but simply because it's already so huge that I wonder if so much music will just get lost in the shuffle without a really strong sense of streamlining, organization and promotion.
We shall see…