News Corporation launches its new MySpace Music service in the US this week, with co-operation from all the major record labels, as well as a retail partner in the shape of Amazon's DRM-free MP3 store. But what does it mean for the consumer, as well as for the wider music industry?
"Of course, it's a great move for consumers, who can now listen to far more songs than they could before," says Nicola Slade, editor of UK music industry news service Record of the Day.
"The link to Amazon's MP3 download store is key, which in terms of ease of use, is up there as a serious competitor for Apple and iTunes," Slade added. "It is basically the very first download store that has a chance of reducing Apple's MySpace share."
"MySpace Music will make consumers realise that there is a world outside of iTunes, so services such as 7digital and smaller services should pick up more business from this too," Slade added.
Indie landfill, pop tarts
"The move by MySpace to provide music through its website is basically MySpace as radio service – so free to listen to, but you have to pay to transfer to MP3 players," commented Joe Wilson, lecturer in Popular Music at the University of Gloucestershire.
"Ironically for the internet, with its infinite size and storage, the real problem with iTunes and MySpace is that the service that they offer is actually relatively limited – its method offering 'stores' mean that buyers are still pointed towards the usual major label indie landfill and pop tarts.
"Certainly there is choice on iTunes but unlike Amazon, with its infinite resource of actually cheaper CDs (remember that the cost of a real CD on Amazon is less than buying a album through iTunes) it is still tipped towards large acts and the Woolworths/petrol station buyer who will buy one CD a year."
What of new talent?
Wilson is also careful to remind us that "unlike other new models of method selling music, this has mogul Murdoch's involvement - meaning support from the newspapers and record labels that he controls – this may be a reason why this MySpace model may survive."
"The real issue for all of these digital delivery services is that no money is being invested in new talent – at some point there will be a need to develop a new format for the labels to continue to exploit back catalogues – that is the drive for new technoloy – not new music. MP3s could soon be as redundant as casette tapes, when the cycle starts again and a new format is forced upon the consumers, just to exploit old ancient hits."
Record of the Day's Nicola Slade concurs, noting that: "The other real issue here is whether or not the indies are getting a good deal through MySpace – lots of them out there are saying they are getting a pretty poor deal – I have a feeling that this is going to kick off now and it could become a pretty serious battle."
MP3s to become as outdated as tapes
Andrew Orlowski, over on The Register, suggested earlier this month that MySpace Music could well be accused of elbowing out the many smaller independent music labels.
"For all of the PR about how much they loved independent music, and how it was the lifeblood of MySpace, when they went to commercialise it only three major labels were invited to take equity," Charles Caldas, head of Merlin - rights licensing body for independents – told The Register.
Joe Wilson agrees, telling TechRadar: "The real issue for all of these digital delivery services is that no money is being invested in new talent – at some point there will be a need to develop a new format for the labels to continue to exploit back catalogues – that is the drive for new technology – not new music.
"MP3s could soon be as redundant as cassette tapes, when the cycle starts again and a new format is forced upon the consumers, just to exploit old ancient hits."
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